If anyone had told me when I first left ministry training college that I would leave after 7 years, not even sure if I believed in God any more, I would have laughed at them. But that is where I find myself.
The doubts crept up so slowly that I didn't notice them becoming so entrenched. Over the last couple of years I gradually realised my faith in God was eroding away. I kept thinking it was just a phase, that I would 'snap out of it' relatively quickly. I was wrong.
I had occasions during my time in ministry when I dreamed of leaving and doing something else. I wanted to go back to the relative freedom of not working for the church. But somehow I never did it.
There was a moment when I realised that I absolutely had to get out, and do it as soon as I could. I was asked to preach at the main Christmas carol service of my church. Preparing the sermon, when I knew my faith was virtually non-existant, was hard enough but standing up in church and preaching that sermon was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Outwardly I was preaching most most powerful, evangelistic sermon I have ever preached but inwardly I was crying out 'But there is no God'. I felt like I was in a maelstrom of turmoil, being pulled and thrown all over the place. As I stepped down from that sermon I knew I had to get out of church ministry or loose my sanity.
Over the next few months I read books about career change and thought very hard about it. One of the problems with leaving ministry is that my home depended on my job. I was not just leaving a job, but leaving a home. To add to that, I was loosing my faith, which is a big enough stress without it involving having to move house and have a major career change into the bargain.
I worked out that something I would be good at, that would use many of my skills, was to be a sheltered housing warden. I started researching companies in this line of work and applied for jobs. After about 5-6 months I was offered the job I now have (I think changing my job title from Evangelist to Community Worker on the application form for my present job helped a lot!!). I have accomodation provided and I love what I do. I relish being able to stay in bed on a Sunday morning if I wish, although I do still go to church most Sundays. I have found a church with lovely friendly people who do not push me spiritually. I can relax and just take things in as a customer, so to speak. I even have 4 days off over Christmas! I've not had that for years! Brilliant! Now I am here I have space to work out what I believe about God and how I want that to affect my life.