Rachel Bray was commissioned as Local Missional Leader at St Philip & St Paul with Wesley. She spoke to us about her calling and her first year of mission.
Rachel was brought up in Toxteth Liverpool where her father was the vicar at St Philemon’s for 20 years. Reflecting on her upbringing, Rachel said “Being a vicar’s kid taught me a lot, that real life was messy, that we’re called to live in community as the body of Christ but also to be salt and light in our community. I remember being scared and proud in equal measure when my Dad was out on the streets during the riots and our church was a base for many police from all over the North West. I also learnt that we engage with church differently at different stages of our life. Serving God is an amazing privilege but also costly and we shouldn’t sell the gospel short.”
After moving away to study at University, Rachel lived in Birmingham for 12 years. She met her husband Dom in 1993 and they had 3 children. “One of our twins was diagnosed with Cystic fibrosis at 10 weeks which was a very tough time. We moved to Southport to be near my parents in 1998. The twins were diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum when they were 3. Life has had many twists and turns since. We have been part of the church family at St Philip & St Paul with Wesley for the last 18 years and we are so grateful for how people have shared our journey as a family.”
We asked what spiritual challenges or opportunities Rachel has been aware of since becoming Local Missional Leader:
“People are often so much more open to God than we think. It is often our lack of confidence in sharing our stories, our experience of faith and the Good News that is the issue rather than people not interested or wanting to know more. As a church we are focussing on sharing stories this year and growing in confidence in sharing our faith and I’m excited about what a difference that will make both within and outside of the church here. People wanting christenings, weddings, funerals and having banns read are opportunities we don’t even have to look for – they come to us. I’ve been encouraged by the national work of the CofE on baptism, weddings and funerals and that has spurred us on to be more creative and think how we can embrace these opportunities well. Having a fantastic church school next door to our church is also a great asset and joy.
My first year as an LML has involved a lot of time trying to help shape things up behind the scenes so that we can start to look out more and make the most of the opportunities that God gives us to be ‘salt and light’ in our community. I really hope that this next couple of years will be much more people-focussed in every way – learning more about and engaging with more people from our community, walking alongside people in our church family through the joys and sorrows of life and encouraging people to recognise and use their God-given gifts.
Much of what I do is what I have done at different times over the last 8 years since I have been involved in leadership behind the scenes, but there is a lot that is new and necessitating me being ‘big and brave’ to quote my Methodist colleague Rev Marie-Anne Kent. I’m a natural introvert who is more comfortable playing the piano and hiding behind a pillar so the up-front roles are new to me and are taking me flying outside of my comfort zones at times!
I’m currently involved in the Sing Good News project – a musical from the 1980’s that some of us were involved in that we’ve updated. Working with a team from 3 churches, and involving people a choir and musicians from 12 or more churches from a number of different denominations is a real thrill. We have 5 performances lined up imminently so we pray God will use them to speak to people’s hearts and minds as we sing. God’s call to me 2 years ago to be an LML was so clear and that gives me courage to keep doing what I believe he wants me to do – even though a feel I constantly wear a set of invisible ‘L’ plates !”
Are you a wonder woman?
Wonder Women September 16th - Save the Date!
As part of our year of encouraging women to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives, we have an exciting event for all women in our churches. Kate Coleman, Director of Next Leadership and author of Seven Deadly sins of women in Leadership is the guest speaker. More details to follow – put the date in your diary! There’s more than one Wonder Woman...