Wednesday, 29 April 2009


today has been hard, Rachel's been really off colour and then had her immunisations, that's why this blog post will be short today, I'm exhausted.

There I am posting about needing a mentor and guess what lands on the mat this morning; letter with name of my mentor.

I had my first counselling course of the term last night and it was fantastic to be back at it; advanced listening skills this term with transference and counter-transference all thrown in. The session was debating, role playing and practicing; fabulous! I am going to miss not having my counselling courses whilst I am becoming an LLM but I know I will enjoy the LLM training and in 2 years time will be back on the counselling diploma if I'm meant to.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

What happens now?

So now I am in training, except I am in limbo because I can't start a course in earnest this term when I am still completing my counselling course. However I have managed to squeeze in 2 one day courses on saturdays in June; the first on "Preaching", the second on "Being an LLM - Introduction to Ministry".

Until then I am giving up as many roles and responsibilities as I can to ensure that I have 15 hours a week available to attend courses, read around and write assignments/sermons. I have so far managed to give up Vice Chair of PCC, agree not to take on any actions at PCC, agree to reduce my sermon slots once I complete the preaching course and also reduce the sessions I volunteer for LinkLine. I have am staying on the pastoral care group and continuing to lead the Children and Young People's group because these are directly linked to my calling, but even there I am not taking on extra responsibilities. It has been hard, I am a do-er not a watcher and I feel as if I am letting people down but as I have been told "short term changes now mean that long term you can do what you are called to do".

The final thing I am waiting for is the name of my mentor; I am looking forward to meeting whoever agrees to the role and figuring out what training I will do and when.

so this is life in limbo and I have to go because my first job (mum) requires me to join in the game of "looking after the babies"

Youth Vocations Conference

This is a fantastic article on the CofE Youth Vocations Conference, there is hope for the future!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Sideline Post - Bill Johnson Conference

This is a bit of a sideline but I wanted to record the tweets I made during the Bill Johnson Conference (Your Kingdom Come) in Reading (UK) last night. It was an amazing experience and I want to remember the words of wisdom I picked up as I listened to him

Nothing happens in the kingdom that is not first declared

Testimony prophesises show what is possible so it can be done again for others

Sit and share stories of what has been done, this will inspire others in knowing and they will join you

Celebrate what God is doing without holding him hostage for what he hasn't done

Don't so much protect what you have, instead strive forward to advance further

People are already disappointed; tell the stories, give testimony, give them hope and it will happen!

God is better than we think so let's change how we think. Let us be overwhelmed with his goodness

Work to find the gold within people. any prospector will tell you how easy it us to find dirt so let us look for the gold.

Concepts are easy, experiences are not. More important to live lessons than quote scripture.

Having internal peace whilst surrounded by storms allows you to calm the storm. Your internal reality becomes your external reality - this is my favourite - counselling, spirituality, christianity, peace - here we all agree!

Is faith evidenced by answers to prayer? or is prayer ultimate passing of the buck? We need to learn to become part of the solution/answer!

we need to pray but we must then do the footwork to bring gods plans to fruition. God wants us to become his adult children, not toddlers

Churches must teach AND do; one or other alone is not enough.

Loaves&fishes - Jesus blessed food, the disciples actually handled it as it multiplied -they were the ones who did it! We can do it too!

For nothing is impossible with God! This verse when translated from root this can be read - no word of god will come without an ability to perform itself!

Miracles are the teachers to let us see into the unseen. They prepare us and equip us to go forward in our vocations.

Get out of anxiety, out of fear, quiet your soul and you will see the tools you have been given so you can go forth and help others

PS - Bill was talking about his books and his healing CDs which really appealed to me, afterwards he had some handed out so I raised my hand and I was lucky enough to received one. I was obviously meant to have his healing CD, after all it's good for a pastoral carer! Thank you

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Decision

It was 10 days, 10 long hard excrutiating days until I heard that I had been approved, selected to become a Licensed Lay Minister. Every day I was on tenderhooks for the postman; every time the phone rang I hoped it would be the news. It was torture and it was another period of learning; it is not in my time, it's in Gods time. I was stripped of any semblance of ego, I was in His hands.

