So Phil and Ceri, can you start by introducing yourselves.
Phil: We met when we were students at Birmingham University in 1999. We started with a long-distance relationship while Ceri was on her year abroad in Germany.
We got married after Ceri finished her degree at the start of 2002 and we have recently celebrated 19 years together.
Prior to joining Agapé, Ceri worked as an Events Organiser and I was working on my PhD in Nuclear Physics.
We have 3 school aged children and live in Newcastle.
What led you to work with Agapé?
Ceri: Soon after we were married, and as new christians, we were a part of St Stephen’s Church and involved in their youth work. This ignited a passion for sharing our faith and our lives with people. As Phil’s PhD was drawing to a close, he was thinking about what to do next. Recognizing our love for people and for God, we began to explore different opportunities.
Around this time I was asked to organize a conference for Christian academics in collaboration with Agapé. Spending time working at Agapé’s office, getting to know different staff and hearing their stories about helping people to discover Jesus, resonated with us.
As we began sharing Agapé’s vision with our church and praying about it, the dots started to join up! We joined Agapé in 2004 and started working with students in Birmingham, moving to Newcastle in 2008 to continue this work there.
We are so thankful for St Stephen’s , the church where our faith was formed and who have continued to partner and support us over many years.
How did you get involved with FamilyLife?
Phil: One of the highlights of working with students in Newcastle was building a successful community where right at the centre were Jesus’ words ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. As we sought to model this, we learnt so much about it and saw the difference it made in transforming the lives of students.
Ceri: At the same time, Phil was working with mature students from overseas who had young families. The most common thing Phil looked at with these guys was Jesus’s teaching about relationships. We also started to spend more time with couples together, giving and receiving hospitality as a family.
After 14 years working with students, it felt a natural step to move to FamilyLife in 2017.
FamilyLife was familiar to us as we had attended a few ‘A Day Together’s’ over the years, we had personally benefited from the practical teaching on learning how to communicate well with one another and resolve conflict. Phil especially loves the four conflict animals from ADT and is very much an Ostrich!
What is the calling God has put on your hearts? How has this evolved over the past 17 years?
Phil: My faith and people are important to me. When I see the brokenness in people’s lives, I feel compassion and want to help. I long to see their pain and hurt turned to joy and togetherness.
I love the Bible, it is so relevant to our everyday lives, especially how we relate to one another. Jesus knew the Father and the Father knew him. At the heart of this is relationship; we are invited to have a relationship with Jesus like He had with his Father God. The Bible teaches us how this is possible and how we can love and relate well to others.
In FamilyLife, we want to see people’s relationships strengthened and transformed through biblical teaching on relationships and provide tools, events and resources that can practically help people in their relationships, as well as point people to Jesus.
Ceri: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” 1 Thessalonians: 2:8
This has been a key verse for me. I am thankful that an amazing lady called Jean modelled this really well. It’s therefore been natural to live out what she taught me and invite others into our home to share and experience life with us, to take the time to build deep relationships with people, to listen well, to pray for people and to share our faith with them.
What strengths do you hope to bring to your new role?
Phil: Ceri & I are complete opposites, not only in our likes and dislikes, but our personalities and strengths. Every psychometric test we’ve done and 19 years of marriage show this! Consequently, many tell us we complement each other well.
I am a strategic thinker, bible teacher, and have a pastoral heart. I stay calm in a crisis.
Ceri is the organised administrator who helps me work to deadlines and looks after the details.
Together we work well as a team and we especially enjoy doing hospitality together.
What would you love to see God do in and through Family Life in this next season?
Phil: We want to build on the great work Mark & Christine have done. We have big shoes to fill and want to do justice to what they’ve done before. The heart to see relationships transformed and people coming to know Jesus remains the same. FamilyLife’s great resources will continue to be our main strategy. But we have had to adapt over this past year with A Day Together on hold and Together switching to being online. We have learned a lot about working in the digital space during lockdown and would like to see this develop in future
How do you see these things coming to fruition?
Phil: We continue to work locally, creating local FamilyLife networks that are building deep community and friendship with one another, which help others to strengthen their relationships through ‘Together Groups’ and events.
Nationally, we want to enable local networks to come together to learn from one another and spur one another on.
We would like to build on the success of Couples Talk and continue to think how we can grow the reach of what we do digitally.
In all of this, as couples see lives transformed and the difference that Jesus makes to relationships, we would love to see more couples strengthened and more people come to know Jesus personally.
And to finish, tell us an interesting fact about each of you.
Phil: I enjoy cycling (well actually, lots of things active and outdoors!) and was part of the Toucan Canterbury to York ride in 2019.
Ceri is a fan of Marie Kondo and when time allows, loves to declutter our home and bring order to it! She also loves getting out into the beautiful Northumberland countryside with her camera.
If all covid restrictions ended tomorrow – what is the first thing you would do?
Phil: I would like to visit family.
Ceri: Have friends over for food, have lots of hugs, visit family & fly myself off into the sunshine somewhere!
How can we pray for you?
Phil and Ceri: Personally, prayer for good communication and patience with one another as we continue to share the same working space in lockdown and balance the needs of our family life.
We have a great team, please pray we would lead well with wisdom and understanding.
We need to continually listen to God’s leading, pray we listen well and act in faith.