One couple, two training tracks
Ordinands Sarah and Jonathan Lee chose Trinity so Sarah could train residentially and gain the space needed to reflect on her Christian practice in community, and so Jonathan could train non-residentially for more hours in context after twenty-five years as a barrister and part-time judge.
When, as a biblical studies student at Sheffield University, Sarah Lee completed a computer survey recommending future careers, her results pointed her towards becoming a priest or teacher. ‘Women couldn’t be priests then,’ Sarah says, ‘so I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not going to do that!” And I went to train and then worked for five-and-a-half years as a secondary school RE teacher.’
After Sarah and her husband, Jonathan, had three children, Sarah shifted towards taking care of the children and began to volunteer with preschool children’s services and women’s group work at their church.
After ten years attending a large church in St Albans, Sarah and Jonathan began to spend more weekends in Oundle in Northamptonshire and became involved with the smaller parish church there too. Sarah invested in a Tuesday afternoon games club for widows and widowers as well as in youth work and summer camps. She connected with a local primary school to cater monthly meals for eighty to a hundred pensioners, who for £4 could eat a hot dinner and hear music from the children. Sarah led a morning home group for mums and study groups for older people. Then, after nine years of initiating ministries and growing teams, Sarah heard the associate vicar give a sermon about considering the call to ordination.
‘I felt really prompted to go to talk to her after the service,’ Sarah says. ‘I told her I thought God might be calling me to something more full time in my service but I wasn’t sure what. She got the hugest smile on her face.’
As Sarah began a discernment process with their diocese, her husband, Jonathan, was quietly asking himself similar questions. Jonathan had worked for twenty-five years as a barrister, intensively commuting between his family and London. When they first joined their church in Oundle, Jonathan began to question what God might be calling him to as a Christian.
‘When Sarah put her hand up to consider ordination, I was privately considering it too but didn’t say anything,’ says Jonathan. ‘I thought, maybe those thoughts were for Sarah, not me. I was not yet ready to take that step myself.’ For Jonathan, considering ordination was a real shift—would he entirely give up his career? ‘However, while I pressed on with normal working life, God’s gentle prods about my life started to become stronger—sometimes wakeful nights, sometimes during times of reading and prayer, and sometimes through conversations. After a particular prompting I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t just Sarah who needed to explore what God was asking of us, but me too.’
The couple went through the discernment process separately; Sarah passing successfully through a January Bishops’ Advisory Panel and Jonathan through one in May.
Sarah and Jonathan came to theological college with differing needs. They chose Trinity because it offered Sarah the option of residential training, and Jonathan the option of non-residential training.
Sarah says, ‘The structure at Trinity felt like it would work for us. I needed to pull back, not to do as much in my local parish for two years, and to reflect. Being in community at college is really important to me, to have others in training to reflect with. Jonathan has been office-based for the last twenty-five years, and it’s good for him to gain more day-to-day experience in a parish. Jonathan is three days a week in context, and I’m one day a week in context—both working at the same church, which is very different from where we came from. Different, but good. We’re both enjoying the track we’re on.’
Posted February 2020