It was a wonderful phone call to receive, I could hardly believe it. I told Rachel and she flew into my arms shouting "Mummy's going to be a minister for God".

Everyone was unsurprised, unlike me. There was joy and happiness all round. From that day on in March 2009 I was a Licensed Lay Minister (in training)

Selection Conference

The day was here. Four hours of selection conference at Church House in Oxford. There would be 3 interviews focussing on the 3 areas I'd prepared for, that much I knew; beyond that it was all a mystery. I was extremely nervous but I was determined to just go, be honest, say what came to mind and know that I'd prepared as much as possible.

We started off meeting each other, the interviewers (all LLM area advisors) and the candidates (3 of us) and familiarising ourselves with where the interviews would be and when we would attend each one.

My first interview was on Potential for ministry, relationships and team working; pastoral care. It was a really positive experience talking about the relationships within my church and my role, discussing how I would deal with conflict and looking at how my previous work/life experience would be useful in the new role of LLM. I left this interview feeling excited and positive about becoming an LLM and for the first time felt a tiny aspect of positivity that I might actually be able to be good at it.

Then it was the second interview and all that was turned on its head! The subject matter was Faith, vocation, spirituality and worship and I expected it to be focussed on my prayer life, my spiritual journey and my calling. well it was for the first 5 minutes but then it quickly moved onto theology, my major weak point. I honestly never expected to be asked to quote the bible or talk about the themes in specific chapters of the bible; it just didn't occur to me, wasn't something anyone else had ever asked me and was not something I had ever learned. Don't get me wrong, I know the bible intimately, I know where to find what I need, I read it every day, I turn to it for advise and help, but I do not know the order of every book of the bible and I can't quote it. I was knocked off balance in a big way, felt totally devastated even though I knew that this was something I would learn through theology courses. I was honest, that I can't quote scripture but I understand themes and the message of the bible. I know that at one point I said "I feel totally unprepared but I thought this is what I'd learn on the theology courses". I left with tears in my eyes as I walked down the stairs; I was shown that I have a long way to go. I was shell shocked and wanted to run, but I didn't.

The third interview was really straight forward but I was still in shock, I think I mentioned how the 2nd interview had confirmed my need for theological learning and I was reassured that that's what the training is all about, but it didn't sink in. This was on Training potential, personality and character and I spoke about my previous life as a facilitator and my current life and my training as a counsellor. The interview was really positive and I should have come out feeling ready to move forward but the bad feeling from the second interview remained.

we finished the conference with a wonderful lunch and everyone was friendly and positive and then us candidates went home leaving the interviewers to prayerfully decide if we were ready.

For two more days I was confused and worried and beating myself up; I spoke to friends, people at church and I prayed and prayed and prayed and I couldn't shake the feeling that I hadn't done what was needed. For the first time it really hit me that this calling was everything to me, I couldn't imagine what way I was going to go if I was turned down and I felt that I might have been mistaken to think I could follow a calling.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Interview Preparation

Or as I like to call it; stress, pray and stress some more.

I had written the chronological order of my calling, I had my reading list read, I had completed my application form and been interviewed by 3 different people. But this was the main event, the one that decides, such an important interview that they call it a Selection Conference. So I thought I should confirm in my own mind what I see myself doing, what I am called to do, if I get selected to become an LLM; here it is:

I have always loved to read the bible, it was the one part of church I was good at as a child, always asked too many questions at Sunday school! My facilitation and presentation experience has given me the skills to be able to read to others and it is when I read the bible and talk about my faith that I come truly alive. I can not tell you how much I enjoy giving the talks to the 1130 service, I get very nervous and worry that I am not good enough but it feels so natural and such a privilege.

I have to be honest, I find it hard to imagine how I will ever know enough to be able to teach others about the bible, the gospels and faith. And yet I also know that I tell others about my experience of faith and that this is a teaching experience; and I know that if I could teach risk management to government officials then God will provide me with the tools I need to teach what he needs me to.

