I first felt called to explore a vocation to priestly ministry in 2011 whilst attending a service for the Ordination of Priests. The declarations from The Liturgy were unfamiliar, yet these powerful words burrowed deep within me and I heard a voice say “that will be you”, but when I turned around to see who’d spoken there was no one behind me. My immediate thought was ‘that’s ridiculous, they can’t possibly mean me!’ and put it well out of mind until, as you might know, I went on pilgrimage to Israel in 2012 and walking in the footsteps of Jesus changed everything.
‘Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent’.*
The reading in our Chapel service on that Wednesday was ‘the call of the first disciples’ (Luke 5:1-11), and I wonder if they could have ever imagined the impact Jesus’ call would have on so many lives. In the reading, Jesus calls Simon and his partners as they are. Simon is acutely aware of his unworthiness, but Jesus is not put off by this in the slightest. Jesus doesn’t ask Simon to get his act together, his CV prepared, and then come back for an interview. Rather, Jesus encounters him as he is, tells him not to be afraid, and calls him to a new mission of catching people.
‘With all God’s people, they are to tell the story of God’s love.’*
God calls imperfect people to do God’s work, people who are often doubting and resistant to God’s call. People like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah or Jonah. People like you and me. God doesn’t wait for people to ‘shape up’. God calls people as they are and then works on shaping them into faithful servants, but how often might we resist Jesus’ claim on our lives because what he is calling us to do just seems too crazy, or too impractical? I certainly tried to ignore God’s call until one day he found another way to get past all my excuses and my ‘yes, but…’ became a ‘yes’.
‘Guided by the Spirit, they are to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people’*
Jesus’ followers are called daily to use the gifts God has given us in service to others, to share the good news of Christ in word and deed, and to participate in God’s mission to the world. Eventually that’s what brought me here, to St Helen and St Katharine. So, I was delighted to welcome the Right Reverend Gavin Collins, Bishop of Dorchester, to our school as he formally licensed me as Chaplain. In front Year 8, and holding the Holy Bible, I duly swore my oath of allegiance to the Sovereign, the oath of canonical obedience to the Bishop and made the Declaration of Assent.
“I, Karen Hyde, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”^
It felt especially poignant to be swearing this oath in the same week that our Queen celebrated the 70th Anniversary of her accession to the throne, on 6 February 1952. In a letter issued from Sandringham, this truly remarkable woman wrote:
“As we mark this anniversary, it gives me pleasure to renew to you the pledge I gave in 1947 that my life will always be devoted to your service.”
And so, as I continue stepping out in faith to fulfil my own calling, I am thrilled to be both servant and shepherd among the incredible staff, students and wider community that are St Helen’s; and to finding ways to encourage creativity, curiosity and imagination as paths to discover what’s meaningful and spiritually rewarding in our lives.
* Extracted from The Declarations of the Liturgy of Ordination of Priests
^ The oath of allegiance to the Sovereign