Paul Andrews – Vicar of St Mary’s, St Neots
I was born in 1954 and grew up in Bedford. Church going was a fact of our family’s life from as far back as I can remember. My grandfather was a Reader with many years’ experience, and in retirement in a tiny village in South Devon, he was ordained and served in parishes in the Sidmouth area until he was nearly 90. My younger brother discerned the beginnings of a vocation to priesthood while he was still in his teens. We both sang in our local church choir. My passion was (and still is) music and I went on to study music and library and information studies at what was then the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University) graduating in 1976. Later on in 1999, I was awarded my PhD for a study of the English composer, Herbert Howells. I pursued a career in public and academic music libraries for twenty-five years, including some time as Reference Librarian and research Coordinator at the Royal College of Music. My last job in the secular world of work was working freelance to set up an online database of music research collection s in libraries, museums and archives under the auspices of the International Association of Music Libraries and the British Library (it’s still there at www.cecilia-uk.org/ if you’re interested).
I enjoy writing about music and have published extensively on Howells and on English music in general with many articles and CD booklets to my name. From 1995 to 1999, I edited Brio, the professional journal for UK music librarians.
Alongside all this, though not in any sense a gifted performer, I sang in choirs, preferring small chamber ensembles to large choral societies, and moved into choir-training and conducting. I founded Cantamus, a chamber choir based in Bedford, and conducted them for twelve years until training for ordained ministry and then priesthood itself meant that I had to relinquish that part of my life. I am happy to say however that Cantamus continues to flourish and indeed, gave a concert here a few years ago. I was also a church organist (of no great standard) and choir director, and it was towards the end of this time that I began to sense God’s call to ordained ministry, experienced in a number of ways and through a number of people. I trained for three years on the part-time ordination course run by the dioceses of St Albans and Oxford was ordained in St Albans Cathedral in 2000. I served my curacy in two rural/suburban parishes on the edge of Bedford, and was a team vicar in Leighton Buzzard before coming here to St Neots and the diocese of Ely in 2008.
I have always felt that my call was to parish ministry, and I particularly value the pastoral contact, teaching and liturgical work that it brings (while tolerating the administration!). I am passionate about centring Christian life in the Eucharist, and proclaiming the presence of Christ through the celebration of the sacraments as channels of his grace. I love the privilege of having a church school in the parish and am in St Mary’s Primary Academy at least once a week in term time, and where I also serve as a foundation governor.
My own personal spirituality is grounded in silent prayer and meditation and creating opportunities for this to be experienced by others is one of my enduring goals. Watch this space! In 2016, I was granted three months sabbatical leave to explore how this is worked out in new monastic communities, and hope to bring some of that research to bear on parish life here.
Meanwhile, I serve the wider diocese of Ely as an Assistant Director of Ordinands, preparing and accompanying candidates for selection as they explore their vocation. I am a member of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches, and in October 2016 I was delighted to be made an Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral by the Bishop of Ely.
With Judith my wife and our two dogs, we really enjoy vicarage life here in St Neots. I have a married son, and at Christmas 2016 the family received the wonderful gift of a baby grandson (I have two step-grandsons as well).