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Journalist-turned-vicar tells of religious awakening in new book

A journalist-turned-vicar who had a religious awakening on his way to cover a court case for a regional daily has written a book about his decision to join the priesthood.

Reverend Matt Woodcock, who used to work at The Press, in York, is now in charge at Holy Trinity Church, in Hull, having left the industry in 2007.

His book, Becoming Reverend, charts his journey from journalism to becoming an unconventional vicar, who holds beer festivals and rock concerts in his church, as well as trying to recruit new congregation members in nightclubs.

In the book, Matt says “divine revelation” struck him on the A19, where he pulled in at a lay by with a dizzy feeling while on his way to cover a case at Selby Magistrates Court.

He wrote: “As strange as it sounds, I felt an overwhelming sense that God had something urgent he wanted to tell me. Either that, or someone had spiked my pot noodle.”

Matt’s colleagues at The Press thought he was joking when, in 2007, he announced he was quitting to devote his life to spreading the word of God.

Matt, right, during a beer festival being held at his church

Matt, right, during a beer festival being held at his church

Current Press chief reporter Mike Laycock, who was the butt of many of Matt’s practical jokes in the newsroom, said: “He had a real eye for a story. He would pick up more human interest stories than anybody else – mainly because he knew more people than anyone else.”

Among Matt’s most remembered stories are a Labrador which wouldn’t go upstairs because it was afraid of ghosts, and a terrier which would regularly hop on a bus to visit a pub where a barmaid would serve it sausages.

He was also involved in campaigning to keep York’s Odeon cinema open, and flew to Washington DC campaign to take the paper’s ‘Say No to Son of Star Wars’ – the US missile defence system in which RAF Fylingdales, on the North York Moors, was to play a key part – all the way to the Pentagon.

‘Woody’, as he was known in the newsroom, also shocked his father, former Daily Mail and Yorkshire Post journalist John Woodcock, with his decision to leave journalism.

Matt added: “I loved being a journalist – the drama, the newsroom atmosphere. I had some of the happiest years of my life on The Press.

However he admitted that his wife Anna was furious at the move. “We’d just got a mortgage, we were trying for kids, things were going along very nicely,” he added.

Matt trained as a vicar at Cranmer Hall, in Durham, and was ordained by Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, at York Minster in 2012.

Becoming Reverend by Matt Woodcock is published by Church House Publishing, and is priced at £9.99.