Ordinand stories - Sarah Butcher

When I was growing up, my family didn’t go to church, so I didn’t either. However, I started going to Girls’ Brigade when I was 10, and went to parade services from time to time. I started to want to go to church but this was difficult around family weekend activities. When I went to university, I finally had the freedom to choose to go to church. Here, I became a Christian, grew in faith and involved myself in church life, in an Anglican church. In time, I wanted to give more of my time and energy to serving, so I applied to be a lay-worker in a Methodist Church. I remember people asking me if I planned to become a local preacher or a minister, and how good they thought I would be. At the time, I assumed they were being polite, seeing me as someone young and keen. Being a preacher or a minister just didn't seem like me, and I didn't feel called.

That changed dramatically one night in February 2015. I strangely had a vivid dream. In the dream, I awoke in my bed, but it was light outside. Then I heard a voice loudly repeating, "go into ordained ministry".. I was stunned! I checked if my husband had said anything, or heard anything, but he hadn't. I didn't feel it was for me, but I couldn't ignore it. I had a chat with my minister and I knew I had to test the calling. I did this by starting local preacher training, and reflecting on what I felt called to. Again I have felt the calling being confirmed myself and affirmed by others. It has not been easy. I think I had such a vivid and clear calling moment because God knew I would have never otherwise taken that first step, nor would I have kept going.

I have found the last few years really challenging. My journey through this calling, candidating and training has happened alongside a realisation that I am infertile and living with the reality of being unable to have a child. For me, wanting a child I cannot have is a deep and complex pain. As a Christian in this journey, it’s got me wrestling with prayer, what God does and doesn’t do and how we handle life not going as we would want. This has been really difficult, and it’s shaken my faith to its core.

What has inspired me in this is that although I feel it has zapped my strength, faith and confidence, God has been at work, making me the minister I need to be.  I feel vulnerable, but God works in and with vulnerability and imperfection. I've been hurt, but I understand more of loss and pain, and I can sit alongside others in their difficult times. My faith is one that wrestles and questions very honestly, but my ministry and preaching is informed by the deeper, richer hope I've found in Jesus. I have a voice that can say life may not go as you expect or want, but we can take that to our God, who is good, and can bring unexpected beauty from brokenness.

First, I trained to be a secondary school science teacher. There was much I enjoyed about this (working with young people, explaining and showing concepts), but other things (endless planning, marking, meetings, etc.) wore me down and I was frustrated that I had so little time for church. I worked as a church family worker for a Methodist Church for a while. When my hours in this role were reduced, I took up a part-time science teacher post in a small independent school.

Teaching taught me to manage stress and maintain an appearance of calm confidence in front of crowds. I enjoy trying to explain things clearly, especially if it involves stories of a fun demonstration (particularly ones involving flames, like flash paper). Being a lay-worker taught me more about church life, and especially Methodism. I've learnt to slow down and to really listen to others and God. I also learned to spell "committee" alarmingly fast.

My husband is unendingly loving and supportive, despite the difficulties and changes this time has brought. Most of my family don't go to church, so I think they struggle to understand why I would do this or what it means! However, they have made it clear they are completely behind me and cheering me on. Their love and support means so much to me. Many of my Christian friends have been incredibly supportive and encouraging of me, commenting how right they think this is for me.

Sarah Butcher