Meet Rev Dr Anne, GP and Community Priest

First published on: 14th March 2018

How will you balance your work as Community Priest with your work as a GP?

Well, they kind of go hand in hand and hopefully will feed of each other. I try to keep well physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. First of all it’s about being clear with the people I work with, at the surgery and in the parish and wider church network about what I can and can’t deliver; setting out clear boundaries in working agreements. Secondly, I had the conversation with God to clarify that I am not the saviour of the world. I can’t be at two places at once, nor do I have all the answers and solutions. I am a human Being, just one small part of and within God’s plan which includes many other people. God tells me to love myself as much as I love Him and others, so I do for myself what I do for Him and others: give time, relax, help out and take care of myself. As a GP and priest, I listen to so many people being stressed, overworked, overwhelmed and I tell them how important it is to rest and take a step back. And what is most encouraging and enabling to them? If they see me do it.

Is there ever a compromise between your faith and the work you do within medicine? How does that work in practice?

Hmmm, good question. I have to say I haven’t come across many situations, but I suspect it also depends to some extend on your theological convictions and your journey with God. When I started as a GP Registrar (trainee) I said I wouldn’t get involved with requests for terminations as I believed it is wrong to terminate a life that God had given. I still believe it is not for us to give and take life, but life itself, humanity, is not that black and white…I realised very quickly that women still came to see me as they wouldn’t tell the receptionist why they booked the appointment. Even though I wasn’t doing the referral for the termination, I still had to refer them to someone who did, so indirectly I was still part of the process. I then changed my mind very quickly and saw it as an opportunity to have in depth conversations – not just about the practicalities of the referral and what happened, but also about possible aftermaths (many, many women suffer from depression, panic attacks etc for years after), to explore their reasons and anxieties and to let them know that it is ok to change their mind last minute. It is not my job to judge or force my belief on others, but to share God’s love, care, compassion, grace and mercy and ensure best possible care, which includes letting people know there are second, third and more chances.

Tell us about God’s calling in your life. How did you know that you wanted to be ordained?

I was 10 years old when I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Inspired by a biography which my godmother gave me about Dr Ida Scudder, a British woman who studied medicine and returned to India to practise whilst also setting up a hospital and medical school for women, I saw myself doing something similar. Instead, God brought me to England. As long as I can remember I believed in God and at a short bible school with Youth for Christ in 1999 I offered up my life to God to do with me as He wished. I pursued medicine, but often got asked by many different people if I had ever considered going into ministry. I declined, because I saw myself serving God through being a doctor! But God wouldn’t give up, so eventually I started exploring ordained ministry whilst working as a GP in Liverpool – and look where this got me! My urge to work, live and worship in the same community suddenly let me see that this is also a definition of priesthood. I am very exited that God wants me to combine both: medicine and priesthood out in the community – with God nothing ever is wasted!

What aspect of ministry are you hoping to concentrate on in the community?

My heart is with the marginalised – homeless, those affected by addictions, those bound by circumstances, low self-esteem etc. From where I am standing and the experiences I have gathered so far, I am convinced that a lot of these problems arise because of breaking down of families, relationships and communities. My goal is to enable, encourage and strengthen building up of healthy communities and relationships, as an hour here or there at a group or else will hardly make any inroads. I have no concrete strategy or very clear picture of the ‘end-outcome’ yet. This is all very new to me, but I am praying that God will provide the key people to work with and to keep myself focussed on what He is asking me to do. Opportunities are endless and there are a lot of great, passionate people out there.

The book of Joshua, especially chapter 3+4 has become very important to me. Sometimes we think it is all about doing, being active, whizzing around and so on. But the priestly ministry might mean ‘just’ to stand there, to hold God’s presence, and in being faithful and obedient holding the waters  negative and destructive forces up so others can see the way and walk in it, entering their promised land. Standing firm in the name of God is not being passive, or easy, but a very necessary and essential ministry.  I think this describes one aspect of being a community priest very well.

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