“I have been blessed that the Church of England has always treated me with great respect and my disability has not been an issue. I believe that as a leader of a church we are called to serve, to emulate Christ, or should I say, try to emulate Christ. The people of St Peter’s live in an urban, socially deprived area, with a high crime rate. Yet, they are an amazingly generous, welcoming, and a blessing to serve,” said Rev. Naude.
“I am delighted to welcome Rev. John Naude to Chester Diocese. He brings his whole person as gift to this ministry, of which his disability is a rich part. I love the manner in which John engages, serves, draws alongside, and naturally shares Jesus. The fact he does this from his chair is simply part of the service that he brings, and in so doing he embodies the rich gift of life offered by Christ to all,” said Bishop Mark Tanner, bishop of Chester Diocese.
Added Rev. Dr Joe Kennedy, rural dean, Birkenhead Deanery, "It is a privilege to welcome John to Birkenhead Deanery, our fellowship of Anglican churches here in Birkenhead. John brings rich experience of ministry and deep wisdom to his post at St Peter's, and has so much to offer the church there and the local community at Rock Ferry. I very much look forward to working with John as we lead church communities seeking to bring the good news of Jesus to our local communities and to serve those in Jesus' name.”
Call to serve
Rev. Naude felt called to the ordained ministry in his mid 20s after watching a TV documentary that depicted the churches response to disabled people as leaders within the church. He describes the experience as “awful” and at the end of the program he was in tears and asked God why this was so.
He said, “What I had seen was nothing new! But I felt God was clearly saying that this is where He wanted me to go. My response wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, so much I ran away from the calling for a number of years. I thought it was a stupid idea.”
Eventually he accepted to pursue the call. At that point, his attitude was simply to wait for negative response. To his surprise, he did not get any negative reaction from those who were there to test his calling.
Rev. Naude describes himself as “a broken individual serving Christ.” With disability comes prejudice and discrimination. Weakness and limitations are part of the human body and mind, created by God in His image.
He added, “As a leader who uses a wheelchair, I have experienced people’s different responses to my disability. Some find it astounding that I am a church leader, some come expecting me to have no knowledge of life, whilst some simply come with their own prejudices and therefore discrimination to me, without ever having met or known me. However, I am called by Christ and am called to imitate him—He is my rock and my salvation and whatever other people’s attitude may be, I hold onto Christ.”
Rev. Naude observes that he has met many people within the UK and in different parts of the world who have not received similar response. They have been patronised and labelled with such negativity that they have felt beaten into submission. He believes the church is stronger when it includes people with disabilities. Inclusion enables the body of Christ to fully function, not as a hindrance but as something that the church needs.
His hope for the people of Rock Ferry
Rev. Naude hopes for the people of Rock Ferry, for himself, and his family that they may become more like Christ. He says, “I have no need for healing, I am a sinner and that is what separates me from Christ. So my prayer for the people of St Peter’s, my family, and for myself is that we become more like Christ in the way we serve each other, love each other, and be unafraid of sharing the good news of Christ with others.”
Rev. Naude has been ordained as a stipendiary Anglican priest for over 28 years now, with an interlude of serving as a missionary in Malawi for four years, from 2012 - 2016. He was the academic dean for the Evangelical Baptist Church of Malawi.
“It was a great honour and privilege to serve Christ there, amongst such amazing people. It was a challenge as a wheelchair user, not just with regard to mobility, but also dealing with people’s response to seeing disability as being caused by sin. Yet here I was a teacher and pastor living with a disability!” said Rev. Naude