Listening to the Call – A reflection from Angie Foster, Authorised Lay Minister for Worship + Prayer and Spirituality 

Recently, I read an article by Barbara Holmes, (CAC), about the parallels between the story of Jonah and her own life. It made me realise that perhaps there were similarities with my own life too…….

There is a situation of disobedience when we choose to ignore or even go against God’s will for our lives. As an example, think of Jonah…. He thinks he is right. He hates the Assyrians, and understandably so. After all, they were a marauding, land-grabbing nation, a real threat to Israel. He had national pride. He wanted to see them destroyed. So, when he gets the call from God, he travels 2,500 miles to the southern area of Spain. He could not get much further away. Why does he flee? He flees, he says at the end of Chapter 4, because he knows God is merciful. There is no worse situation than a merciful God when you want to see your enemies get what is coming to them. Jonah wants to do things his way and ends up in the stomach of a sea monster.

Do you have a Jonah story? I think I do. From being a “Cradle Christian,” at the age of six I woke up one morning to see an angel at the foot of my bed. Deep down I knew God had a calling on my life. So, what did I do?

I got on with my life. My grandmother was a devout Christian and I learnt a lot from her about how to treat other people and being a Christ in the world. When she passed away, when I was twelve, I was devastated. However, I continued to attend church and was active in various activities such as Brownies, Girl Guides and bell ringing as well as helping and serving in church. I knew I wanted to help and support people, particularly those in need and I thought that I could find my fulfilment as a social worker, librarian or a teacher, as women were not allowed to be ordained in the church at that time. Life had other ideas however and, after I left school, I worked in retail for 18 years. One of my positions was as a Development Officer for the management trainees on the company programme, which gave me the opportunity to teach and train the new graduates and school leavers who were joining the company.

By this time, I had got married, had two children, and after a few years heard the call again even more strongly that God was calling me to be a teacher, which was a career I had considered when I was 18. This time I turned and listened and went back to college and studied for my degree and subsequently PGCE and became a teacher for eighteen years with both pastoral and academic responsibilities in a church school.

Several years before retirement age, I felt that teaching was not the answer I thought I had been looking for. Again, God then seemed to take a hand – I had what seemed a chance conversation, I saw an owl in strange circumstances, studied to become an ALM, considered Reader training and experienced various other moments of God’s voice speaking to me and saying – this is not it…. there is more I need you to do.

My journey of discernment has taken two years, two selection panels, a lot of reading, research, and reflection to be able to say “Yes” to God’s call to begin ordination training.

I would encourage everyone to remain open and faithful to God’s invitations to serve as the opportunities are there if you take them. Sometimes they are hard to see, or when you have a choice, you may take a path that enriches you and provides skills and experiences, but ultimately does not give you the answer you are seeking.  

So, when you hear the whispering and the voice getting more persistent and louder, allow it to lead you to the start of the newness that is already seeded in your life….no matter how old you are. Trust God and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. Just make your intention known to God and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead you into the fulfilment of your vocation, whatever form that takes.