Revd Vicki Burrows, Vicar of Bramley & Grafham looks back on her journey to ordination
As a small child I dreamed of being a jockey. At no point during my early years did I imagine that one day I would be wearing a dog collar. I hated school, was not an academic child and spent more hours on racehorses than studying. I remember being asked to leave the girl guides for misbehaving at a church parade during a very boring sermon!! Apart from these obligatory services I had little contact with the Christian faith but I do still remember the priest droning on and on that day. Years later when our second son was baptised there I remember the congregation giggling when a friend’s child said loudly, “church is boring” during the Vicar’s sermon!
"The church was dark and as a young curate, holding a flickering candle, spoke about a light shining in the darkness something stirred in my heart."
Faith rather like drink, drugs and sex had been a taboo subject when I was growing up because my father an Orthodox Jew had married out; mother was nominally Anglican. Yet strangely as a young adult I longed to be married in the church I had attended for school carol services - and so my journey towards exploring God’s call on my life began. We were required to attend “marriage preparation” classes for weeks; the warmth, welcome and amazing cakes provided by the ladies of the church made me wonder whether there was a God. Weeks after our wedding we attended the midnight service. The church was dark and as a young curate, holding a flickering candle, spoke about a light shining in the darkness something stirred in my heart. Days later I bought a bible and over a period of months read it from start to finish …and despite being newly married I fell in love again….with Jesus. The following year I was confirmed expecting our first son.
"I realised that God calls ordinary fishermen who make mistakes, let others down and have the capacity to speak before they think."
A couple of years later, as a young mum with a toddler and newborn son, the Vicar invited me to launch a new Sunday school in the place where I had been naughty girl guide!! There were only handful of children in that church and two were mine. I felt ill equipped to lead but the Vicar gave me a resource book and left me to it! Weeks later some children joined us and over the next ten years our Sunday Club grew and grew and a number of people including the the Vicar said, “the Church should ordain you.”
For many years I argued repeatedly with myself, with others and with God for I felt ill equipped for the task. I had 5 small boys and whilst I had learned how to share my faith effectively with children I did not think I could possibly lead services or preach let alone go back to studying again. In the end this growing sense of vocation, affirmed by others, began to make sense as I knelt in the church where I had been baptised, rejected by the girl guides, led the children’s ministry and been nagged to offer for ordained ministry. As I reflected on that morning’s gospel I kept hearing the voice of the risen Christ saying to Peter, “Feed my lambs …tend my sheep….feed my sheep” and I realised that God calls ordinary fishermen who make mistakes, let others down and have the capacity to speak before they think.
"I am the proof that Vicars are not all male, grey, single or Oxford graduates."
Today I am Vicar of The United Benefice of Bramley and Grafham. I was previously Vicar of Royal Wootton Bassett and Area Dean of Calne, Before that I was Rector of Long Ditton and during the first three years after ordination I served my curacy in The Bourne (Farnham). Today we care for two foster children and although my 5 sons are more or less all grown up I can still remember sitting in the kitchen with a babe in arms writing an essay as I struggled to bring up a family and complete three years of theological training. I am the proof that Vicars are not all male, grey, single or Oxford graduates - the God of surprises calls each one of us to use the gifts we have. I am a wife, a mother and a priest - I love my “job” and believe that if I, an ordinary woman, can share the gospel which in its simplicity is simply, “God loves you and forgives you” then you can too.
Stop arguing with God and come and meet one of the vocations team - we are here to help you as you explore your calling just as others supported and encouraged us as we explored ours.