Pastoral Care
This is the area I feel so incredibly drawn to. For many years I have felt that I should help others, I have done all sorts of voluntary work and get so much from it. And now opportunities are opening up left, right and centre for me to become a qualified counsellor, to be able to listen to others, to be there for them and to let them feel their value and how much they are loved. I know better than to set out grand plans but I feel so drawn to providing support to those in our community who need a listening ear.

And then it landed, just 2 weeks before selection conference, the outline of the 3 interviews and what they would each focus on! So I set down to work and wrote my ideas against each subject area with a hope that it would ensure I didn't go blank.

1 - Training potential, personality and character
I have been doing courses regularly ever since I completed my Masters degree. I always did more than the required cpd and was always looking for new areas I could extend my knowledge and skills. I took a year off either side of Rachel’s birth and then started a course with the OU in psychology before specialising in counselling. I am over half way through my certificate in counselling and will complete this summer; this takes one evening a week and a weekend a month with an additional 5-6 hours of reading each week. I also make use of the free courses available for volunteers; in the last year I have taken courses in child protection, first aid and puppetry.

I have reviewed the LLM gifts and competencies listings and identified that my counselling course should fulfil the pastoral care element other than the link to theology. I believe the living the Christian life modules will be fantastic and I am excited about even further extending my prayer life. The key areas where I need training are in theology and church history.

I am outgoing and love people, finding out about them and their path in life. I am driven, always have been, and that’s why it’s taken me so long to listen to this calling; for the first time this is not my desire, it’s a place I never expected to be taken. However it is so exciting, as well as scarey, that I am now eager to see where the path leads me. However at least the driven aspect of my character means that I will enjoy the courses and training. The downside of this is I get easily stressed, however I have a strong network around me that know when this is happening and get me to take a step back and reflect and calm and make necessary adjustments.

I have had more than my fair share of life’s knocks but I have been lucky enough to have always felt God right there with me through them. I have made it through my experiences and have learned from them and realised that what I have learned can benefit others and for this I am grateful.

At the same time, we are at a place in life where I can devote myself to my family, voluntary work and the church; it is meant to be now and in this way.

2 – Faith, vocation, spirituality and worship
My calling has been discussed at length with so many people and the only area of concern I have is that everyone else thinks I should be going forward to be ordained; and I see where they are coming from but I am clear that this is not where God is taking me now. Just this month I have looked at the description of an NSM and of an LLM and it’s still the LLM that jumps out at me as where I am meant to be going.

I pray morning and night for about 30mins each; this involves prayer of one form or another, meditation and reflective writing. I also pray at random times in the day as I feel the desire or calling to do so. I do daily bible readings from the BRF.

I have two NSMs at church who are there if I have any thoughts or concerns about feelings I am having or activities I am undertaking. I also email my previous vicar if I need specific advise he can give. I am however looking forward to our new vicar arriving and learning under him. I also have a spiritual guide who walks alongside me providing me with a steady hand when I need it. My home group are immensely supportive and I also have an OA sponsor who is there to help me if food becomes a concern as a reaction to life.

3 – Potential for ministry, relationships and team working
Preaching, teaching and pastoral care. I enjoy the preaching when it’s interactive but not so much when it’s almost a lecture. I adore the interactions with the kids and young people in Sunday school. And my clear calling is in pastoral care.

I have been working with one of our associate priests in particular over the last six months whilst we’ve been in interregnum. We and the Sunday school leader have met each half term and reviewed the subject matters and our diaries and divided up the services between us and pooled ideas for Sunday school and sermons. It has been a real pleasure to be able to bounce ideas off other people and to hear their experience of what works and what doesn’t.

I have also worked a little with the other associate priest who gives occasional 1130 family services. He has asked me to take a more involved role in the services I have provided talks at, sharing much of the leading with me including getting me to lead responses in a baptism service.

