Imogen came on a CPAS You and Ministry weekend at the age of 21. Today, she is training for ordination at Trinity College, Bristol. We caught up with her and learnt more about her journey and where God may be calling her to lead in the years to come.
When did you first sense that God might be calling you to church leadership?
When I was eight, so quite young! I wanted to be a vicar, though in the same way that other children wanted to be an astronaut or a vet - I don't think I really knew what being a vicar would be like at that age.
As a teenager I had various different ideas about what I wanted to do with my life, then at uni I thought I was probably called to some kind of leadership, which eventually led me back to considering ordination more seriously.
What was it about your university experience that led you towards ordination?
While I was studying abroad, I was listening to a sermon from back home about raising up the next generation to ordained ministry and I thought 'that could be me'. I prayed through this a lot and when I found myself with six months free unexpectedly, I decided to use this time to do a youth work internship back at my home church, St Paul's and St George's in Edinburgh.
During this internship, the vicar at my church recommended going on CPAS You and Ministry weekend to explore my call further and find out more about the ordination process.
How did you find the You and Ministry weekend?
So helpful! It was a really good insight for me, great to connect with others and I came away with a much better understanding of how the ordination process works.
There was a curate called Rachel helping at the weekend. It was so good to see a young woman in a leadership role and spend some one-on-one time talking through what I might be called to, and to learn from someone a few steps ahead in the journey.
What happened next?
I knew after You and Ministry that it was the right time to start the formal process. I still had two years of university left in Bath, so I began the formal discernment process with Bath and Wells diocese.
I met with a vocations adviser and did a lot of reading and reflecting and went to a Bishops' Advisory Panel where I was recommended for ordination training. I also married my husband around this time, so it was a big year! I decided to defer training for a year, so worked for the local council and Theos (a Christian think tank), before beginning my training in September.
How is it going so far?
Great! I am now at Trinity College in Bristol. I've come across CPAS again as Ian Parkinson [CPAS Leadership Specialist] is leading a 'School of Leadership' module which is part of my training.
This is really helpful as I haven't had dedicated, structured teaching on Christian leadership before. What's great about Ian's style of teaching is that there is also space to explore our own experiences. It's very much a collaborative learning experience, helping us engage with the leadership element of ordained ministry.
What sort of ministry do you feel called to pursue once you're ordained?
I think the nature of vocation is often that God calls us to place we don't expect. That said, one thing that I feel led to is ministering in more deprived areas, and encouraging young people with passion, energy and time to go and serve in areas with limited resources.
Since beginning ordination training, I've also discovered a real love of the Old Testament and Hebrew. Specifically, I'd like to do some research into some of the female characters in the Old Testament. I am passionate about women in theological education and would love to see more young women learning, teaching, studying and researching so we can have a wide variety of voices represented.
What insights would you offer to young people who are thinking about ordination?
There are still some barriers to young vocations but it's getting better. There are an increasing number of younger leaders in the Church who can be role models, although this is more the case in some areas than others.
Many dioceses are also more willing to take risks and see the potential and the ideas, vision and energy in young people, rather than expecting the full package, recognising that today's teenagers are tomorrow's leaders and you don't necessarily need a wealth of life experience behind you.
It's great to hear that CPAS is launching a vocations weekend specifically for 18-30 year olds. You and Ministry was amazing for me, but I would have loved to go on a weekend with people of a similar age and life situation, sharing the same challenges. My advice to anyone considering a CPAS weekend is to go for it, it's a fantastic way to explore vocation in detail with wise and skilled people in a faith-filled environment.
CPAS recently launched It's Your Call, a new vocations weekend specifically for 18-30 year olds. If you are in this age group or know someone else who may be interested, please visit www.cpas.org.uk/itsyourcall for details of upcoming weekends.