Ordination Reflections – How Did God Call Them to Ministry?

Ordination Reflections – How Did God Call Them to Ministry?

Yin-Yin Bull

Yin-Yin will be ordained as a deacon on Sunday 30th June at Winchester Cathedral before beginning her curacy at Romsey Abbey. She shared her story of understanding her identity as a Chinese Christian and how this has fed into a unique sense of calling to ministry…

“My mother’s side of the family were Methodists in Malaysia. My mum came over to the UK study nursing when she was 19 years old. My childhood was a bit all over the place! From time-to-time I lived with an uncle and aunt in London, spent a little bit of time with my parents in Bristol, not really going to school very regularly, and spent a lot of time living in Liverpool with my grandparents. My grandfather was a money-lender and an ‘elder’ in the community and my identity was very much in his shadow. If anyone asked me “Who are you?” I was told to say my grandfather’s name as protection.

“But one of the discoveries I was making over time was that it was actually the name of Jesus I needed to call upon. I remember my maternal grandmother sent me a picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding a lamb, and I thought: “I am that lamb”. As a child I loved reading the stories in my picture book Bible, particularly from the Old Testament which were so vivid and dramatic.

“But my faith dwindled when I went to university – I think I had what you might call an ‘identity crisis’ as I felt neither Chinese nor British enough in that context. This was also challenged when I met my husband. Following my marriage to Colin, it took a while for my parents to reconcile their Chinese culture with the subculture of my being British and Chinese concurrently, and during this period I drew closer to church and discovered a new identity in Christ. Together we went to his home church, which was St Pauls’ Sarisbury Green, Southampton, and the church became a kind of family for me. I realised that church was the place I felt most accepted.

“It was while at St Paul’s that I remember crying out to God, as I felt so different in my new community. Then I sensed a voice saying ‘Look at Ruth’. The character of Ruth in the Bible is out of her original culture (she is a Moabite in the strange country of Judah) – I felt that like Ruth I too could be woven in, I could find my story within this story.

“However, connecting with other Christians from my background has also been really important. I am part of The Teahouse network which supports and celebrates Chinese culture and clergy in the Church of England, and I’ve made lots of friends. I now feel that part of my calling is to bridge cultures, to help people understand that it’s possible to be part of their own culture and part of the church too. I find the ability to be able to straddle these things and hold them in tension really useful.

“After I had my son and developed post-natal depression. I found myself having to dispel a lot of myths about mental health both in church and also in Chinese culture where there is a lot of shame associated with mental health. I ended up retraining as a counsellor and working in local secondary schools.

“By this time we were going to St Thomas’s in Fair Oak and I was asked if I would like to go on a ‘Growing Leaders’ course and if I had ever considered ordination – to which my response was ‘No way!’ There was nobody like me that I could see up the front of church.

“I realised growing up as British and Chinese in England, I have at times conformed to stereotypes, accepted and even colluded with them, as well as colluding with cultural stereotypes and expectations. I have tried to defeat both, but then realised that neither colluding nor acceptance of being othered is helpful. Through Ruth’s narrative, I found an awareness of the dichotomy of belonging and being other at the same time. It is a tightrope to inwardly navigate, negotiate, and reflect upon. The sense of belonging does not come from how others perceive us or treat us, but knowing that our Stories are woven together, as we allow ourselves to join in with God’s story; I believe if it can be true for Ruth, then it can be true for all of us.

“That verse from Galatians 3 really applies for me: ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek… for all are one in Christ’ – over time, I have realised that my outward identity doesn’t matter as much as who God says I am.

“I very much look forward to joining the rhythm of prayer, worship, work and life in Romsey Abbey!”

Ani Davy

Ani will be ordained as deacon on Sunday 30th June at Winchester Cathedral before beginning her curacy in the Benefice of Bitterne. She has shared a testimony of having a sense of vocation put on hold before God opened the door again…

“By the time my younger brother and I were still in single figures, seven siblings had already flown from the nest. Despite our parents not following the Christian faith, they made sure we went to Sunday school and church services every week from infancy. What was superb was that our place of worship stood conveniently across the street from our family home. The congregation became a second home, a place of vibrant joy and excitement. There, my brother, and I were immersed in Bible lessons, stories, and
memory verse challenges, which was and still is the culture of the Church. We eagerly participated in choirs, role plays, trips, and all the other activities that filled our Sundays.

“One April morning, our Sunday school class was led by the senior pastor. With earnestness in his voice, he recounted the timeless gospel truth of God’s love—how He sent His son, Jesus, to die for the sin of the world. I listened intently as the pastor explained that through Jesus, we could find forgiveness and become part of God’s family, simply by believing and asking for forgiveness and His presence in our hearts.

“Then came the pivotal moment. The pastor asked if anyone wanted to become part of the family of God, raise your hand. Tears welled up in my eyes as a flood of emotions overcame me. Without hesitation, I rose to my feet, arms lifted, unable to contain my tears. Through sobs, I prayed the prayer of repentance and acceptance led by the pastor.

“In the weeks that followed, I was consumed with excitement, eager to share the news of my newfound faith with everyone. I soaked up the weekly teachings about Christianity and what it meant to live as a follower of Christ. And within a few weeks, I felt compelled to take the next step: baptism (as that
was an aspect of what I was learning about).

“So, on a memorable day in August, I publicly declared my faith through baptism. The waters washed over me in full immersion, symbolizing a new life and a deeper commitment to my beliefs. Those moments remain etched in my memory, a testament to the profound transformation I experienced at just seven years old.

“As I grew into adulthood, my commitment to my faith only deepened. The call to ministry, like an inner urge and holy preoccupation within me since childhood, now tugged at my heart with an undeniable force. Recognising this divine prompting, I sought guidance from my church leader, eager to explore my vocation.

“However, my initial attempt to pursue ministry was met with resistance. Despite my earnest desire and the encouragement of my fellow believers, the senior pastor deemed it unnecessary. Disheartened but respectful of his authority, I surrendered my aspirations to God, trusting in His timing and direction.

“For seven more years, I served faithfully within the church, patiently waiting for God’s plan to unfold. Then, sensing a shift in my journey, I felt compelled to move on from the congregation. It was a leap of faith, stepping away from the familiar to embrace the unknown.

“About two years later, I was invited to the Church of England church I currently attend and felt comfortable enough to remain and become and active part of the community. It was in this new church, nearly eight years later, that God’s providence once again intervened. I received an email from the priest to meet him – the email gave away nothing, so I felt a bit nervous as we had never had a conversation. This unexpected meeting with the priest revealed a divine appointment. He asked me to tell him the story of my spiritual journey. As I shared my journey to faith and spiritual journey with him, he discerned a calling to ministry within me—a calling that had long lain dormant but was now ready to blossom.

“Filled with gratitude and awe, I embraced this newfound opportunity with open arms. With the vicar’s support and the support of the church community, I embarked on a journey of discernment and preparation. Four years later, I stand on the threshold of ordination, a testament to God’s faithfulness and His perfect timing.

“Looking back on the twists and turns of my spiritual journey, I am reminded of the wisdom found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Indeed, as I reflect on God’s faithfulness in guiding my steps, I am filled with thankfulness and awe. And I encourage anyone who feels God’s call on their lives to trust in His timing, knowing that He will always lead us on the path of His purpose in His time.”