Meet the Ballymena clergyman also serving his community as a paramedic

A Co Antrim clergyman has opened up about how witnessing his great-grandfather suffer a heart attack at a family event as a child inspired him to later train as a paramedic.

Today Ballymena curate, Andy Moore, combines his full-time parish ministry with working each month as a paramedic – the job he has enjoyed for many years before and after being ordained into the Church of Ireland.

Andy, who has recently been appointed Chair of the Christian Ambulance Association, explained about the motivation for joining the Ambulance Service, and how both ministry opportunities have come together to serve his community.

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He said: “My great-grandfather had a heart attack at my little brother’s christening in 1994. I can remember the ambulance arriving and the excitement in the house, for me anyway, of these two men coming in and just taking control, almost like heroes to my very young five-year-old mind.

“From that point, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be that sense of calm that came into a situation.”

Andy, who is curate in Kilconriola and Ballyclug, later headed for England where he was able to train as a paramedic more quickly than if he'd stayed in Northern Ireland, as he explained: "I went off to England at 19 - so here you had to be 21 to join but you had to join the non-emergency and work your way up - whereas I went to England and I was qualified at 21 so it was a quicker way of doing things.

"I worked in the city centre of Birmingham so it was the second busiest ambulance station in the UK but it was wonderful. Every day went really fast but you learned lots, which was fantastic."

Ballymena curate Andy Moore combines his full-time parish ministry with working each month as a paramedic
Ballymena curate Andy Moore combines his full-time parish ministry with working each month as a paramedic -Credit:Church of Ireland

Andy then reached that point where he felt there was something else that he would like to do with his life: "I had always thought about ministry as a teenager and spoke to my home rector who said get life experience. That was his big advice so the ambulance service was ideal for that.

"When I came home at 24 my wife and I got married and I just met a lovely curate - he's the rector in Broughshane now just down the road - and he showed me a different way of doing things I suppose for ministry.

"Up until that point, all the clergy I’d met were old men. He was a young man who was leading a church and I thought 'I like that'."

So how does he blend his two roles as a clergyman and part-time paramedic: "People automatically assume you can’t do the two, they don’t go together but they do. Both are mission, both are outreach, both are about helping people in need.

"Quite often the cross-over exists on emergency calls. Once you’ve got the physical side sorted, people may need spiritual guidance as well.

"There's a real comfort in being able to say to people 'well I am a minister can I help?' It's wonderful to be able to do that. There's usually a bit of surprise (when I say that).

"Quite often people look at you as if 'are you mad? what do you mean you do both?' But I suppose it depends on the situation. If it’s a sudden death, people are very appreciative of prayers and guidance. It's also nice if somebody's scared and they are praying to have somebody pray with them."

Andy has recently been appointed Chair of the Christian Ambulance Association
Andy has recently been appointed Chair of the Christian Ambulance Association -Credit:Church of Ireland

On what his paramedic colleagues make of him and how he schedules his work around his pastoral duties, Andy said: "I think I'm well known in the ambulance service for being a bit extra, a bit unusual so they just leave me to it I think is the way to describe it. That's just Andy being Andy so let him do it.

"It works quite nicely as I only do two shifts a month just to keep my hand in which I do on my day off. It's also a good way of relieving stress of parish life by going and driving an ambulance very fast for a couple of hours.

"I tend to work in the car because I prefer working on my own so I would arrive first at incidents and calls and accidents and then wait for backup to arrive."

Meanwhile Andy's parishioners often to turn to him for medical advice as well as pastoral care: "Most of them have asked about medical advice you know 'I've got a rash can you tell me what it is Reverend' or 'I'm on this medication the doctor's given me, these tablets what are they for?

"There's also a nice appreciation that I have done something else - I'm not some 20-year-old coming in, I'm somebody who's lived a little bit as well."

Looking to the future, Andy added: "I'm very close to my long service medal and I want to get it. I want to have that uh achievement. I suppose when I'm Archbishop I'll have to give it up!"

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