I also realised, all of a sudden, that I must have given at least 3 or 4 talks to the 1130 family communion service and thought it would be good to know what the themes were. Imagine my surprise when I realised I had already given 8 talks and had another 4 within the next 6 weeks. So I jotted those down for my revision/preparation.

1. Remembrance Sunday – we thought about memories we have of people we love and we each wrote the name of someone onto a red petal which we then stuck to a huge poppy for the window of the church.

2. Stewardship Sunday – start of the church’s stewardship campaign – we asked for money and discussed why it’s important to give what we can to others; but we also looked at other things we can give like our time and co-operation, our ears to hear other people’s troubles and our hands to make an effort on projects for others.

3. King who comes as a servant – read the Papa Panov story by Bob Hartman. The challenge for all of us - do our actions speak louder than our words? Think of times when we have said we will do something - but not done it …like tidy bedroom, help mum, take the dog for a walk, wash up, go to bed early. What can we do this week?

4. Dressing John the Baptist – had one of the older children playing John the Baptist so the story could be told through her as she dressed and walked round the church and ate locusts!

5. Christmas Week – we read Bob Hartman stories of the “surprise for Mary” and “the star that went zoom” as the children coloured in stars and angels and attached them to the door posters to decorate the church for Christmas

6. The message matters – Mark’s gospel of Jesus asking the disciples to follow him, an urgent call that they responded to. Had the kids playing a game and then I asked them if they wanted to follow me. Some did and some didn’t and then we talked about how that felt and whether they would have followed without knowing where to or why.

7. Godly Play of Mark’s gospel of healing Simon’s MIL. It was a baptism service and so I got all the children involved with setting the scene and moving the characters and realising that the miracle itself was amazing, but more so was that Jesus knew he had to keep spreading the word and not just basking in glory.

8. Transfiguration – looked at the gospel and how it was a journey involving fear and then wonder and then the frustration of not being able to tell others. Then linked this to a journey I made to SA and how I was afraid, then awe struck but then annoyed when the photos didn’t bring the amazing experience home to everyone else.

Lent Service - Our home group planned and delivered an evening service as part of St Nic’s church Lent course. We took chapter two of Bishop Stephen’s book “The road he travelled” which was on the crown of thorns. We gave a 45 minute service of reflection and meditation including making a crown of thorns and lectio divina on the gospel of Mark.

Upcoming planned 1130 service themes - a service of thanksgiving for a child; I will speak on how we should come to heaven as a child and use the song of 5 little ducks to illustrate how mummy duck keeps looking for her babies. “Jesus chose to die” - using the medium of seeds I will demonstrate Jesus’ role in saving us - planting dead seeds to see life come anew.

The final piece of preparation was to see what other books I had read since I completed my application form about 4 months previously:

Hit the ground kneeling – Stephen Cottrell
Do nothing Christmas is coming – Stephen Cottrell
Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren
Twenty Questions Jesus asked – Elizabeth Rundle
Show me the way – Henri Nouwen
The road he travelled – Stephen Cottrell

Complete Guide to Godly Play
Messy Church
Preaching Workbook

Human Development - Rayner
Inside Lives - Waddell
Swift to hear – Jacobs
Still small voice – Jacobs
Presenting past - Jacobs
Families and how to survive them – Skynner
Skilled helper – Egan
Home is where we start from – Winnicott
Child, family and outside world – Winnicott

So the day approached, the Selection Conference, 4 hours in Oxford. The preparation was done, possibly over done! The prayers were placed, the thoughts were with me. My nerves were in tatters....

Application Form

I don't know about you, but the phrase "application form" has always sent chills down my spine. I am more than happy to write a CV or an essay on a given subject, but an application form is so regimented and controlled; neither of which I do well with.

This said, the form was part of the process and I was learning to put my own desires, prejudices, fears and dislikes to the side and follow the path I was shown. So with as little procrastination as possible I sat down with the form and started filling it in.

