A Curate's Story
Is it really possible that I'm called to serve as an ordained minister?
I became a Christian when I was about 8 years old, and when I was 17 I started to explore Christian ministry seriously. Initially I worked as a youth and schools minister at All Hallows Church in Cheadle but it was some time later that I felt the call to ordained ministry whilst I was working as a Probation Service Officer in Salford. As I was watching TV over Christmas time in 2005 (the Vicar of Dibley, as it happens!) I remember suddenly thinking it was time to think seriously about what God was calling me to next. After speaking with my then incumbent I went to see the Diocesan Director of Ordinands who guided me through the selection process. Throughout the process, I wasn’t sure whether I was called to ordained ministry or something else, but the DDO was very supportive. After a parish placement to get a wider experience of ministry, I went to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel and the answer, to my surprise, was yes.
I trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall, Durham. It was a great experience, but very cold! Durham was a very rich time for me spiritually, and I enjoyed working alongside those of other traditions, although I found this challenging at times. In particular there was a high-church Anglo-Catholic student called Andrew who I thought especially odd - but I ended up marrying him! I found living and working alongside trainee ministers quite intense, but I also learned a great deal about myself.
I was ordained in June 2010, along with Andrew and my Mum, Sue. It was a wonderful day, (I wore very sparkly shoes!) and the ordination itself felt absolutely right. It’s brilliant that we were all ordained together. Being part of an ordained couple brings its complications but we are able to support each other through difficulties and share in each other’s joys. I am serving my curacy at Norbury Parish Church. It’s a great parish to be in; the people are really friendly and welcoming. I love preaching regularly and I lead an alternative worship service once a month that’s been really exciting. I have recently felt the tension between being immersed in a public ministry whilst remaining authentically myself. I have decided to start an art class once a week to keep my creative juices flowing, and have two hours in the week that are all mine!
Being married to a priest brings its own share of rewards and challenges. You have to be really careful to carve out time for each other and keep it as a sacred moment in the diary! Life is sometimes like being in the Vicar of Dibley, but I have found that a good sense of humour goes a long way; especially at things like churchyard committees or when I forget to pour the water in the font for a baptism!
Over the course of my Christian journey, I have met several people who have had a profound impact on my faith and who have become spiritual role models. I hope very much to provide a role model for younger generations of Christians called to ordained ministry, young women in particular. Being a young woman priest means that, occasionally, I come across some hostility and prejudice, although this seems to be becoming rarer in the Church as a whole. I’m really looking forward to what the future might hold for my ministry. Every time I have tried to plan what I might do next, God seems to have had other ideas, so I’ve learned to leave things in his hands.
My advice to anyone who is considering ordination would be to take time away from the hustle and bustle to pray and listen to God; ask everyone you trust what they think (more than once) and get them to pray for you too; and keep hold of the other things in your life which give you strength (family, friends, creative hobbies...). Finally, if the call God has for you is to ordained ministry, make sure that you treat yourself to a beautiful pair of new shoes for the big day!
The Revd Jenny Mayo-Lythall, Curate at Norbury Hazel Grove