Michelle Martin : God's calling
My name is Michelle and I am 33 years old. I am currently the assistant curate in the East Bristol Partnership – a role which I started in 2014. I work in a benefice of three different churches, joining in with the ministry and mission happening in these places; in both the churches and the local communities.
I first began to hear a whisper of a call to ministry when I was a teenager. I had attended a big Christian youth event in London for young people. During this weekend we were invited to a big celebration at St Pauls Cathedral. It was during this service that we were challenged by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider the things in our church which most frustrate us – and then to change this frustration into action!!
I was frustrated about the declining number of children and young people in our churches. What was I going to do about it?! This challenge very much shaped my involvement and relationship with my own church over the coming years.
After training away as a nurse, I returned to Bristol where I worked at Bristol Children’s Hospital for a number of years. During this time, I continued to feel a nudge towards full time ministry. However, this didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t feel that I was old enough, experienced enough or brave enough! I wrestled with this calling and trying to work out what God was asking me to do for a number of years, before finally giving in and going to the Bishops Advisory Panel.
When I used to question whether God was calling me to ministry, I used to think that I would never have the confidence to be up front leading services and preaching. Even when I was training for ministry at college, I wondered how I was ever going to find the courage to do the upfront stuff. So, it seems to me that it is quite ironic (and very typical of God) that I now find this to be one of the most life giving parts of my ministry. Alongside this, as one of the things that I most enjoy about my role, is the privilege of working with people; people in my churches, in the local schools, nursing homes, people living in my local communities, my colleagues across the diocese. I feel very grateful to be here and doing what I am doing.
What do I wish I had known before starting this journey? I wish I had known how many meetings this job involves!!!!!
I do sometimes miss nursing – which has come as a surprise to me. A big learning curve for me is how to balance my natural inclination towards pastoral care with the time, the skills and the vision to lead three very different churches as they seek to reach out to their local communities.
God calls us all by name, often into situations which we feel are too big for us to deal with. My journey into ministry has also been a journey of learning to trust – to know that God is with us always, providing all that we need to serve him. He doesn’t ask us to go anywhere alone; he invites us to join him in the places where he already is. Answering his call is life changing, scary and very exciting.