Name, Address, Contact details - all fine so far
Baptism and confirmation dates - trip to the filing cabinet and I found those
Parish details - straight off St Nicolas website
Family and Health - straight forward enough
Education - it took time to find the certificates but again, nothing too taxing by the end of page 2
Past employment - taken straight from my last CV
Present employment - and this is where the challenge started.....

Present employment. employment! employment? How does a full time mum define her employment? It is surely the greatest and most challenging job I have ever had but how is it defined by me, by others, by society? I must have written a dozen drafts before I realised that being a mum is my job and that the voluntary work and studying I do are also jobs and therefore should be included as my present employment:
"Full time mum for her three year old daughter, Emma is also a Part time student counsellor. She has completed 2 years of psychology courses with the Open University and an introduction to counselling; in July 2009 she will complete Certificate in Counselling Skills. Emma has been a volunteer telephone counsellor for the Miscarriage Association since 2006 and following the completion of training commenced as a Home Start volunteer providing support to young families in June 2008."

So to page 4 (a few days later)
Your church involvement - again a challenge. I decided to follow inverse chronology and started to write down the various things I do in and around church. There was my work with PCC and task groups, parish profile development and talks at 1130 family communion services. Then I remembered the project management role I had done for the couple of recent parish weekends we'd held and I realised, my involvement was not as small as I imagined and would fill the space provided.

Then shock, horror, surprise and glee; I had made it to the last substantial box for completion:
What abilities, experience & previous training do you have which might be relevant to the work of ministry? - the biggy!!!
Of course my gut feeling was NOTHING.
I have no abilities other than confidence to talk to people, good organisational skills and a high level of empathy for other peoples' emotional issues.
I have no experience apart from about 300 workshops as a facilitator and my voluntary work listening to those in need.
And I have no training apart from in management, facilitation and counselling.
I was stuck.

So I did what I know is best, I left it alone, I gave it time and I prayed for the answer. And sure enough a few days later I could see that the abilities, experience and training I had was transferable, that God knew that and now all I had to do was write to down and let those responsible for selection decide if it was enough.

Page 5 - there I was at the end of the form!!
What books have you read in the last six months? Bold those that have had the most influence on you.
And here they are as listed in November 2008.

Called or Collared?: An Alternative Approach to Vocation (Francis Dewar)
The Life and Work of a Priest (John Pritchard)

Hearing Gods Call: Ways of Discernment for Laity and Clerg (Ben C. Johnson)
How to Find Your Vocation: A Guide to Discovering the Work You Love (John Adair)
How to Explain Your Faith (John Pritchard)
Praying Through Life: How to Pray in the Home, at Work and in the Family (Stephen Cottrell)
The Book of a Thousand Prayers (Angela Ashwin)
What Could I Say?: A Handbook for Helpers (Peter Hicks)
Christian Counselling: A Comprehensive Guide (Gary R. Collins)
The Way of a Pilgrim: And the Pilgrim Continues His Way (R.M. French)
Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved (Jelaluddin Rumi)
Man's Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart (Tim Butcher)
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
Random Acts of Heroic Love (Danny Scheinmann)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
The Bookseller of Kabul (Åsne Seierstad)
The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
A Quiet Belief in Angels (R.J. Ellory)

Swift to Hear: Facilitating Skills in Listening and Responding (Michael Jacobs)
Raising Your Spirited Child(Mary Sheedy Kurcinka)
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers (Tracy Hogg)
Between Parent and Child (Haim G. Ginott)

And lastly, your hobbies and interests.
What a joke, where would I find time for that. But then reading is a definite interest, I love to travel, I adore music and no one can say I forget to take photos; so those did for the form.

It was finished, my application form to become an LLM, completed.

Friday, 24 April 2009

From Calling to Application

So I was clear I was experiencing a calling and I had talked it through with the world and his wife and they had all agreed. I had managed to understand this calling to the vocation of Licensed Lay Minister and so the formal Church of England business of testing and progressing began.

It seems as good a time as ever to mention that my vicar at the time told me it would be several years before anything actually happened and that it was just a good idea to go forward and see how it felt. that was only 9 months ago!!

