The Revd Alex Garner

Fr Alex Garner

Fr Alex is a Deacon at St Alphage, Burnt Oak, London and former Ordinand at St Stephen’s House, Oxford

I really enjoyed being a Pastoral Assistant. It’s varied. It’s busy. Sometimes it’s not very clear what’s actually happening. But it’s unique and fantastic to work with people in the parish.

I lived in the Vicarage of St Paul’s Camden Square with two other Pastoral Assistants. It was a great experience to live with the others. I found it helpful to be able to relax and talk with them about our experiences at the end of the day. I most enjoyed working in the schools. It was just great fun.

Before I started the prospect of running the Night Shelter was quite daunting. I’d never worked with homelessness before. But my fears were unfounded. It turned out to be one of the best parts of our work. It was challenging to be confronted with a whole range of new experiences and not know how you are going to respond. You have to put yourself out there with people who sometimes have very different lifestyles and experiences to your own. You have to get to know them and then do your bit.

I’d never lived in London before. I really loved it. I loved the diversity, it was really new to me. The sheer variety of people living almost literally next door to each other was incredible. Plus there’s loads to do in London on your day off. You never get bored.

I’d totally recommend being a Pastoral Assistant. You can come to the scheme without necessarily knowing what you are going to do next, knowing that the priests and people will support you, no matter what.

It was the first time I’d gone to the daily office and daily Mass. It deepened and enriched my faith and gave it a whole new emphasis. I found it helpful to reflect on what I was doing at the beginning and end of each day.

After my Pastoral Assistant year I stayed in Camden because I loved it there so much. I trained to be a teacher and worked in the Parish School. I felt really at home in that community.