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My Faith: Amid cameras and countdowns, a higher calling
CNN International's Charles Hodson was shocked to be asked if he'd considered the priesthood, then realized he had been called.
June 26th, 2012
03:51 AM ET

My Faith: Amid cameras and countdowns, a higher calling

Editor's Note: CNN International business news anchor Charles Hodson charts the journey that has taken him from the studio to the brink of ordained ministry – and explains how he plans to combine priesthood with his 34-year career in broadcast journalism.

By Charles Hodson, CNN

At about 11 a.m. this coming  Sunday, in one of England’s most beautiful medieval cathedrals, Peter, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, will lay his hands on my head and pronounce these words:

Send down the Holy Spirit on your servant Henry Charles Hodson

for the office and work of a deacon in your Church.

It will be a moment without comparison in my life, and yet it will not be about me, or about any of the dozen others kneeling beside me to be ordained by laying-on of hands.  It will be about God and his Church;  to be called to serve them in love and humility through ordained ministry is a privilege beyond imagination for a Christian, and I hope and pray that my future service to all God’s people will reflect that trust.

There will be great pageantry that summer morning in Wells Cathedral, its soaring spaces filled with the singing of the choir and the prayers of the hundreds of people crammed into its nave, led by Bishop Peter with his mitre and crozier.  The Church of England does that kind of ceremony rather well.

But as I put on my "dog-collar" and drape my white stole around me sash-style for the first time that morning, I shall reflect on a four-year journey which began more quietly, albeit in a moment of pure surprise.

I had been invited to a meeting with a priest I had never met before, ostensibly for advice on "vocations."  My own parish priest had suggested I should consider some ministry, and I imagined that would mean occasional lay preaching and worship leading.

I was already serving my own local parish as a churchwarden (responsible for the church, its worship and administration), and was commuting weekly from my home in rural southwest England to CNN’s London studios.  My schedule was frankly heavy (ask my wife!) and I was not looking for "heavy lifting."

The priest received me with courtesy into his parish office, and asked me about myself and my Christian faith. I did not feel I was giving particularly impressive answers, but then came words I never expected but which were to change my life: "Have you ever thought about becoming a priest?"

My eyes probably bulged like footballs.  A priest?  Me, of all people?  How could anyone suggest such a thing?

That lasted for about two seconds.  And then came a realisation, deep, clear and inescapable, that everything that had happened in my life so far had been preparation for this moment.  As Jesus says to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion, "You did not choose me but I chose you." (John 15:16)

He had, and like a flash of lightning came the insight that for all my failures and faithlessness, my gifts were to be put to service in the Church of the One who had bestowed them on me.

I’m not sure I remember too much of the conversation after that, but I do recall stepping out into the car park afterwards and saying to my wife, "Do you know what?  I have just been asked whether I’d thought about being a priest, and perhaps I really am called to be one."

My beloved smiled knowingly and indulgently.  "The latest fad," she remarked, "You’ll have forgotten all about it by next week."

But I didn’t.   That sense of calling felt like a hand in the small of my back, gently but firmly steering me towards that cathedral on a July morning and onward into the challenges of ordained ministry.

My pilgrimage took me through two years of further scrutiny and prayerful preparation by another wise and loving local priest, and then to a rather scary "Bishops’ Advisory Panel" in August 2010: two or three days holed up in a retreat house with assessors and 15 other candidates, and a heavy round of interviews, presentations and group exercises designed to ensure we were genuinely "called" and were the right people to take on public ministry.

Then - on a Friday the 13th, believe it or not - came news that I had been recommended for training.

Bishop Peter – who like all our bishops decides himself whom he ordains – accepted the panel’s view, and a few weeks later I joined a group of other freshly minted ordinands at the largest of the theological colleges training would-be priests in the Church of England, Ripon College Cuddesdon near Oxford.

It has not been easy combining some very absorbing studies with running up and down to CNN in London and of course some modicum of home life (again, ask my wife).  Thanks to the generosity and understanding of my CNN bosses, I stepped back from the full-time role I’d filled for fifteen years or more, and racked up 350  miles a week commuting between home, college and studios.

But throughout it all there has been a sense of joy and a quiet but unwavering confidence that, as crazy as it might seem to most people, this was what I was to do.

From the day of my ordination onwards I shall be serving a parish of around 10,000 people in a town near my home in Southwest England, under the careful supervision of its vicar, or parish priest.

For a year I shall serve purely as a deacon, an office set up by the first apostles to serve the community, as recounted in chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles; read on and you’ll learn how the first deacon, Stephen, quickly also became the first Christian martyr.