Step 1 - visit vicar - check
Step 2 - visit vocations advisor

I was given the name of my local vocations advisor and told she was extremely busy and there would likely be a wait. I did the next right thing and rang her and somehow was sitting in her office within a fortnight. I was incredibly nervous, feeling under-prepared and unworthy but she put me right at ease and we chatted about my family, faith, spiritual life and then it got serious. "so tell me about your calling Emma" - I suddenly realised I couldn't explain it at all articulatly, it was extremely fuzzy with a lot of "feeling" and "sense" and general confusion on my part. However it appeared I was nothing new to her and explained it enough.

I relaxed; only to be hit with "tell me about your life" - how long did she have? It was only a 33 year long story at that point but how do you summarise 33 years in 10 minutes? I didn't know which way to go so I went for all the positive points, you know show my skills and experiences that I can use in the future etc etc. suddenly I heard something I wasn't expecting "with such a smooth, easy life how can you empathise with those who are suffering?" Well I couldn't help but laugh with "sorry, I didn't know you wanted those bits" and then shared about the traumas and learning experiences. It seemed that reassured her that I would be able to deal with others who had to deal with life and death problems.

And then the door handle question; "what would you say to someone who is bereaved and is feeling that God has forsaken them?" - wow, that's a biggy. At that moment I had to do the one thing I knew I could do; pause, pray and hand it over to God. I am not sure what I said, I am pretty certain I focussed on listening to them, empathising with their emotions and their situation and telling them that in my experience and faith we are never abandoned; but beyond that I could have sung her a nursery rhyme. Whatever I said though she ended the meeting with the completely unexpected "you're ready to move forward, let's get you in touch with the area advisor for LLMs" !!!!!

Step 1 - visit vicar - check
Step 2 - visit vocations advisor - check
Step 3 - visit area advisor for LLMs

And so I made the next phone call and arranged to meet my AALLM less than 2 months from my vicar advising me to explore further. After the previous meeting I was expecting a grilling and turned to one of my safe places - books. I read and read and read; books on vocation, on personal experiences of calling, on prayer, on preaching, on theology even. By the time I met my AALLM my book list of associated reading was immense which was lucky considering one of her first questions was "what reading have you done?". I think she got what she needed there and then; she realised that although I had had a calling, I was also motivated to proceed wherever God took me and put in the foot work my end.

However she also saw what I couldn't myself until later, my huge feeling of unworthyness. This is what we focussed on; my need to apologise for lack of knowledge and mistakes in phrasology and inabilities to explain alongide the way I down play my abilities in any area that I didn't feel 100% prepared for. At the same time I was suffering with a chest infection and found myself feeling extremely guilty for letting people down at church and elsewhere and time and again I heard "you don't need to apologise Emma" and slowly I learned the lesson - I need to look after me, accept me as I am and know that whatever I achieve is enough.

Step 1 - visit vicar - check
Step 2 - visit vocations advisor - check
Step 3 - visit area advisor for LLMs - check

So the third step was completed. My AALLM left me with an application form to be completed, told me she'd contact my PCC and arrange for me to make a presentation to them before Christmas and that I'd be at selection conference in March 2009.....

The Calling Itself

As written for presentation to my church PCC for approval in Decembeer 2008.

It’s so hard to know when I realised I was being called. To be honest it wasn’t even me who realised, it was those around me in and outside church, who noticed a change and starting mentioning the C word. I just thought my life was changing, that I was changing and that this strong sense of being needed for something was the next phase for me. I was being drawn forward and I was happy to follow.

Now looking back I can’t believe I managed to ignore the gentle knock on the back of my head so long. But all that time I was caught up in having a career and being a success, I couldn’t let anything get in my way. It was Rachel who gave me the space to hear where my life needed to go; and yes, I know that sounds crazy since the one thing children rarely bring is quietness to hear more. But having Rachel in my life has given me so much; her birth strengthened my faith, having a child brought me to St Nicolas, my hopes for her future helped me find the strength to stop relying on myself and ask for help from others; but mostly being a mum has made me realise how I cannot do it alone, I need God in my life and as I allow him in so he has started to ask of me.

