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Former Royal Marine ordained as priest

Former Royal Marine ordained as priest
25 October 2019
If we can have Christian soldiers, there’s no reason why we cannot have Christian marines as well.

Like the Reverend Justin Montague. Green beret. Afghan veteran. Marathon runner. Man of God.

Three years after leaving the Corps, he is now a Church of England priest after being ordained at St Paul’s Church in Tiverton, Devon.

Justin spent 11 years in the Corps before leaving in 2016 to begin the transition from commando to chaplain, assisted by Royal Navy Reverend Ralph Barber who also swapped military uniform for a dog collar.

After training at theological collar, the ex-commando was ordained deacon last year and then fully-fledged priest this year.

“What a journey it has been to this point,” said the former lance corporal from Oxford. “Twelve years ago I was in Afghanistan. Ten years ago I was running my first marathon for the Royal Navy/Royal Marines team in the US.”

Serious health issues forced him to consider his career as a Royal Marine and his existence – and ultimately led to his decision to re-train as a priest. “It has been the most humbling and exciting journey, and I look forward to where I am called to in the future.”

What a journey it has been to this point. Twelve years ago I was in Afghanistan. Ten years ago I was running my first marathon for the Royal Navy/Royal Marines team in the US.

Reverend Justin Montague

Helping him on that journey has been Rev Barber who spent nine years as a Royal Navy sailor before heading to theological college, served in a parish in Newquay, then returned to the Senior Service.

Today he’s the ‘bish’ (as clergy are affectionately known in the Navy) to personnel serving on Whale Island in Portsmouth and the former HMS Dryad site at Southwick Park. He also acts as the RN’s Diocesan Director of Ordinands, helping and advising sailors and Royal Marines seeking ordination through the Church of England’s discernment and selection process.

“There are a variety of training models including both full-time residential and part-time non-residential options followed by three years in a parish as a curate learning from an experienced parish priest,” he explained.

“Afterwards you can continue as a parish priest or consider joining the Navy as a chaplain.”

Justin says without the guidance of the Navy’s chaplaincy team, his fellow commandos and the specialist unit in Plymouth dedicated to helping personnel recover from major illness and injury, Hasler Company.

“Without them, I would not be where I am, realizing my dreams and for that I will always be grateful," he added.

He’s remaining in the civilian world for now.

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