Tim and Abi Thomas, 44 and 37, met at a party for young church members in 2002. He is a vicar; she runs a Christian podcast. They live in Bradford with their children
In 2002, Tim volunteered to help out at a summer camp for teenagers, organised by the Anglican church he attended in Glossop, Derbyshire. I had to attend a training weekend in south Derbyshire, he recalls. I knew Abis mum through the church, and she asked how I was going to get there. Abi, whom he had never met, was going to the same event. I told her mum she could get a lift with me, he says. She denies it, but she definitely set us up.
Tim was new to Christianity, but Abi had been attending the church all her life. I was a student living in Sheffield at the time, she explains. Tim had converted a couple of years before and got to know my parents through the church. My mum told me shed organised me a lift with this nice young man.
Before the training session, they both attended a party for young churchgoers. There was this sense of connection straight away, says Tim, who was working as a lawyer in Manchester. Then, on the car journey, the pair chatted nonstop. We had the same silly sense of humour, Abi says. There was this nervous energy between us and we ended up having a really fun weekend. Their friendship grew over the next few months, but Tim wasnt ready to make a move. There was obviously something there, but I felt conflicted, he says. I was conscious that I was quite a bit older and I didnt want to mess things up.
Tim regularly went to visit Abi at university for the weekend. I knew I was falling for him on the day that we drove to the training session, she says. I really wanted something to happen between us. In February 2003, she plucked up her courage and phoned him. I was head over heels. I told him I was ready for more and he was like: OK, bye.
It wasnt quite that, Tim laughs. But I admit I was a bit scared of my feelings. Id had relationships fall apart before. By May, it was clear that they were meant to be, and Tim asked if she would like to be his girlfriend. The next day, my face hurt from smiling so much, Abi remembers.
The following September, Abi went to Belgium for five months as part of her degree. I would go to visit her and wed have fun cycling around and going for beers, says Tim. They also enjoyed plenty of nights out, spending time with friends and other church members. I knew I always wanted to meet someone who shared my faith, Abi says.
In 2004, Tim proposed with a necklace, as he wanted her to have the opportunity to choose her ring. The couple married at their church in Glossop the following year, followed by a reception at the University of Manchester. The photographer told me shed never seen a bride smile so much, Abi says.
After the wedding, Tim realised he wanted to leave his job. I told Abi that I wanted to become a vicar, he says. At first, she wasnt sure I dont think she wanted to be a vicars wife. Abi, who describes herself as a feminist Christian, says she didnt want to be left making cucumber sandwiches and tea. But she was keen to support her husband, so they began to explore his options. In 2012, he left his job for a two-year training programme in Bristol. Our income dropped off a cliff, he says.
After spending three years as a curate in Salford, Tim became a vicar in Bradford. The couple live in the vicarage with their three children. While Tim spends much of his time in community work, Abi runs a Christian podcast.
I love her heart and generosity, says Tim. Shes so compassionate, but shell always stand up for whats right. Abi feels the same way about her husband. Hes very honest and open. He cares so much about his faith and his work supporting the local community. I feel blown away that I get to be married to him.
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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/06/how-we-met-i-dont-think-she-wanted-to-be-a-vicars-wife