The freedom to fall and find newness from chaos – interview with Katy Partridge

Portrait photo of Katy Partridge

"Art is either neglected or used inadequately within church and mission." - Katy Partridge

Helen Harwood talks to postgraduate certificate student Katy Partridge

HH: Katy, can you tell us a bit about your history and what led you into pioneering mission?

KP: My background is in the arts. I trained at the Royal Academy of Dance, and eventually taught in Post-16 Education. I still dance, and perform occasionally. Before setting out on the path to ordained ministry back in 2014 (when I had no idea what ‘ordained ministry’ was!), God graciously gave me a dream. In that dream I was in a wild open landscape, with others around me and following Jesus – the Good Shepherd. As we were following, we passed a sheep pen; it was a white picket fenced enclosure and inside were perfectly pruned sheep wearing satin blue ribbons and bells around their necks. The shepherds looked emaciated and were separated from their sheep by a glass office. As I began exploring my sense of call to ordained ministry, I read the ordinal (the authorised liturgy for ordaining new ministers) which says to ‘set the Good Shepherd always before you as the pattern of your calling.’ Therefore, for me, priesthood primarily means following Jesus with others, going on that adventure together and trying as much as possible to throw off the constraints, biases and barriers which can so easily become entangled in tradition. I think pioneering mission achieves this really well. Here is my autoethnography which explains my draw towards pioneer ministry far better!

HH: I know you are new to CMS so I wonder what brought you to study on the MA programme?

KP: My mum died of cancer at the end of my first year studying for an Oxford BA in Theology and Religion, so I took the year out to recover and seek help for complex PTSD and grief. During that year, I worked as a shop assistant in a (very trendy) retail store. The other staff members became like a family and very soon they all started calling me ‘vicar’! I realised this young, artistic, diverse family would never feel at home in an established, traditional church setting and that the attractional model of mission simply wouldn’t work. This new family of mine would not and probably should not try to conform to the white upper-middle-class-ness of most of the churches that I knew. All of these experiences (as well as having some additional revelations whilst studying feminism and womanism), led me to conclude that Pioneer Ministry was going to be the most effective way to reach my world with the good news of Jesus. The MA programme at CMS will enable me to learn about mission and to apply my studies rather than focusing on purely cerebral, academic ideas. Because the MA is spread over three years, it means that as I start my curacy next year, I will be continuing to learn from the community and experienced staff team at CMS.

HH: You co-lead ‘Equipping the Called #ETC’ can you tell me more about the organisation, the support offered to the 100 female ordinands and curates who attended your online conference this year?

KP: We set up ‘Equipping the Called’ #ETC in 2018 with the vision to provide conferences and resources for female ordinands and curates. It’s not representative of a particular theological stance or church tradition, our vision is simply to equip and encourage all women called to ordination at these formative stages. This year was so much fun; we had some incredible speakers and women joining us with all sorts of backgrounds and from all over the country. Even though we were online, there was a real sense of community. We also have a monthly podcast. The content of #ETC 2020 is free to view now on YouTube. We can be found on Facebook @leadetc and emailed at equipping.called@gmail.com.

HH: Can you tell us more about Faith In Arts #FIA? I know this is a new project so it’s be good to hear about the origins of the idea.

Dance is my first language. This is the case for many people who find they are able to express deep truths most effectively through the arts. Art has a way of opening up channels of communication. Art can challenge and provoke by connecting deeply with our emotions. For this reason, I am frustrated that so often art is either neglected or used inadequately within church and mission. My hope is that Faith In Arts #FIA will become a resource for groups/churches/individuals to draw from in their own contexts of faith. Although it is at the very early stages of development, artists are beginning to contribute their work to the project. For example, the Psalms Series consists of short videos visually exploring each psalm through various artistic mediums. I hope too that poetry will be contributed.

Here is a video created for Christmas called ‘Mother Mary Made a Melody’:

If you would like to contribute some work that could be used within this project, please get in touch at fia.faithinarts@gmail.com and check out the Facebook page at faithinarts2020.

HH: So as someone new to CMS, and only a few weeks in, how is it going so far?

KP: I can’t tell you what a relief it has been to walk through the doors (both virtually and on a few occasions physically) of CMS and feel immediately at home. A friend once said that in order to survive theological training, you need to find your tribe; a bunch of people who will love you, cheer you on and inspire you. This is what I have found! The library is buzzing with inspiring literature, provoking topics and stories of missional adventure. I love it and I can’t wait for the next session, even if it is on zoom!

HH: Lastly Katy, how can we pray for you?

KP: My biggest fear is that, in ministry, the zeal for mission will eventually fizzle out, or that I will just settle comfortably with the way things are. Please pray that I will continue to faithfully follow where Jesus leads, and that others would be able to join in the adventure of following Jesus.

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