22.5.09

Looking back part 4

Since I last looked back, my life has taken some interesting twists and turns. I have had some struggles and I have continued to be very blessed.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I began to pray for some particular things. I prayed that I would be given more experiences within my local church, to get involved or start up initiatives. Together we prayed that we would be blessed with some friendships that would help us to feel more rooted, having had friends all over for the most part whom we didn't see very often. We had also shut ourselves off a little in the care of our two children, with no family around for babysitting.

I have been very encouraged by my local church since explaining my calling and I have joined the All Ages planning team. I have continued to lead Nick's Chicks, very supported by our children's worker. I have taken on the role of secretary of the PCC and read the Bible and led intercessions. I have taken part in dramas and talked to puppets (!) and designed the church posters and most challenging of all, started up a Youth Group called CRE8.

We have now worshipped with the church, in the next village, for 8 years and within the last two years some friendships have really blossomed. We are in real fellowship with our house group and our girls love their Sunday School, which has released us into fuller service in worship times. We have led holiday clubs for the under 5s, which have been exhausting but great fun. God has really blessed us with opportunities to serve and develop deeper friendships.

I was very resistant to leading the Youth at first. When our Youth worker left, I knew somehow that it was a hole I would be called to fill and didn't like the idea. I felt it so strongly one day as I made lots of journeys in my car, I was pretty much arguing with God. I asked for a sign that he really meant it, and lo and behold, the next minute my old secondary school minibus was passing me on the other side of the road, in a really deserted open stretch of country-side and it was as if God was saying 'you can do this', 'you've worked with teenagers before, as a teacher'. I informed my vicar. Unbeknown to me, at the same time, someone else in the congregation was spending a few sleepless nights wrestling with similar convictions. We were encouraged to chat together about our visions, which were surprisingly similar and the Youth group was launched in September 08.

In September 08, I also started theological college. I anticpated doing so for a year and it took me that long to negotiate a course and think through the funding. A year before starting, I had begun a particular Bible study programme locally, which had thrown up lots of questions for me, which I needed answering. I had really wrestled with what I believed were some of the theological strands of the teaching, which in my interpretation, seemed dominated by the idea of Male Headship and reactions against post-modernism. I felt rather protective of my culture; that it was not to be decried but rather wrestled with so that the Bible might speak into it rather than constantly against it. I also found the teachings' emphasis on what should be the woman's role, very challenging. There were also some wonderful aspects to the teaching: it was stimulating, intellectually satisfying and very thorough, but really, some of my explanations of the Holy Spirit's power were serious 'I'll get my coat!' moments and I felt that the Spirit's role was very much restricted to edification - opening up scripture and little else. I didn't quite fit. I polarised my teachers though and probably exaggerated the flavour because I began to investigate the theology of Wayne Grudem and John Piper and Packer etc, Matthias press and Sydney, Cornhill, Keswick and Latimer Trust, which is incredibly sound and edifying for the most part, but definitely of the conservative kind when it comes to women. I started to become conscious of the labels we Christians give ourselves and that I must be more of the 'open' variety and less of the 'conservative' variety. Most glaringly, I began to understand the fragility of the worshipping community, our sinfulness in our divisiveness and that we are all so hugely in need of God's grace and Christ's compassion.

I think I grew up a lot, growing up is life-long isn't it? I had thought for a while that the Church was this little perfect community, where everything was rosy. I came to realise just how much we all need to renew our relationship with God minute by minute and not stray too far from his side but dialogue with him and humanity constantly and prayerfully if we are really to see glimpses of his Kingdom amongst us.

My first module at college involved me studying the theological positions for and against women in ministry and I gained much more perspective. All in all, my experiences of the last two and a half years have enabled me to understand that the Church of England is a broad church, containing people of various theological persuasions. I have been able to reflect on my own feelings about ministry and faith and when I launched this blog in 2008 for the purpose of reflecting on this diversity within the Anglican communion, I was able to start testing out some of my thoughts and feelings on a wider body of people. Engaging with the thoughts of Christians all over the world has been very transformative. Thank you.

I now have one module to go before I complete my first year of independent theology study and in a few weeks I will discover whether the Church will accept me for ordained ministry. At the heart of the good news that I want to share with other people is God's inexhaustible grace, Christ's generosity and that the Holy Spirit accompanies us in every aspect of our lives. I want to communicate that a kingdom life is the very best type of life to live.

It could be that I don't make it and if not, I will wait with anticipation to see what God might be asking of my life next but I ask you to accompany me over the next few weeks as I prepare to go to the selection conference. I am quite vulnerable in your hands but also quite unafraid in some ways. For what I have certainly learned over the last decade or so is that I did not receive a spirit that makes me a slave again to fear, but I received the Spirit of sonship. And by him I cry, "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:15).

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.