Religion is music to the ears of latest deacons ordained to serve Lichfield Diocese

The ordination of 15 new deacons will be music to the ears of their new congregations – one of them used to work in a record shop, and another is a mean ukulele player.

Sam Johnson, new curate at St Alkmund's Church in Whitchurch, is a mean ukulele player
Sam Johnson, new curate at St Alkmund's Church in Whitchurch, is a mean ukulele player

Musician Sam Johnson and ex-HMV assistant Graham Wigley are among the new clergy who have just been ordained across Lichfield Diocese, which covers the historic counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire including Wolverhampton, Walsall and parts of the Black Country.

While the former Lichfield schoolboy Sam – who was not named after the city's famous wordsmith – began his theology studies as a teenager, many of the other new clergy members come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including a former car mechanic.

The new curates, who have completed either two or three years of training, were due to be ordained earlier in the summer, but the services had to be postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

They were instead licensed as lay workers in a virtual ceremony in June, but they have now finally been ordained by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, in four services at the city's cathedral

New curates Graham Wigley, Simon Foster and Amanda Arthur

Sam, who went to King Edward VI school in Lichfield, has been posted to St Alkmund's Church in Whitchurch, north Shropshire, where he will also serve the parishes of Fauls and Tilstock.

He was born in Manchester, and his parents were not aware of his famous namesake until the family moved to the city as a child.

"When they had to register me for anything and asked for my name, they thought they were having a laugh," says Sam, who is married to

Sam, 29, went to King Edward VI school in the city, later moving on to Sutton Coldfield College, before doing his degree at Regents Theological College in Malvern. He later served as children and family minister at St Luke's Church in Bath, before working for two years as an activity co-ordinator in a dementia care home.

New Curate the Rev Sam Johnson at St Alkmund's Church in Whitchurch

Married to Leah, with children Alice-May, eight, Lucas, five, and Isla, three, Sam moved to his new parish in June, and says he is delighted to be back in the West Midlands.

"When I moved here the churches were shut, and it seemed very strange," he said. "It became a bit easier when the churches reopened on July 19, we got to be introduced to people a bit more.

"It's a lovely location, it's very beautiful, and the people have all been very friendly," he says. "It's also much easier to visit family."

Sam started playing the ukulele about 10 years ago, after his father-in-law Rob originally tried to teach him the guitar.

"I wasn't particularly good, but I mentioned that this friend of mine had got this little guitar, and he said 'that's a ukulele', and he got me one," he says.

New curate Graham Wigley used to work at HMV Wolverhampton

Graham Wigley says he has felt a sense of vocation to ordained ministry since he was 15, although along that journey he also found himself working at HMV in Wolverhampton.

Born in Walsall and growing up in Willenhall, he says his time working and worshipping in the city opened his eyes to eyes to the needs of many people who are lonely, isolated and on the margins of society.

Graham has been based at Shenstone and Stonnall, near Lichfield since June, where he will continue to serve following his ordination. He says he hopes to disprove misconceptions that clergy are out of touch, particularly regarding pop culture.

Ian Perry worked as a Mercedes-Benz vehicle technician for 34 years, but it was his marriage to wife Karen in 2011 which set him on the road to swapping his overalls for clerical dress and taking up his curacy in Stafford.

He says they fell in love with the outside of the church for the wedding photographs, and then fell in love with the inside. Ian, who says he feels a strong calling to ministry with youthwork and within children’s ministry. Ian also feels a calling to be alongside the oppressed and marginalised within society.

Simon Foster, who will be serving at St Chad's Church in Lichfield, lived in Birmingham for more than 30 years before recently moving to his new city.

Before training for his ministry, Simon worked mainly in health and social care, offering support to disadvantaged people who were often living with mental health problems or working as carers.

He says that as he watched those communities learn to celebrate in the face of adversity, to support one another and resolve conflict, he saw how it began to resemble the church community.

Amanda Arthur will serve with the Penkridge team ministry, where she lives with her husband James.

She trained for two years at Queens Theological College in Birmingham, after previously working with James in a residential home for young adults with autism and challenging behaviours in Dorset.

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