Martin Gainsborough lectures in Politics at Bristol University, with a special interest is Vietnamese politics. This month he will be ordained Deacon and serve his curacy at inner city St Luke's Barton Hill. Here he talks about the reasons for this unconventional pathway and his excitement at taking on this new role.
The fresh challenge of an inner-city parish is one which Martin Gainsborough relishes. "For me, it's a completely new area of Bristol, new people and new locality to get to know, in all its richness. How exciting is that!"
Currently he is a Reader in Development Politics at Bristol University, where he is also involved in teaching undergraduates. His specialism is the politics of Vietnam, and in the 1990s he spent three years in Saigon undertaking research for his PhD. "My work has always had quite an applied angle, trying to relate my insights in a specific context to development", he explains, and this includes time spent time working for the United Nations Development Programme in Hanoi.
Yet following his ordination in July, Martin will face the challenge of combining his academic career with serving as curate at St Luke's Barton Hill.
The decision to pursue ordination was one which arose from a questioning attitude towards matters of faith and spirituality.
"Although I have rarely been agnostic about God, for much of my life He was in the too hard category. However, one day, after a period of wrestling, it occurred to me that given I spend so long thinking about God I should put it to good use!"
Martin attributes his willingness to serve God in ordained ministry to a passionate belief that the church still has something of eternal importance to say, and sees this conviction as making the challenges along the way worth facing.
Training for ordination is a time of learning and growing both as a Christian and a future priest. Looking back on his time at STETS (Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme),Martin reflects that although it is hard to pinpoint exactly how God has shaped him throughout the process - and often it is others who can better provide us with such insights - he can identity ways in which his worldview has been challenged and moulded.
"It is not about trying to plan every step of the way but rather to embrace the present and trust that things will become clear... I have learnt that if we are open to God, His calling for us is always broader that we can imagine".