Rev Simon Chesters, Director of Vocations says “It’s great to have Rachel on board as Young Vocations Champion – she’s already been involved in so much work with young people exploring where God is calling. It’s an exciting time – this year out of all the diocese in the country Liverpool has had the biggest growth in people beginning training for ordained ministry and we know Rachel will be a great asset to the work of the LifeCall team in taking that forward with young people”
We spoke to Rachel about what she is hoping to achieve:
Tell us about your own calling and how your own journey has led you to be ordained and now the new Young Vocations Champion.
I was brought up in Liverpool in a very close-knit family. From a young age, I always wanted to work with children and young people. I actually wanted to be a primary school teacher from when I was about four years old. I went to church as a child but the family stopped going for a number of years. When I was about 12-13 I decided that I wanted to go back to church and get confirmed so during my teens I started helping out with the church kids club and the youth group and really enjoyed that. I went to university to do an English degree and it was during that time that I decided I wanted to take a more active role in leading services. That was quite unlike me and I remember being so nervous leading my first service that my knees were knocking but as I got to the front I knew I was doing the right thing at the right time. At that point, my vicar asked me if I’d thought about ordination. I said ‘no’ at first and for quite a while really but the more I thought and prayed about it the more it felt right.
I finished my degree with the idea of doing a PGCE as I still wanted to teach but I didn’t get on the course that I wanted and I also had a job opportunity as a Teaching Assistant fall through. At this point, I prayed and asked God what did he want me to do? Following this, I went to do a year-long placement at a bigger church in Liverpool and I loved it. I then went along to a ‘Step Forward’ young vocations day in Durham and I felt like I was doing everything that God wanted me to do. On that day a woman not much difference in age to me stood up to speak with a dog collar on. I remember to this day what she was wearing because it really struck me as I’d never seen a vicar under the age of 30 before. I just knew on that day that God was calling me and he wanted me and all my insecurities and vulnerabilities didn’t matter because he would be with me. That led me towards ordination.
Having been called young myself, young vocations have always been a huge passion of mine. I have helped out with the Step Forward days and the Young Vocations breakfasts, while at college and since becoming ordained. When Alister left I was asked by Simon Chesters to take on the role which came as a bit of a shock to be honest, but I feel very privileged and excited to be asked.
What makes you passionate about working with Young People and vocations in particular?
I think it has come from my initial reaction as a young person thinking that ‘I can’t do that’ as I had seen male and female priests before but no one under the age of 30. The ‘Step Forward’ day I mentioned earlier had such an effect on me, seeing this young woman vicar looking quite trendy actually and I just realised, yes that could be me. That had such a positive influence on me that I want to be able to encourage others. I am very aware that appearance and image can be a huge influence for younger people in today's society, therefore I try to make more of an effort with my appearance, especially when I go into schools. I ‘try' to dress a little bit trendier so that young girls can imagine themselves doing this role. I want to make the idea more accessible and break down any preconceptions people may have. Since becoming a Christian I have always wanted people to know the impact that Jesus can have on people's lives, how much Jesus loves them and how best to live out the calling that God that has put before them. I really want young people to be able to live out their lives to the full and to be the people that God wants them to be. Be that a call into ordained ministry or into lay leadership, through worship or youth work, whatever it may be. I want to be able to give them the opportunity to really explore that further.
Tell us more about the upcoming ‘What Now’ event aimed at 16-30 year olds.
We are going to have a few speakers; Rev Cris Rogers
will be helping us to look at a number of things including 'How do we hear God’s voice?' 'What does God expect of me?' 'What are my choices?' There will be an element of worship as well as sharing of stories. There will be opportunities to explore different types of ministry further; we have representatives from Youth Ministry, and the Wigan PAIS team internship, for example. It will be a really exciting event. Sharing stories about our calling and our faith is so important, we don’t normally get the opportunity so it is a chance to come and join in and relate to others in the same boat.
Sometimes calling comes from unexpected places. I’d like to encourage people just to come along if they have been prompted to by someone else. All Jesus asks of us it to ‘Come and See’ and I really believe that this event is a great opportunity for them to do so!
What are you most excited for in the role itself?
I'm looking forward to creating new ways for young people to meet and to explore our calling together. I’m excited to meet with people who are in that stage of discernment. There is nothing better than watching someone explore their own calling and have that ‘lightbulb moment’ of realising what the call is for them. I love talking to people and hearing their stories and getting to know how Jesus has impacted their lives. I’m also excited to work with the wider Vocations team to reach out to people right across the Diocese.