The gems that life is made of – Jane Gray on hosting the Bible in Context course

Jane is studying with us at level 6, having joined us at Year 2 of our diploma course; and kindly offered to host the Bible in Context for us last month

HH: Firstly, Jane, can you tell me a bit about yourself as a person, your ministry and work, please?

JG: I am a retired business woman (well, theoretically retired!) and am a licensed lay minister and CMS lay pioneer. Much of my ministry involves working across parish boundaries facilitating greater collaboration between churches as they seek to engage missionally with their communities.

What are you studying with us, and what have been studying with us, and can you tell us about experiencing the Bible in Context as a student?

I have been studying with CMS for the last three years, having recently graduated in Theology, Mission and Ministry at diploma level. This year I have continued studying, converting to the BA course. As part of the diploma course I attended the Bible in Context course two years ago on a residential basis.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course on a number of levels; because it was a residential course I found it really enabled me to bond with the student group as a whole.

The teaching was something else! The course was run by John Drane, and one of the memorable moments was over lunch in the canteen when someone asked me if John “was really as heretical as they say”! In truth I found John a marvellous teacher and his knowledge is amazing. I did find though that his teaching challenged me beyond anything I could have imagined; at times I felt that everything I thought I knew about the bible had been ripped up and thrown in the air. It took me some time to re-evaluate many of my previously held ‘truths’ and reconsider them in light of his teaching. But I found the whole module exciting, stimulating and energising.

What promoted you to offer to host the module in your home for us?

Two things I suppose. Early last year I attended a weekend course at someone’s house in Liverpool, and I thought it a lovely idea. That set me thinking about my own house and whether it could be offered in a similar way. I am in something of a state of transition at the moment (well, as a pioneer who isn’t?). Formerly, before my husband died, we did, to a large degree, live a life of excess. He was a successful businessman and we lived the life that goes along with that. From that lifestyle I have been left a large house and lots of facilities; my current challenge is whether to let it all go and simplify life, or whether I can and should use the blessings that I have been fortunate enough to have for the benefit of others, in the larger context of furthering the proclamation of God’s kingdom.

How did you find the preparation for hosting and was there any spiritual element to this?

The preparation work was a bit like falling off a log! My business is in catering where we serve very many people at a quick pace, so to cater for a group of 10 who were very amenable was a lovely experience; no pernickety reviews on TripAdvisor to worry about!

I always think there is a spiritual element to feeding people; it is a lovely, fulfilling experience to give of yourself, your time, energy and experience as you nourish and feed others. I always feel it has both practical and symbolic aspects and there is great joy in seeing people enjoy what you have worked to provide for their nourishment, in body and soul.

How did it go?

I think it went well. It was tiring and full-on, but the group seemed to like both the house and the food. Many hilarious moments; my two amorous dogs who regularly insisted on demonstrating that to the group, usually as a photo was about to be taken, laughter and fun over coffee and biscuits, evening meals spent discussing the world at large, all that sort of stuff; the gems that life is made of.

How can we pray for you and your work?

It would be good to have prayers for discernment as to where my ministry is best served, what I do about the future, whether we decide to convert the house as a retreat, all those sorts of practical ideas. And that God continues to use me in his amazing mission on earth; any part I can play in that is beyond compare.

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