Ipswich: Vicar gets army call-up

IT gripped me as a calling.

Those were the words of one Ipswich vicar who has chosen to swap his dog collar for a set of dog tags.

The Rev Antony Wilson, 43, has been the vicar of St John the Baptist Church in Cauldwell Hall Road for four and half years.

Last year Mr Wilson joined the Territorial Army and was so inspired by his experience that in October he will be joining the army as a military chaplain.

Mr Wilson, who moved to Ipswich in 2008 with his wife Julia and four children, said: “It’s difficult to put into words but it’s got hold of me.

“It gripped me as a calling, to minister to people who are being asked to do extraordinary things and cope with things most people don’t have to cope with in our daily lives and make sure they feel supported.”

The 43-year-old was particularly inspired by the chaplains he’s met since joining the TA and the work they do supporting servicemen and women.

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“At different points in my life I’ve felt called to do new things,” he said. “I joined the TA at the end of 2011 and very soon after that, it clicked with me.

“I felt it was all or nothing and I felt it was right for it to be all.

“It’s quite a rigorous process to get in – so if they think I can do it, that confirms to me the sense that this is the right thing to do.

“The church is in a good place for me to move on, they’ve all been really supportive.

“On a personal level it’s exciting. It’s a great new opportunity.”

Mr Wilson will start his training on October 1, training for six weeks at Amport House – the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire – before he’s posted to his first regiment and then sent to Sandhurst for ten weeks.

As a chaplain, his training will be very different from the usual military drills.

He will learn practical skills such as how to conduct a military service or a military funeral, as well as how to cope in combat situations.

“You get trained in how to handle yourself on the battlefield,” he said. “So you don’t become a burden to the others.

“The kinds of situation you’re going to encounter are more extreme than normal vicars.

“You have to learn how people react and how to minister to them in the best way possible.”