The road to Selby
The road to Selby
By Matt Woodcock
St Paul received his message from God on the road to Damascus. For Matt Woodcock it was on the A19 to Selby, but the message was just as life changing for him as it had been for the saintly Paul. Matt tells us his story...
I had been a reporter for seven years. An average day in the York Press newsroom would see me reporting on car crashes, job cuts and all manner of human dramas and tragedies.
Then everything changed. Within months I went from journalism to evangelism – from reporting on bad news to spreading the Good News. It all started in October, 2006, as I drove along the A19 to report on a court case in Selby.
I had been a committed Christian for about 10 years, but was doing nothing more spiritual in that moment than listening to U2. As strange as it sounds – and as hard as it is to explain - I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense that God had something urgent He wanted to tell me. It was like someone shaking my insides really hard to try and get my attention. I thought such sensations were reserved for extreme charismatics or monks out fasting in the wilderness.
My battered Ford Fiesta nearly left the road as I struggled to deal with the shock. I pulled into a lay-by, took some deep breaths and told God that I was perplexed as to what He could be asking of me. I prayed that I was open to whatever it could be.
No angels appeared, no burning bushes caught fire, and I noticed my fellow lay-by users staring at me like I was a man who talked to himself a lot. I drove onto Selby magistrates, more at peace but with no answers.
The next day I visited John Lee, my vicar at St Paul’s, Holgate in York. Before I could tell him about my A19 moment, he said, “have you ever thought about working for the church as an evangelist?” I sensed God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “that’s what I wanted to tell you!”
Aside from my decision to stop watching York City, I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I knew God had called me into Christian ministry. My wife Anna needed oxygen when I told her. It wasn’t the ideal time for financial uncertainty in the light of the big mortgage we had just taken on.
Informing my editor and Press colleagues was even more fun. “YOU ARE DOING WHAT?!” was a common response. Looking back now, though, we are certain it was the right move.
I was appointed St Paul’s community evangelist and funded partly from the church, but also through personal sponsors. My role involves helping co-ordinate the church’s evangelistic programme, co-leading our alternative Sunday night services and finding fresh ways to communicate the gospel and work of the church.
So far, I’ve occasionally turned the church into a music venue for charity, hosting bands like Shed Seven; organised a Christian wilderness adventure for 12 blokes and led exploring Christianity courses for everyone from a prostitute, and ex-prisoner to a senior insurance executive. And that was on a dull week!
Working with the Archbishop is never dull!
I now combine my role at St Paul’s by working at Bishopthorpe Palace as the Archbishop of York’s new media editor. Dealing with journalists from the other side of the fence was strange at first but life – and faith - is never boring with Dr Sentamu around. How many 59-year-old Archbishops do you know who throw themselves out of a plane with the Red Devils to raise money for charity?
I get the privilege of writing about his exploits in the hope that people might explore Christianity for themselves.
So it has been a wild, wonderful, often painful ride since my calling on that Selby road. Hopefully God won’t be prompting me to pull into a lay-by again in the near future. Admittedly, I’m avoiding the A19 just in case!
last updated: 26/06/2008 at 17:09