A mid-life crisis?
It was a confusing time. It’s a big decision, it changes one’s life completely. It’s a sacrificial calling; I knew that it was my calling but my family would be the ones to make the sacrifice.
When I was a child I went to church because I had to go. I was a Brownie and a Guide and I went to a very religious school so I spent a lot of time in chapel which I really resented. When I started to worship at the village church it was because it was the community – we wanted to support it and it was really important to be part of that.
This gave me a really good foundation but I did what most people do – and I think it’s quite healthy – I didn’t go near a church for several years as a young adult. I did think something was missing but it wasn’t really very fashionable to have a faith and it just wasn’t part of our life. We went out on Saturday night very late and getting up to go to church didn’t really feature.
But I always made a point of going at Christmas and Easter to keep up that link and then - what often happens, I’ve noticed – I had a baby and I went back because I wanted my child to be brought up with those values and to be taught about his faith. So I started to go back to church and it became more significant because I was coming back on my own terms, as an adult, I was choosing to do it, nobody was forcing me.
I wanted my son to grow up with a Christian faith, to be taught about it. But then I got drawn in to Sunday school and to leading all sorts of things in the church. We wanted our children to go to a Church school which was oversubscribed so then we had to attend to get them places. At that point my faith was more of a function – I was always busy and didn’t actually have a lot of time to think about it.
My sons joined a local church choir which was attached to their primary school and I went along for practical reasons. That church was Anglo Catholic but didn’t believe in the ministry of women so I was able to go for the first time as an adult and not actually have to do anything, just sit in the pew. And I loved that style of worship, it was so different to anything I’d experienced before, I felt it connected with the transcendence of God. It was beautiful, mysterious, symbolic – and that’s when my faith really took off.
It was the last thing on my mind to be ordained but I knew there was something in my life that wasn’t being satisfied, something I wasn’t doing that I thought I should be doing. We went through various explorations of what that might be and at one stage we thought that might be adopting children, we were going to take two little baby girls and then it dawned on me that this wasn’t what I was called to do.
It was a confusing time. It’s a big decision, it changes one’s life completely. It’s a sacrificial calling; I knew that it was my calling but my family would be the ones to make the sacrifice. And I knew I would be sacrificing some friends too – this life is all-encompassing because we work at weekends, we work anti-social hours, we can’t enter into the kind of social life that people with normal jobs do and some of my friends just ran out patience really - they invite you to do things and you’re not free. One of my oldest friends too, she doesn’t believe in the ordination of women and that has caused a bit of a rift between us.
But then nobody would do it if it didn’t involve a huge amount of joy and satisfaction and new friends, new places to go, new avenues – so perhaps you have to leave behind the old a little bit and take on the new.
I started exploring my calling when I was about 40 – I think my mother thought it was a mid-life crisis actually! - and I was ordained at 46. By that time I was completely settled. Any sacrifices I’ve had to make have been well worthwhile and the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it earlier.
Revd Nicola Stanley is Canon Precentor of Bristol Cathedral
Do you have a pattern of worship or thought that connects you somehow with the mysteriousness of God?
How do you react to the thought of sacrifice?
Would you benefit more from being less active in faith and having time to think or from being more involved and less passive?
Meditate through the day
What are you waiting for? No, seriously…