Tottenham PA Interview

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Jake was interviewed last year about his life as a PA in Tottenham…

Tell us something about your work

Part of my work is to be chaplain to the youth group. I had no experience of working with children before I came here and, to those who are worried at the prospect, I would say it does come naturally after a while and is very rewarding.  I’ve also been running the Winter Night Shelter which has been a huge responsibility. It has taught me a lot about working with volunteers and has really boosted my confidence.

 What do you say when people ask you about Tottenham as a place to live and work?

It’s really nice!  My own small home town is worse where there is at least one fight in the pubs nearly every weekend!  You might expect to hear about drugs and guns and stuff but it’s actually very quiet here and most people go into the centre of London at the weekend to party. There’s no trouble and it’s friendly, people aren’t on edge – but it is London so people aren’t necessarily wandering around all day with smiles on their faces!

What are the worst things?

There us currently no internet access in my study area and the loft can be cold in winter but by far the worst physical thing was when we had to deliver almost 3000 leaflets in the local area in the freezing cold!

How has working as a Pastoral Assistant helped you to think about your vocation?

It has helped a lot.  It has made me think not just about what and where God wants me to be but also how he wants me to be which is not always the same thing as I have in mind.  This gives me a lot of comfort, particularly when I’m faced with a new challenge such as preaching for the first time as I did this morning.  Being a PA gives you the opportunity to experience parish ministry at first hand and to decide whether it might be for you.  Everyone is so supportive – of course you will make mistakes – but it is a learning curve rather than a job. 

How is your Lent going?

I wish I hadn’t given up biting my nails, particularly as I had to preach for the first time today!

How do you relax on your day off?

Well it’s London, so there’s so much to see and do.  My priest is a workaholic (!) but is also very strict about rest and the importance of protecting that rest time which I really appreciate.

Camden PA Interview

IMG_3158 FeeneyRebecca Feeney worked as a Pastoral Assistant in the Parish of Old St Pancras for two years at St Michael’s and is now an ordinand at St Stephen’s House.

What did you do before you came to work in the Parish?

I studied music at Cardiff University.

What were you most looking forward to?

I wanted the opportunity to work alongside others discerning their vocation – and particularly to work alongside people with different theological slants to my own.  I was looking forward to being part of a team that, I knew from others, worked very hard to be the church in its community and was very committed to what it did.

Were you nervous?

Not especially because I had spent a year in a different church in London before coming here.  I was excited, but the first time I was very nervous. Having had that prior experience helped me to relax but in any case I was made to feel at ease here very quickly.

How is the placement shaping up?

I am comfortable with what I do, my job and responsibilities.  I feel very warmly welcomed and was made to feel very much part of the community very quickly.  I am supported by the team and members of the congregation and feel generally very secure besides all the otherwise terrifying and insecure elements of the job!

What’s it like where you live?

The house is fantastic. We have our own rooms and share a large living room and garden (with family of foxes!). I live with two other PAs and a House Co-ordinator.  We get on ridiculously well and are very good friends.  Living communally is not without difficulty but on the whole we get on ridiculously well and have become very good friends.  In theory (!) we have film night every Wednesday, the house is in a quiet residential area, our privacy is respected and it is very good to go back to.

Have you taken any services?

I lead Healing Prayer occasionally, effectively a lay ministry service of scripture, prayer and laying on of hands.  I preached my first Sunday sermon on Advent 4 and am on the rota for leading morning and evening office. 

What about outside church?

On Monday I work at Women @ the Well, an organisation supporting vulnerable women, on Wednesday I work in our church primary school in class and run an after school club. On Friday I form part of the chaplaincy team at the Huntley Centre and I also do pastoral visits as directed by my incumbent.

How have you found being a female Pastoral Assistant in an Anglo-Catholic parish?

I have found being a PA in this Parish incredibly fulfilling, particularly as a woman coming from a traditional Catholic background.  I have never once felt that I was not respected or that my vocation was not important or genuine.  The team, and particularly my incumbent have been extremely supportive in every way they can.  Of course we experience all the knocks and bumps that any close working relationship with a team will bring but the benefits are huge.

Finally, how are you feeling about your vocation?

I can say that since coming here I am more at peace with my sense of vocation than at any other point.