In the latest of our new deacon profiles, we meet Rev Matt Roberts, who serves at St Markâ€™s Haydock.
Before ordination, Matt was an Assistant Director of Learning at an 11-18 Catholic High School, and had been active in his church as a Youth pastor, leader on a pub Alpha course, cell group leader, huddle coordinator for mission, pre-school children’s ministry leader, member of the PCC and part of the prayer ministry team.
Matt was baptised into the Church of England as a baby at Prescot Parish church, then raised in St Helens, and felt a connection with church from a very young age.
He said: “At the age of 14 I felt a strong urge to attend church weekly with my grandparents. Around that time a friend’s mum asked if I’d like to go with their family to Spring Harvest, and another friend invited me to the local church youth club, which met on Sundays after the evening service. I quickly came to enjoy these different expressions of church and discussing faith issues relevant to teenagers.”
In Easter 1990, Matt attended his first Spring Harvest. “Over the first few days, I listened carefully to the talks, and enjoyed the modern worship led by a band. On the third evening, as I reflected on the cross and all that God has done for us, I realised that Jesus was inviting me to “Follow Him.” God had taken the initiative, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). When somebody gives us an invitation, we respond. We say “yes” or “no.” On 18th April 1990, I said “yes” to Jesus. I made the decision that I wanted to live my life with and for Jesus.”
Matt also began to read the Scriptures in order to learn more about the Christian faith and a lay reader at his church began to pray for him. “I still smile to myself as I recall him suggesting that one day I would be ordained!,” says Matt. As a teenager, Matt also shared his faith with his best friend Melanie who then joined the youth fellowship – and the couple married in 1998.
Matt even has the diary entry from 2010, recording the realisation of his calling to ministry. On a Sunday morning, as he was preparing to lead children’s ministry at his church, he wrote:
“Woke up this morning filled with the knowledge and love of God. He is calling me to full time ordained ministry. Throughout the morning He kept giving me pieces of the jigsaw, showing me how he has been preparing me for this day, throughout my life.”
Matt added: “A couple of months earlier I had felt a prompting to consider ordained ministry, but dismissed the idea. Years earlier I had had a sense of vocation when I co-lead a retreat to Ampleforth Abbey. When a previous vicar had asked me to explore ordination, I thought it through for a few days before dismissing the idea. This time I was filled with a unique and real peace that this was God’s call on my life, and that of Melanie and my daughters. At 8.45am, just before leaving the house for church, I realised that it was 20 years to the day since I said “Yes” to Jesus Christ. The Lord was once again inviting me to follow Him.
“The reading that morning was Luke 5: 1-11 (Jesus calls his first disciples). When God called me to ordained ministry, I could really identify with Simon Peter. Like Simon Peter I really had a sense that life was never going to be the same again.”
Matt is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities to serve at St Mark’s Haydock, saying: “I’m passionate about several things: God’s ability to transform individuals and whole communities, social justice, and encouraging and empowering others to discover and grow in their God-given gifts. But I think all of this, and more, can be encapsulated in one word: discipleship. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and to be disciple makers.”