When Raewynne invited me to take part in the recent Lay Ministry Morning for those interested in or exploring lay ministry, I could hardly believe that it has been a year since I completed my SPA (Southwark Pastoral Auxiliary) training.  Although it has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone due to the pandemic, I am pleased that the skills I learnt through my training have equipped me to support others in my benefice during these challenging times.

For me, the journey to lay ministry was a long one in which I had to look at the options available to me, as well as how I could best serve God and the Church.  With the amazing support of my husband, my church (clergy, ministry team, PCC and congregation) as well as diocesan trainers, I embarked on SPA training which I would recommend to anyone considering it.  So, on Saturday it was good to see so many people that morning interested in lay ministry and what a privilege it was to share my recent experience with some of them.  During two breakout groups on Zoom I was able to talk about my journey through discernment and selection, interviews, training and ministry with those interested and to answer questions from the group.

Firstly, discernment and selection: we are, of course, surrounded by the illusion that we can choose whatever we want.  Advertising and marketing is based upon freedom of choice – choose me; buy me; take me; just do it.  We believe that choice gives us a sense of power and control over our own lives (and sometimes over the lives of others if we think we are the ones doing the choosing).  We choose what we want, and we choose what we don’t want.  And yet Jesus said, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’ and I believe he chose me for the role I am now undertaking.  God has a plan for each of us.

Secondly, interviews:  I believe that very few people like interviews.  However, unlike job interviews, I found the discernment and training application interviews to be searching, but very supportive in wanting to know my reasons for applying with questions about my vocation, my aspirations and what I thought God was asking me to do.

Thirdly, training: I found the Bishop’s Certificate to be invaluable in providing a deepened understanding of Old and New Testament theology, Church History, Ethics and other areas.  It provided a valuable gateway into further study in preparation for ministry as well as enabling participants to interact with each other and develop new friendships.  During my SPA training we had an inspirational, supportive and knowledgeable trainer and the group bonded quickly during our first residential weekend.  That year we looked at how pastoral theology would underpin our ministry in supporting members of our congregations by looking at bereavement, mental health, inclusion, support for the young and elderly and many other areas.  Visits to different settings (tailormade to our choices) and a longer placement were amazing opportunities to observe and work with chaplains, health workers and volunteers.

Finally, my ministry today:  as a SPA/pastoral minister, I am a member of the benefice ministry team involved in pastoral and spiritual care for members of our congregations as well as supporting those in our local community.  My role also includes assisting in worship, home visiting, making links with local schools and signposting support for those who need it. What is good about the role of a SPA is that it is adaptable to the needs of the parish and allows each person to use the gifts that God has given them.

It was a pleasure to speak to those considering lay ministry that morning and to share my path to ministry.  I wish them every success in their chosen path.

Find out more about Lay Ministries in the Diocese of Southwark at southwark.anglican.org/mission-ministry/ministry/discipleship-ministry/lay-ministries