In the Church of England, deacons are normally ordained again, to the additional office of priest, one year after their initial ordination.

Loving service and humility will be at the heart of my new (unpaid) role.   As the Bishop will tell the cathedral congregation on July 1, deacons are to seek out "the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible."

The poverty rate in my new parish is one in seven; there will be much to do.

But my anchoring days will continue, I hope.  With the strong support of Bishop Peter and my CNN bosses, I shall still be anchoring World Business Today occasionally.

My dog-collar will stay at home, but there is no contradiction between honest work – which the Judeo-Christian tradition honors as an expression of our selves, our self-worth and our creativity – and serving God in his Church.

The theology behind such "incarnational ministry" is regarded as sound by the Church of England, and my CNN boss has her own take on it, too.

Surveying the London newsroom, she wryly remarked, "Anything you can do to make this place a bit holier, Charles, will be very welcome."

She was joking, of course; CNN London may not be full of innocents, but things really aren’t that bad.  That said, my imminent ordained ministry will be here in the CNN workplace just as much as it will be in that modest parish 150 miles away.  And I can’t wait.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (644 Responses)
  1. peter whalen

    SUFFER ME

    Suffer me not
    That I might have the glory
    In the telling of my own sad story-
    Which is insufferable…

    Suffer me a lot
    That you might learn a little
    To suffer much with Him
    And suffer yourself no more

    August 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  2. peter whalen

    THE WRITER

    (For Mary and Phil Leonard)
    “What’s written for me”

    I wanted to write out my life-
    I tried so hard I burst-
    And then I found at Calvary
    Jesus wrote it first-

    Costing Him much more than me-
    My musings a dead letter-
    And His life alive for mine-
    His Living Word was better

    Than my clever little rhymes,
    Cruel playthings of an aging boy,
    A shallow singing of sad times
    Maturing to His Manly Joy.

    The Art of Life is hung at Calvary-
    Nails piercing the Master’s hand
    That recreates after the Fall
    The Life of Heaven for us all.

    He wanted to right out our lives-
    Live life with us from the Cross-
    Each Man’s book is written there
    And we read our lives in prayer.

    To create from joy and suffering
    Our offering up of each small task-
    To let His Flesh and Blood be ours
    In the Mystery of the Mass…

    And let Him write out with our lives
    The living of His life again,
    Until we truly learn to sing
    The poem that will never end.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  3. peter whalen

    REJOICE WITH ME

    Rejoice instead in the measure that you share
    In Christ’s suffering. When His glory is
    Revealed, you will rejoice exultantly
    (1 PT 4;13)

    Pity me not because I lost my mind,
    Wandered the streets in a psychotic fit-
    Lived where I could, ate what I could find ;
    Was for years and years the village idiot –
    Nor feel sorry that I was no longer clever,
    Sobbed hysterically a decade and a half ,
    Nor let your heart break because I was a beggar –
    That I traveled through life a psychopath-
    Feel not anguish that I thrashed in locked wards,
    Was abandoned in ways I could not say ,
    A poet with a frightful loss of words;
    A sad gay man learning how to pray.

    Rejoice with me
    Jesus paid my frightful price –
    Took me to Him – Into HIS Mystical Body –
    That we shared in life the same tormented cry;
    He had walked in His Way the same streets as I –
    Insane – I was never at a total loss ;
    I KNEW the Blessed Mother choose my Cross
    In Her maternal love for me and for us all;
    THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION –
    Conceived In LOVE such a Holy Cross for me;
    Through Mary Jesus was someone I could serve –
    She knew it was the Cross that I deserved
    And so did I – for over a quarter of a century
    I stood with Her at Calvary – a wretched sentry
    With the Communion of Saints, and Blessed Kateri
    Till Easter came for me-

    Having carried my cross – He Now Carries me
    But new Crosses will come until the end-
    And If SHE ASKS I will carry the old cross I did again
    And I will sing to Her – in praise of all that has been done
    That we might all carry our Crosses for Her Son-
    And I will gladly sing – that it never be forgot
    That we pity only those that do not .

    August 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  4. Colombiana

    This would be a perfect calling for my husband. Only trouble is we are not in England. Also I think He will be in better condition as with NeoCatechumenat Way I am sure. Would anyone please contact him?

    July 4, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Miki

      I liked up to you'll obtain pefmorred right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you would like be handing over the following. ill surely come further before again since precisely the same just about a lot ceaselessly within case you shield this increase.

      November 10, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.