A couple of weeks ago, I went to the secondary school I attended to talk to some year 9 students about my life beyond Tuxford. I had a really lovely day. I had a look around, seeing the way that the school has changed, and looking at the college presidents board with my name on it (of course!). I also caught up with some former teachers (and school mates who are now teachers) and was questioned by some very bright teenagers!
When I asked the class who was alive in 2005 when I started at Tuxford, only a couple of them put their hand up- yikes! I can’t remember all that they asked, but below are a selection of questions that some 13 and 14 year-olds had for this 26 year old curate.
What is the hardest part of your job?
What does the collar mean?
Were you a religious child?
Is there anything difficult about being a young woman in your job?
Has the school changed much since you were here?
What did you want to do as a job when you were at school?
What is the best thing about what you do?
What do you believe generally?
How do you cope with really sad days?
Were you always good at public speaking? And how do you become good at public speaking?
How does that bit in the Bible about women not speaking in church make you feel?
Is it hard for your family because you do what you do?
Is there anything that you can’t do because of your job?
Is there anything that the Church teaches that you don’t agree with? And is it worth it?
Are there any teachers still at the school from when you were here?
How long does it take to be a priest?
Did you always want to be a priest?
Would you like to share a church with your husband one day?
How do you look after a family when someone dies?
What does your husband think about you being a priest and that bit in the Bible about women not speaking in church?
Are you allowed to drink?
I’m not going to provide answers to them all because that would make a very long blog! But I have picked out a few to talk through. Some questions were easier to answer than others. For example:
Was I a religious child? Well, I grew up going to church, so I suppose so.
Has the school changed much since you were here? There have been some extensions to the building, but I recognise quite a few teachers!
How do you cope with really sad days? Prayer! And good self-care.
What does your husband think about you being a priest and that bit in the Bible about women not speaking in church? He is completely supportive of me in my role, and interprets that passage as something that was written for the people of that time.
Are you allowed to drink? Yes! Wine is a big part of what we do in church.
There were, however, some tougher ones in there:
Is there anything hard about being a young woman in your job? Yes, actually there is. Although it doesn’t happen every day by any means, I have come across people who don’t think I should be doing what I do because I am a woman and that is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. There is also the culture of the church generally- when you think of a ‘vicar’ you are not likely to think of a 26 year old woman!
Is there anything you can’t do because of your job? Although I think that being a minister is very freeing most of the time, there are some things I struggle with. I don’t get to see a lot of my friends because I work a lot. I am also aware that in a little town, people know who I am and so there is a level of behaviour that is expected, even when I’m off duty, not that that is a bad thing! I do feel like I am always on show though.
Is there anything that the church teaches that you don’t agree with? And is it worth it? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it?! The answers for me are: yes, and yes.
I also enjoyed talking about public speaking. The kids had lots of questions about that. I said that throughout my life I have always got nervous before I speak in front of people, and I continue to be so. I said that I was nervous that morning before I came to see them! But public speaking is like many other things. It might feel uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the easier you will find it. I encouraged them to take the opportunities to practice as often as they could.
I’ll admit, teenagers scare me a bit, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I had such a good time and found that they had lots to ask this slightly strange woman in a dog collar. I had no idea that I would end up where I am when I was their age, and I find myself wondering what the future holds for those 60 or so young people I met who are currently attending the school I left eight years ago.