By Rev Mark Edwards MBE, Cranmer Hall 1991 to 1995
It’s a long way from being homeless on the streets of Chester to the steps of Buckingham Palace. From the age of 3 onwards my brother and I spend the early part of our childhoods being shunted between home and various foster homes. Having been in and out of various foster homes, we eventually went to live in a children’s home in Spalding, Lincolnshire. I lived in the children home for 7 years.
After I left in 1978 I went on a spiral of decline. I was sectioned under the mental health act in 1981 after trying to commit suicide. After I was discharged I was homeless for a short time sleeping in a night shelter and on the floor of a local church. The minister took pity on me and helped me find a bed-sit.
I met my future wife, who was a student from the local university who was volunteering at a soup kitchen I was attending. We were married in 1984. Many people said the marriage would not last because we were from different social backgrounds. It was during this time that I came to faith and started to get involved in voluntary work with a community church. I returned to night School to obtain O-Levels and A-Levels.
In 1991 I was accepted for training with the Church of England at Cranmer Hall, St Johns College, Durham. My journey to ordination was not easy I had to fight against prejudice even within the Church. My time at Durham was not without difficulties. I had a break down and was almost withdrawn from training. However, with the help and support of the Rt Rev John Pritchard who was the Warden at that time, I came through that period and was ordained in Carlisle 1995.
I served as both curate and Vicar in Barrow-in-Furness Cumbria for 14 years. In 2008 I moved to Newcastle to take up my new post as Vicar in charge of two parishes and as Police Chaplain to Northumbria Police.
In 2009 I was awarded the MBE for services to the Voluntary Sector. Alongside my role as parish priest I have been a volunteer member of the Emergency Services since 2003 and have been awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012 for that.
In October 2017 my book ‘Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE’ was published by the mental health advocates and publishers Trigger Press, as part of their inspirational series in which they advocate that mental illness should be talked about freely and without fear. I still wrestle with mental health issues but through my vocation I seek to serve the church and my community, giving something back to society rather than be a victim.
Read more about Mark’s book here.