A life of helping others

Published 12 February 2013
The Reverend David Tomlinson

The Reverend David Tomlinson has just taken up his new job as vicar at Saint John's Shildon, near Durham.

Becoming a priest is just the latest chapter in a life that has been devoted to helping others.

In 1994, he and wife Davina moved from County Durham and settled in Kintyre, a remote part of western Scotland, where they started a retreat and crisis centre completely from scratch.

"Setting up Greenhill was my biggest challenge," he recalls. "We moved to the middle of nowhere, knew no one, and set up something completely new."

The building was semi derelict when it came under their ownership but they renovated it and opened the doors to anyone in need of respite and a fresh start.

Guests came from around the world and included addicts in recovery, AIDS sufferers and people with special needs.

"People came from all over, some stayed for up to a year, we supported people moving back into the community, the local authorities used us as a refuge," he said.

As if the demands of running the centre were not enough, David joined the board of a cinema business and set up his own antiquarian book business.

Perhaps most astonishing is that he and Davina fostered around 50 children during their time in Kintyre.

In 2006, they sold the business and property and moved back to County Durham to study for ministry at Saint John's College in Durham.

David was ordained as a deacon in 2009 and priested a year later in Shildon. When the position of priest in charge became available, he was "delighted" to accept.

With their two children grown up, they continue to foster. David is also kept busy as the trustee of two charities, the Edith Jackson Trust working on education in southern Sudan and Triple E, helping street children in the Philippines.

Being a vicar has been something of a lifelong dream for David. He recalls being asked in a school career lesson at the age of 12 what he wanted to be and amusing his peers when he replied: 'a vicar'.

"My life journey has been defined around my understanding of faith, its development, and my church experience," he says.

"I have always lived with a profound sense of the spiritual and that I should eventually find myself here is the result of a life I have tried to live facing in God-wards direction."

Through all the good times and bad times life has brought his way, he says his faith has only grown deeper.

He also remains deeply committed to bringing other people to God – as well as seeing God in them.

"I work at connecting people with God and with each other through living something of God in me, developing a sense of community through our community projects, and encouraging people in their faith," he says.

"Each day promises an adventure, unexpected people moments that I smile at afterwards, time spent laughing with our current foster kids, opportunities to glimpse hope in the midst of dark places, of sharing something of life with those I love. This is what gets me out of bed."

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