Diocese of Portsmouth

    She felt God's call when she fractured her neck

    Faith stories
    22 June 2017

    IT was only when Samantha Martell fractured her neck and became immobile that she started listening properly to God.

    Before then, the mum-of-two was so busy, working as a butcher, running her own business and bringing up her twin sons, that she hadn’t stopped. When she did, she discovered that God was calling her to become a clergy person in the Church of England.

    She will be one of 11 people who will be ordained by the Bishop of Portsmouth during two services at Portsmouth Cathedral on July 1. And the 46-year-old will become a curate at four parishes in Droxford, Meonstoke, Exton and Corhampton, continuing her training there for the next three years.

    Samantha has always known how important God is, but didn’t realise how easy it was to speak to him until she was older. She had followed her grandfather into the butcher business, renting premises in Portsmouth.

    But it was about eight years ago, as she was moving her sausage filling machine, that she had a blinding flash and felt her back twinge. The next morning she couldn’t move at first, but eventually drove to hospital. It turned out she had pressure fractures on her neck and the base of her spine.

    Within a week of being in hospital, her landlord changed the locks on her business premises and sold her equipment, meaning she had to rethink the direction of her life. She threw herself into being a mum to her twins Killian and Carlisle, who are now both 15, and wife to Jonny. And she found herself asking God what he wanted her to do.

    “Obviously I had to be at home a lot more, and I got involved with the children’s school in the village of Compton, in Sussex, where we lived,” she said. “I became a churchwarden at the church and chair of governors at the school.

    “Then one day I was having a meeting with the vicar, and he said ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’. Without thinking about it, I said: ‘I want to be a vicar’. The words just came out of my mouth – it wasn’t quite what I was thinking at the time. But I realised that was what I wanted to do and what God was calling me to.”

    Samantha Martell, who will be the new curate at Droxford, Meonstoke, Exton and Corhampton

    She started going through the process of applying within the Diocese of Chichester, while leading family services in her home church. But it was a placement in St Peter’s Church in Petersfield that really got things moving. She spent six weeks during Lent 2013 working alongside the vicar, the Rev Will Hughes, and didn’t want to leave.

    “The congregation was great, Will was brilliant, and even the bishop said he’d heard good things about me,” said Samantha. “I didn’t want to leave that Easter Sunday, but felt that changing parishes and changing dioceses wasn’t right. But within a couple of weeks of leaving St Peter’s, I decided that I needed to come back.”

    She became part of the congregation for a year, and edited the parish magazine for six months. The church also helped her to get back into being a butcher – she offered to make some sausages for the church fete in summer 2013 and the exposure generated some regular customers.

    Then in June 2014 she was approved for ordination and started her three-year course at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, near Oxford, that September. After her first year there, Portsmouth diocese changed the way it trained clergy and she was switched to the Portsmouth Pathway course, based at St Luke’s Church in Southsea.

    “It’s humbling to feel part of something bigger than you can ever imagine, and sometimes quite scary,” she said. “But it’s where God wants me to be. I’m looking forward to being a curate in these four villages. My background is rural, so it does feel like the right place to be.”

    Samantha is one of five people who will be ordained as deacons at 11am on July 1. The others are: Matt Bray (who will work at Portsmouth Cathedral and Harbour Church), Sam Cullen (who will work at St Peter’s, Petersfield), Richard Hutchins (who will work at St Mary’s, Liss), and Mary Kells (who will work at Bridgemary and Elson in Gosport). To read about how God called Matt Bray and Sam Cullen, click here.

    Six others who were ordained deacon last year will be ordained as priests at 4pm on July 1 – which means they will then be able to celebrate Holy Communion. They are the Rev Ben Bryant (who is working at Harbour Church), the Rev Adam Denley (who is working at St Jude’s Church, Southsea), the Rev Edwina Fennemore (who is working at St Alban’s Church, West Leigh), the Rev Katy Garner (who is working in East Meon, Langrish, West Meon and Warnford), the Rev Mark James (who is working at Christ Church, Portsdown) and the Rev Richard Wharton (who is working as part of North End Team Ministry). To read about how God called the Rev Katy Garner, click here.