I started to add daily prayer into my life; through quiet meditative prayer I hand my day over in the morning, asking him to guide me and be with me. Then each evening I thank him for the gifts of the day, I ask his forgiveness for mistakes I make and I ask for his stillness through the night. Life became easier, the struggles started to be challenges, the pain easier to deal with.

But more than that I felt my own desires lessen; no longer did the path to becoming a psychologist feel right, instead I knew that I wanted to be able to counsel people and that that could happen without being the most academically qualified. I made the decision I knew to be right, to stop the psychology and to focus on helping people through counselling. I took an introductory course and was surprised to be accepted onto a certificate course which I am now half way through. Everyone I came across spoke of private practice and yet this did not feel right, I felt I was being asked to help those who couldn’t access the help through the current routes.

At the same time I found that my skills were being used within church, that I could apply them to helping with social events and being on PCC and this felt so much easier than any professional works had ever done. I felt no hesitation to do what was asked of me, knowing that God would find a way for me to carry it out.

Then in early 2008 I started to speak to people about how I was feeling drawn to help others, that I felt I wasn’t setting my agenda for the future but that I was being shown a path. I didn’t expect to hear what I heard; “it’s a calling Emma”. I refused to hear it. The idea was terrifying. In my head I ran from the idea of it. I decided it was just a strong feeling to help others, which it was and that I would continue in that route. But I couldn’t ignore it because opportunities would keep come up. I spoke to more and more people and they all agreed “it’s a calling”.

Eventually I fearfully raised it with my vicar and we talked. He asked me to explain what I was feeling and I had no idea where to start. All I could say was:
- I feel drawn, for the first time in my life it feels like I am not driving myself but being led to a destination
- I feel it’s important to get more involved with church activities but I don’t know what or when or how
- It’s important to me to help people and I don’t want to loose that
- I feel such a love of God and when I share that with others I feel such happiness and satisfaction, I can’t ignore that anymore

We discussed ordained ministry and it just didn’t feel right at all, it was the reason I had run from any suggestion of a calling. I feel so strongly that I was made a mum for a reason and that my role as mum to Rachel is the first service I can do for God. Ordination isn’t being presented to me, I don’t feel drawn in that direction and after much searching I don’t believe it’s just because it would be difficult to combine with motherhood. So he showed me other forms of vocation including Licensed Lay Minister. The words jumped off the page, literally hit me between the eyes.

Everything that I had been feeling was on that page, all that I was drawn to was included; this had to be where I was meant to be headed. To be mission focussed and gospel led, it felt like I was being shown what I was meant to see. But a formal vocational calling, it had to be a joke, what the heck do I have to offer? I was terrified, both of what it meant and what would be required; and of failing!

But I reflected, I stopped analysing and panicking and realised that at last I was being shown. In a matter of weeks I read half a dozen books, attended a vocations meeting and with prayer, reflection and chats with a whole range of people I realised that this wasn’t an out of the blue crazy idea. This had been something I’d felt I should do in my teens but life got in the way, it was something I looked at after graduation but it didn’t fit into how I saw life but now finally the time was right.

I have been amazed how unsurprised people have been when I have talked to them about this calling, everyone to a person has been positive and encouraging and even surprised that it’s taken me so long to get there. Mike however made me smile the most, he was just relieved that he didn’t have to become a vicars wife! Over the last six months it has all developed so fast.

But more than people’s encouragement I have had so many other confirmations, funnily enough coming along when I am experiencing my most doubts or feelings of inadequacy. Suddenly I am running PCC meetings, leading prayers, giving talks at 1130 services, reading bible stories at preschool, getting more calls from miscarriage sufferers, become a pastoral carer and have found a spiritual advisor.

