Rob Merchant has been part of the staff team at St Mellitus College since September 2012. Below, he answers a few questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m married to Tamsin, and we have two sons. I’ve been part of St Mellitus College since September 2012, joining as Director of Dispersed Learning, and I love being part of the community of St Mellitus. Tamsin and I are both ordained. We met at theological college, got married, and did a job share curacy in Birmingham.
My passion in life is seeing people flourish; something I discovered while being a care worker for Mencap. I left school at 18 with appalling A-Level grades that meant I was told not to bother going onto Higher Education. Mencap offered me a place to belong, grow, and flourish as I served others. I never thought about ordination in the Church of England until God called me to serve in this way. Exploring ordination was a remarkable time. My Director of Ordinands was able to see past what others thought about me and look at my potential. I’ve him to thank for encouraging me to try going to university and explore what God was calling me to fully. It was at Keele University that I discovered Gerontology (the study of ageing), which has become my key academic interest in life.
What were you doing before you started at St Mellitus College?
After our curacy in Birmingham, Tamsin and I spent 8 years serving in the Diocese of Gloucester. Before our move to London I had spent just over two years as Rector of a rural multi-parish benefice, my role was to help bring about change for seven parishes in a beautiful part of Gloucestershire. Before that I combined being a part-time associate priest with a part-time role as Principal Lecturer in Spirituality and Health and Deputy Director of the Centre for Ageing and Mental Health at Staffordshire University. It was a very busy 6 years, but I loved combining parish and university work.
What do you most wish to share with your students?
St Mellitus College is a place where the different parts of my life with Christ so far have come together. There are times when in obedience to Christ’s call you find yourself serving in places you would never have imagined. The gift to us is that sometimes in that unimagined place, God weaves together the fragments of our lives revealing a greater ‘whole’, and in doing so our future is re-envisioned as we catch sight of his activity.
Last year I became Director of St Mellitus College, Chelmsford. The Diocese of Chelmsford is a founding partner of St Mellitus College. It is a diocese in which vocations have flourished. St Mellitus College, Chelmsford is a community of people training for ordination, licensed lay ministry, and studying undergraduate theology to deepen their knowledge of Christ and broaden their love of his church. It is a wonderful community to serve. We gather in Chelmsford Cathedral for food, conversation, worship, and learning. It is wonderful how so many different vocations are brought to birth in the nurturing environment of the Cathedral. As Director I have the opportunity to pray for and love a group of people who love Christ and are seeking to faithfully respond to his call. The privilege of being part of the community of St Mellitus College, Chelmsford, and the wider college community, is to be able to serve our students and enable them to grow and flourish in Christ for the benefit of his church.
And what do you do when you are not at St Mellitus College?
My focus is my family, I love spending time with my wife and our boys. I’m also my wife’s Associate Vicar (Tamsin is Vicar of St Mary’s, Hornsey Rise, London). I find great peace in the creative activity of writing, and I enjoy science fiction (as long as it’s not scary or gory) and the writing of Terry Pratchett.