Space for you to fill that gap – interview with Rhianne O’Rourke

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In this month’s student interview, I heard from Rhianne O’Rourke about her journey into pioneering, the surprising freedom of studying theology and the relief of being able to be herself as part of the learning community at CMS.

HH: Can you tell us how you got into pioneering, please?

RO’R: I got into pioneering by accident! I was often on the margins of social groups growing up, and church wasn’t really any different. I think because of that I’ve always been aware of those who just don’t feel like they fit in, and I felt that there was a gap in traditional church life where those who had felt ‘different’ or ‘not the norm’ sort of got lost. Together with my husband we found ourselves taking in those people to our home and offering them a way of connecting with faith and life where they felt known and able to be themselves. Our pioneering has been very informal and built around relationship and discipleship.

HH: I’m very glad you came to join us here at CMS, what made you choose CMS?

RO’R: I chose CMS because during the discernment process I had indicated to my DDO that I would like to start some sort of theological training, as I would want to learn even if I didn’t get selected for ordination. He suggested looking at CMS, so I came for a visit and a chat with Jonny Baker. It felt right straight away, and even though I didn’t have a very defined version of pioneering CMS felt like somewhere I could develop that and explore God’s call on me. I also felt very drawn to the fact that I could be completely myself without having to fit in to a set of ‘norms’.

HH: You studied with us before starting on the ordination track. How did you experience a call to Ordination?

RO’R: I felt called to mission and ministry in the C of E about three years ago. I knew I had a calling to mission and ministry for most of my adult life, but it wasn’t until around three years ago that it became clear it was within the Anglican Church. I love that diversity in expression it offers, from pub church to forest church to singing the ‘Gloria’ robed up and incense billowing…there is something for most everyone. And if there’s not something for you then there’s space for you to fill that gap.

HH: What’s been hardest for you in this process?

RO’R: Balancing family dynamics has been hard for me, my husband is also training to be a vicar. We have three amazing boys, but it means we have to ensure we are careful with our time. Thankfully we have an incredibly encouraging training incumbent who is just as protective of our time, and CMS has been so supportive.

HH: What have some of the high points been for you?

RO’R: Being at CMS has felt just right…I didn’t know I was academic until I started here. I had my first child quite young and as a result didn’t finish university. I didn’t ever think I would have any kind of academic qualification, especially not in something I enjoyed as much as I’m enjoying studying theology now. The balance between the academics and the practical and the creative has been the perfect blend for me, and I’d encourage anyone who has never seen themselves as ‘academic’ to give CMS a try.

HH: Thank you for encouraging others to come and join us. Could you say more about why ‘Being at CMS has felt just right’?

RO’R: Being at CMS has felt just right because I didn’t have to be anyone else to fit in. I could be me with all of my quirks and insecurities and I have found space to explore how to be more fully me. CMS has also rooted a lot of my practice in theology. I was worried at first that studying theology would feel constraining, or would attempt to force my thinking and understanding down one particular path. I have found it has done quite the opposite. What I’m learning at CMS has given me room to explore and seek understanding. It has made things wide open.  

HH: How can we pray for you?

RO’R: I would love for you to pray for me and my husband and children, especially as we explore curacy over the next year. Pray for Worcester (my context), and for my eyes to be open to what God is already doing there. Finally I’d ask for you to pray for my training incumbent. She has her work cut out with two of us!

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