Sunday, 20 May 2012

Fireside Chat with Russ Gant – You sure you want to become a vicar?

Having done some research on “Introducing Russ Gant New Associate Curate At St Paul’s Camberley”, I thought it would be rather nice to speak with Russ and find out more about his personality, and how he will fit into life at St Paul’s. Plus I had a question for Russ from one of our young people, Daniel Nash, so I was on a mission.

Russ Gant St Pauls Camberley Assistant Curate

Here is a recap. Russ is “a boy of the 1970’s” who grew up in a family that did not go to church. He became a Christian when he was 24. Russ is married to Jenny from Canada, and they have a two year old daughter Annabelle.

He’s a Suffolk boy, having spent 30 years in the same village. Initially he envisaged taking a position in a rural area, but having visited Camberley with it’s “bright lights”, thought it would be a nice place to take up his vocation as a trainee vicar. In his zany style, he said “We’re exited to come to the biggest Marks & Spencer’s in the country”. I guess we just don’t know how blessed we are to have a shopping paradise on our doorsteps!

His previous job was as a town council clerk, which on the face of it, seems quite different to that of a minister in the Church of England. As it happens, there are a number of key transferable skills that working in a council equipped him with. Russ has gained skills and experience in community work, speaking to people about their needs, public speaking and working with volunteers whilst working in local government. He highly respects councillors, “I think councillors get a lot of bad press. It’s a group of volunteers who are prepared to stand up and say we want to make the place we’re living in even better. I take my hat off to people who want to do that, because for the most part they don’t get paid for it”.

Moving to ministry, I was curious about what aspect of his new job he is most passionate about. “my biggest passion is making the place where we come together a really welcoming community, making sure there is nothing that makes it feel like an exclusive club. I can remember going into church for the first time, and thinking this is all very alien, and feeling very out of place. I love preaching and sharing Gods word in a way that’s engaging. Someone once said to me, the problem with churches is they’re answering questions that no one’s asking. I hope that when I preach I’m answering questions that are really relevant, because I think God’s word is relevant and speaks to us just as much today as it ever has”.

I couldn’t interview Russ without discussing digital technology, given he is on twitter, facebook, and has a blog and website, and has studied at the hub of social networking for churches, Durham. I asked him if he would be using social media at St Paul’s. “Yes, I hope so. I’m kind of really keen to use any means to share the good news of Jesus with anyone, and if that involves using social media and using digital networks to reach people then I’m really keen to do that. I just think they are modern methods that the church has got to be using to engage with people”. Russ checks his social networks first thing in the morning, and loves connecting with people. He’s pretty used to using skype to chat with family in Canada and stay in touch. He is an Apple fanboy, so there we have to differ, and move on to the next subject.

Hobbies are something Russ has a lot of, but Daniel Nash wanted to hear more about his train interests. “My dad bought be a train set when I was minus three weeks only, on the assumption I would be a boy, and like trains. I grew up with a train set in the loft, and spent a lot of time with my dad. I think probably he bought it for himself really. At one time I had my own miniature steam engine. I ran it around the park at Frimley at one time. I’ve driven full sized steam engines”. Annabelle will be growing up with Thomas!

On a recent school visit, one pupil asked Russ if he was sure he wanted to become a vicar. Russ said yes, why? The boy said it sounded a bit boring. So Russ asked the boy what he wanted to be. A secret agent, came the reply. I can’t imagine Russ being a boring preacher, and I do look forward to hearing his sermons, as soon as he, and his family join us at St Paul’s.

You can listen to the full interview here …