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‘If I don’t get these jobs, I will do whatever you want me to’

27 March 2015

RACHEL Gaunt was born in Warrington, but grew up in Bahrain. The family moved there when she was five (both her parents were teachers), and she didn't return until she was 16.

Faith played no part in Rachel's upbringing, but at Durham University she lived in a student house with 20 people, four of whom were Christians. "There was something different about them." Studying a module on the influence of the Gospels on English literature meant that Rachel sat down and read all four Gospels in one go; she thought: "Yes, there is something in this." She found herself "sneaking out to services in Durham cathedral". When she joined the Christian Union, she found that everyone else there apparently "knew the same songs from Sunday school - I felt I'd somehow missed out".

After university, Rachel trained as a journalist and then worked in television production. She started to feel "that I couldn't be as faithful to God as I'd like - to be good at my job, I had to compromise on the way I'd want to live my life as a Christian."

Applying for two different jobs on Songs of Praise, she challenged God, "If I don't get these jobs, I will do whatever it is you want me to do."

She didn't get either; and embarked instead on a period of "listening to God more - being prepared to go where he wanted me to". She worked first for a Christian charity, trying to keep children who were on the point of being expelled in school on a more constructive path; and then in her own church's office, before she started to think about ordination.

Rachel is now in her first year of training at St Mellitus (North West), where the context-based training involves a single placement for the three years of the course, rather than a number of short-term ones. "I was afraid that, for me, life in a residential college might feel a bit like living in a bubble; this way enables me to feel I'm already using what gifts I have in God's service."

She divides her time between two churches in "quite deprived areas, with all the usual social issues, and two different styles of worship on a Sunday".

Both are a contrast to her own experience of a large, charismatic Evangelical church, but St Mellitus has also opened her eyes liturgically. Morning prayer in varied traditions in college has taught her "that God can speak to us through something that would once have seemed quite alien. At our last residential weekend, in the middle of a BCP service, I realised that I was actually praying, and hearing God speak to me."

One of the ways in which TAP helps is by reducing the financial burden on dioceses: "At St Mellitus NW, we are all on placements in parishes where the cost of a part-time member of staff would be beyond them, so the help is invaluable, not just for the students but for the parishes we serve."

When Rachel started going to church, her family thought at first that she had joined another university club - "like ballroom dancing. But when she took the further step towards ordination, Rachel's brother said: "We don't know why it's taken you so long."


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