East Anglia: Former Larking Gowen partner David King follows a new calling

David King.

David King. - Credit: Archant

After a successful career in accounting, David King, a former partner at Larking Gowen, is changing direction. He tells Sheline Clarke about his new professional life as a mediator and his ultimate ambition to become a vicar.

David King has just returned from Bristol where he trained under the auspices of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Group to become an accredited civil and commercial mediator.

The former accountant turned 50 this year and on reaching his landmark birthday began to consider whether he wanted a change.

“I began to think that I had 15-20 years left of ‘doing things’ and decided a change would be good,” said David, who is also president of Ipswich Orwell Rotary Club.

“I had some experience of mediation and it appealed to me. It is an interesting process, though it is more difficult than it looks, a bit like playing the piano.”

Mediation is all about helping resolve disputes between two parties who would otherwise end up in court.

A mediator’s job is to facilitate and help tease out the issues so a solution acceptable to both sides can be agreed upon.

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“I have spent the last 30 years as an accountant being paid for my professional opinion, and mediation is the diametric opposite of that and it is an interesting process to be in charge of.

“In mediation, by its very nature, both sides are willing to give a bit and the mediator facilitates that. I am not there to express any opinions. I am there to try and get both sides to come up with a suitable solution that is acceptable to both that they can agree on and take forward.

“It is a much more flexible approach than going to court, as well as being a lot cheaper, because in court it is about right and wrong and recompense, and that process can often drive people further apart. This is about bringing people together to solve an issue and it feels like a purer form of justice.”

Now he is qualified, David has set up a new company Guymer King Ltd, Guymer being his middle name and his great-grandmother’s maiden name.

“There are billions of David Kings,” he said, “so it is useful to have this unusual family name.

“I think mediation is a force for good and I have come to think that this is a more useful thing for me to do.

“As an accountant you spend your life talking to entrepreneurs and helping them build their businesses and you never get the chance to do it yourself.

“I have got a thrill in the pit of my stomach about this. It is scary but exciting at the same time and sometimes you have just got to do it.”

Mediation, David explains, began in the church, which brings us to his other calling in life, to the Church of England.

History tells us that the first mediators were parsons or priests at a time when the church was a sanctuary. The process was about dealing with conflict and getting people to cooperate. It is a parallel not lost on David.

“It seems to fit really well. If I ever do become a parish priest then my role will be at the heart of the community and is about bringing people closer and I see no conflict there, in fact quite the opposite.”

David has been a church goer for 30 years although admits it started with “common blackmail and a love of classic cars”.

After growing up in Northampton, David’s family moved to Norfolk where, as a young man, he involved himself in amateur dramatics and responded to an advert in the Eastern Daily Press placed by the South Norfolk Amateur Operatic society which was looking for a tenor to sing in HMS Pinafore.

He applied and got the part.

The musical director was also a member of the choir at Wymondham Abbey and persuaded his protégé to join by saying he would drive him there in his classic car, a 1949 Singer Roadster.

“There was no choice really,” said David. “Now I love choral music in church more than I can say, for me it is amazing. I had a blast at Wymondham – the whole experience was wonderful.

“So suddenly I was going to church more than once a week and surprisingly there seemed to be some point to it, from that day to this.

“With religion, as with many things, the more you know the more you don’t know. I do have a strong belief and it is when you start poking it with a stick that you have these moments when you start to think well how do I really feel about this?

“The calling to the church, and I think it is a calling – it’s not like applying for a job, it makes you question things. I have always used the word vocation for my accountancy work, I always saw it as a vocation and part of my desire to be part of the community and to serve that community, and I think the church is a natural progression of that.”

And so David is starting another journey and one he knows will test him if he is to realise his ambition to take holy orders.

As he reflects he can name numerous other signs and occurrences, chance meetings and coincidences that have helped him to decide on his path. His family are all behind him and he says he is yet to find anyone who is truly surprised by his decision.

“There are no end of hurdles until you get to the point where they allow you to train, and this could go belly up,” he laughs.

The process has already begun and David is now studying works of note and writing essays under the guidance of his mentor from the diocese. He hopes to then go forward to the Bishops Advisory Panel who will decide whether he can proceed to more formal training.

If he gets the go-ahead, David has his eye on a two-year degree course in theology but says a part-time course might be more appropriate, from a practical and an age point of view. “I am a bit too old to be a full-time student,” he says.

Once the training is complete, he hopes to be ordained as a deacon and then a priest and thereafter will serve for three years as a curate before taking a parish of his own.

“It is a journey and a challenge but it is one I take willingly. The Church of England makes it hard to get to the point where you can even start training and I respect it for that because it would be easier to lower the barrier.

“If you had told me a year ago we would be talking about me becoming a commercial mediator and a vicar I would have had you taken off to the funny farm.

“Mediation suits me well and it fits nicely with the calling and now I am relaxed in an energetic and ready to do way.”