The Rev. Andrew Thomas Williams

Spiritual Autobiography

When I was in my late twenties and a practicing attorney, before we had children, my wife, Elena, and I decided to quit the rat race in London and move to the country, settling down in a thatched village in the heartland of North Devon. We did a lot of entertaining in those days. I would like to say that it was because we were incredibly hospitable, but in reality, it was more like, “Come and see our big new house!” All by itself, our house said, “The people who live here have made it!” But actually that was not true, and I knew it. I had this deep conviction that there was something missing. There was a quiet sort of despair within me that was only temporarily distracted by the next grand interior decoration scheme.

When we had finally exhausted all the people we could possibly think of to come and visit us in our big house, it dawned on us that we should probably get to know some people who lived locally and so, as a last resort, we went to the local Anglican Parish church. The church was cold and dark, and there were more draughts than people. A curious smell of mildew and wood polish stayed on your clothes for hours after you had left the building. At the same time, a kindly new Vicar and a friendly small group of people came around us, and I found myself intrigued by and drawn to them all at the same time. They invited us for meals. They were actually interested in us. Hearing that I was an attorney, one of them asked, “But how can you do that as a job if you don’t find it fulfilling?” and I thought “Because it pays the bills on my big house. What a dumb question.” Just occasionally they would say something like, “Have you prayed about that?” — which of course we hadn’t — and they always spoke about Jesus like they knew him personally. I decided that I liked them sufficiently that I was not going to hold that against them.

A little while later, my now-friend Richard (the new Vicar) asked us if we would like to be part of a Lent group that was going to explore the Christian faith. Despite several years as a choirboy, I did not know very much about Lent or the Christian faith, but our new friends were beginning to feel like family so we knew that they would look out for us. When the course came to an end, I volunteered our house for a Bible study — without telling Elena, who was furious. I had to go out and purchase a Bible.

Not long after the Bible study began, late one night, I began a faltering conversation with God with “I am saying ‘yes’ to You without reservation. Whatever You want for my life, I desire too.” Shortly thereafter, Elena said a similar prayer and gave her life to Jesus as well. From there on, everything changed for us. Our new friends taught us both how to pray and how to read the Bible. I introduced my friends and family to Jesus, because this is what our friends had done for us. I prayed for healing, fully expecting Jesus to heal because that was how they prayed. And the despair stopped. Suddenly there was a new love, a new purpose and a sense of God’s calling. Suddenly my life did not feel like such a waste. The love of the Father found me in the goodness of a community of His people. Through their patient love, I discovered that Jesus knew my name, loved me and had a plan for my life. Ever since then, I have sought to offer this experience and this revelation of hope, love and purpose in Jesus to every man, woman and child, as the Lord will allow me.

My seminary training at Trinity College Bristol was exemplary. I never lost the sense of immense privilege in having corporate worship as part of my day, and I threw myself into my studies, developing a life-long habit of theological reflection and learning. My curacy was a similarly glorious period. I was blessed with a Godly and generous training incumbent who caught me up in the daily rhythm of his prayer life and taught me all the essential basics of ministry. At the same time, the church flourished. We led Alpha Courses continually in local pubs, community halls and sports clubs, and we watched God bring whole families to faith.

In 2003 the Lord called me to serve as Associate Vicar at St. Andrew’s Chorleywood in the Diocese of St. Albans. St. Andrew’s is one of the larger UK evangelical churches with a deep history of renewal. I was tasked to envision, strategize, develop and oversee a new missional strategy. Adopting this strategy, St. Andrew’s grew from a church of around 500 people to in excess of 1,600. The strategy led to establishing 40 Mission Shaped Communities (‘MSCs’). MSCs were flexible, scalable and low-cost, operating on an average annual budget of around $10,000. From within St. Andrew’s church family, we raised, mentored and equipped over 120 volunteer leaders to lead these MSCs. Our leaders were locally empowered but centrally accountable, and in this way, were able to reach many unchurched people groups: young adults, children, the elderly, prisoners, students, physically-disabled people, adults with special learning needs, young people in trouble with the police and local authorities, those leaving clubs and bars in the early hours of the morning, the homeless, those with addiction, immigrant populations and many local communities. The MSC model attracted national and international interest and established a network of churches across the UK, Western and Eastern Europe, America, Canada and South America, from different denominations. This work also blessed me with a closer working relationship and friendship with Holy Trinity Brompton in South Kensington.

This experience fostered a deeper passion for mission and a deep faith in the Spirit-led empowerment and release of the priesthood of all believers. Simply, we are all called. In the hands of an extraordinary God, we all have something unique and essential to contribute to the advance of God’s Kingdom. Through Jesus’ work upon the Cross, we are delivered from our sin so that we can be “a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10). I am inspired by Bishop N.T. Wright’s description of the “long story of God’s plan” whereby we are rescued in order to be worshippers and workers in God’s restoration movement.

In 2008, Canon Mary Hays (Canon to the Ordinary in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh) heard me speak at a conference in the Pittsburgh Diocese on the MSC strategy. This led to my being called to the USA to serve Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. I discovered that this was to be (at least initially) a very different assignment under God. Trinity had been planted ten years before I arrived. It had strong Biblical roots but in a season of transition and in the ensuing leadership vacuum, there were signs that it was losing its foundation. With a faithful remnant, my ministry began by leading the congregation to Jesus as we know Him through the Bible. It was a wonderful season of rediscovering God’s presence in worship and in His Word, and renewal in His call to serve a hurting world. God has blessed the church with great growth, both numerically and spiritually. We have raised, released and equipped lay leadership. There have been some significant milestones along the way. Yet what gives me the deepest joy is to have been used by God to lead the church more deeply in the mercy and grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. In this wonderful renewal, the Lord has equipped and inspired Trinity to embrace Jesus’ mission to those who do not yet know Him.

To my core, I am a missional servant of God, deeply committed to a spiritual maturation process that will make disciples who make disciples. I am also fervently committed to God’s call to equip and empower His church to reach out with His love to those who do not yet know Him. I was reborn in the UK in the context of post-Christendom. I see the same cultural creep in the US. I feel called to the Northeast of America and passionately desire to be part of God’s renewal, to turn the spiritual tide, and to be relevant and impactful in the face of culture while remaining Biblically faithful. I strongly desire to build and equip congregations of His Word and His Spirit, expressed in relational evangelism and justice, distinguished by generosity and compassion.

Curriculum Vitae – The Rev. Andrew Williams
CNB Questions – The Rev. Andrew Williams