I have had many times of concern that this is less about God’s plan for me, and more about me looking for a role in life, but every time this comes up I focus back on prayer and signs come through the simple (daily readings) and the profound (someone asking for help for a friend) which confirm that this is not my desires, this is most definitely the way I am being led. I am often fearful, one of my demons all my life, and at those times I am most tested; I have to hand over my concerns that I am not good enough and just take the next right step and see where it takes me.

What is a Calling?

The dictionary provides the following definition:

call·ing (kôlng)n.
1. An inner urge or a strong impulse, especially one believed to be divinely inspired to accept the Gospels as truth and Jesus as one's personal savior.
2. An occupation, profession, or career.
(with thanks to

The Church of England, through their "call waiting" initiative defines it in the following article:

"God calls everyone who loves him into some kind of service. The primary calling of all Christians is to represent Christ in the world. But service can take many forms, so where is God calling you?

Everyone is called to an ever-deeper relationship with God and with each other. For some people, service may mean reflecting God’s love to others—wherever they are and whatever they do in life. For most Christians it will involve undertaking a variety of tasks and acts of service in their local church. For some, the calling is more particularly ‘vocational’ and involves being authorised by the Church to minister in a public capacity."
(with thanks to

Whilst the CofE "Calling" course defines it as: discovering the meaning of Christian vocation in individual life and work

and the Archbishop of Canterbury writes:
"The letters of St Paul often tell us about all the gifts the Church needs in order for it to do its work and to be itself. Everyone has something Jesus Christ has given them which has to be shared with the whole community. Among these gifts is a cluster of things that all have to do with taking some kind of responsibility for the Church’s growth and the Church’s direction - the apostle, the prophet, the teacher, and so on. And while all sorts of different people may exercise these gifts in various ways, the Church has always organized itself on the basis that it needs some visible focus for this kind of ministry."
(with thanks to

but that's just definitions. in the next post I will share the process through which I eventually agreed I was being called.

What is an LLM

LLMs are theologically trained lay members of the church who hold a Licence from their Area Bishop to exercise their Reader ministry in their parish and in the Bishop’s Episcopal area.

Reader ministry is traditionally a preaching and teaching ministry and many Readers are also members of the College of Preachers. However, increasingly many Readers are finding their ministry spreading into other areas like prison or hospital chaplaincy and other pastoral ministries, particularly at their places of work.

The Diocese of Oxford Handbook for Licensed Lay Ministry describes the duties of Licensed Lay Ministers as follows:-
a) To read the word of God
b) To preach
c) To read Morning and Evening Prayer (with the exception of the Absolution).
d) To administer the elements at the Holy Communion
e) To take the service of Holy Communion using Reserved Sacrament
f) To visit the sick; to read and pray with them
g) To teach in Sunday School and elsewhere, and generally to undertake such pastoral and educational work and to give such assistance to any minister as the bishop may direct
h) To conduct Funeral Services with the goodwill of the persons responsible
i) To publish Banns of Marriage at Morning and Evening Prayer, (subject to the conditions laid down in the Marriage Act 1949)
j) Take a service of dedication after a civil marriage

If you would like to find out more then here is a link to the CofE Oxford Diocese sight for LLMs:

and here is the CofE central Reader website:

LLM Calling

Welcome to the first blog post of LLM Calling.

I have to admit, the title's not what I hoped for but everything that came to mind has already been snapped up by those who got into this blogging thing way before I did. In fact they were probably in use before I even started to accept my calling.

Who am I? Emma (34), wife to Mike and mum to Rachel (nearly 4). In a previous life I was a civil engineering project manager, specialising in value and risk management and facilitation . Now I am a full time mum, part time student, part time volunteer and full time follower of the way God is calling me, right now to become a Licensed Lay Minister.

There are volumes of blogs, books and articles written about calls to become a priest but very few written by those of us who are called to become Licensed Lay Ministers(LLM)/Lay Readers in the Church of England (CofE). So perhaps I can fill a gap, or merely document my journey; that's my aim. But be warned, I am sure there will be a good deal of random stuff along the way.

welcome and thanks for following me on this journey, wherever it takes us.