It was a miraculous escape from a terrifying car crash in France that prompted Amy Webb to realise what God wanted her to do.
The 40-year-old was driving home with her two daughters from a blissful half-term week with her parents when she lost control of her car on a muddy country road.
Dazed, she climbed out of the car fearing the worst – but neither she nor daughters Isobel and Mathilda had a scratch on them.
Amy says: ‘I managed to roll the car twice, which was quite impressive.
‘We went down into a ditch, through a fence and landed in a field. The first thing my daughter, who was five at the time, said was “are we dead?”
‘I looked around and realised we were standing in a muddy field with all our belongings scattered across it.
The first thing my daughter, who was five at the time, said was “are we dead?”Amy Webb
‘The suitcase had shot through the back window, along with all our possessions.
‘The car I’d bought with money from my divorce had been destroyed in seconds and yet we were all fine.’
She adds: ‘Things like that make you realise what’s important in life. We have lots of blessings.
‘In the field, in the silence that followed, I had a strong sense of God’s presence.
‘There were no bells and whistles, but what had happened was miraculous. None of us were hurt in any way.
‘I reflect on how we could have died, but we didn’t’
‘God could have ended our lives then, but he didn’t.
‘It was as if he was saying “Here is your life, what are you going to do with it?”’
Amy joined the choir at the Church of England’s St Columba Church, in Fareham when she was 11, but drifted away from church when she was about 16.
By 22 she was married and by 28 had her daughters.
But her marriage was falling apart and, when Mathilda was five weeks old, her husband left.
Amy says: ‘We’d made a bit of a mess of our lives. Things were not how I’d planned.
‘It was pretty hard, but by that time I’d become involved with St John’s Church, in Fareham, through an Alpha course.
‘I saw a leaflet come through the door, went along and found them very welcoming. That’s where I refound my faith.
‘I became more involved with the church and over the past 15 years it has helped me through the end of my marriage, my divorce and bringing up two girls.
‘Because I was on my own, I asked if a Bible study group could meet at my house.
‘One of the people in that group was Mark, who later became my husband.’
Mark, a 35-year-old senior crime analyst, had been a worshipper at St John’s since childhood but had gone away to university.
Amy says: ‘When we met I was a divorcee with two small girls. And he married me!’
The couple wed at St John’s Church and held the reception in the church hall. That was in 2007.
And for Amy there was even more change to come.
She says, ‘My vicar, Peter Hall, led a sermon series that encouraged us to look at our gifts and what we felt called to.
‘I felt God might be calling me to speak in church, which was surprising because my background is art.
‘I thought perhaps I could be a Reader – a lay minister who also leads services.
‘My mother-in-law Liz mentioned it to Peter and he told her “she’s not right to be a Reader”.
‘What I didn’t realise was that he felt I would be suitable for ordination.
‘I left it and didn’t do anything about it until the car crash in France happened.
‘It was a desperate situation – I’d bought the car with my divorce money, the insurance didn’t cover it and I lost the ferry ticket in the crash.
‘But I was alive and so were the girls, and I felt that God was saying to me that my life could end at any time and what was I going to do with it?’
Amy is now curate in the villages of Botley, Curdridge and Durley after her ordination as a deacon at Portsmouth Cathedral last month.
Her title now is Reverend and she can wear a dog collar, preach and lead services.
‘It’s an enormous life change,’ explains Amy.
‘We moved house, we’re joining a new church community, we’re learning lots of new names and faces and everyone has been really welcoming.
‘It’s been amazing.’
Amy says of her new role: ‘I’ve met an awful lot of people and been doing lots of things. I’ve been to see some sheltered accommodation, I’ve been involved in a funeral, a committal at a crematorium. We’ve had communion services mid-week.
‘It’s just the most enormous privilege to be an ordained minister and to be involved in people’s lives.
‘As a deacon your specific calling is to serve and to be there for people. The plan is that I will be priested in a year’s time, but you always remain a deacon. So that servant heart should always be there.’