Canon Andrew White, aka Vicar of Baghdad, an unusual man, and unusual early life.
From an early age as a child he wanted to work in anaesthetics and be a priest. You cannot do both said his teacher, and in any case you are a Baptist and they do not have priests.
He went to Medical School, and qualified in anaesthetics, but no sooner had he qualified, he found himself called to be a priest. His training was at Cambridge. I do not know how unusual, but he studied Judaism and Islam. What could have better set him up for what was his later role in life, a key Middle East negotiator, a man of faith with the right background?
This seems to be the story of his life. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, meets the right people, has the requisite skills.
Once ordained he took up a post as curate at St Mark's in Battersea Rise in London. But what curate jets off to the Middle East, gets called to meetings with the Pope!
Prior to his ordination and whilst still at Cambridge and as part of his studies he was in Jerusalem. It was there that he met a woman called Sister Ruth Heflin who ran a church called the Mount Zion Fellowship. Its was she who prophesised that his calling in life was to 'seek the Peace of Jerusalem and the Middle East'.
Now here I have to admit to being a tad baffled. Is not prophesy explicitly forbidden? The only prophesy allowed being urim and thummim. Two stones, which you cast or draw to make a choice. In Islam prophesy appears to be forbidden as only God is to know the future, or at least only God may determine the future.
In The Alchemist, Melchizedek, who we learn is the King of Salem, withdraws from his breastplate urim and thummim and hands to Santiago with an explanation of how they are to be used.
In use, Jesus Cards and Ruach Cards, it is always emphasised this is not prophesy. And even then would be frowned on in most church circles if not outright condemned
Things progress as they do, and Andrew White became vicar of the Church of the Ascension in Balham Hill, just down the road from St Mark's. He was still travelling. He had not been there no more than six years when his Bishop advised him to apply for the post as Director of the International Ministry at Coventry Cathedral. It was as director that led to his role as Middle East peacemaker and negotiator.
One of his first project was the Alexandria Declaration, a joint declaration by religious leaders calling for peace in the Middle East.
Canon Andrew White then went on from the Holy Land to that other area of conflict in the Middle East, Iraq. He also became Vicar of St George's Church. A more detailed account is given in his earlier book Iraq.
I picked up a copy of The Vicar of Baghdad following a dinner at which Canon Andrew White was the guest of honour. Which struck me then and again reading this account of his work was the strength of commitment, his faith and his love for Iraq and its people. [see Dinner with Canon Andrew White]