Carol Atkins is a first year pioneer ordinand but is now in her second year of study with CMS on the diploma programme. I asked her about her call and her experience of training with CMS.
HH: Carol, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. I know that, as they say, this is not your first rodeo! You studied with us for a year in 2018, how did you find that experience?
CA: I loved doing the certificate. It was hard work but I loved meeting up with others of a like mind and talking about issues from a pioneer perspective. It became the highlight of my week.
I’ve done four terms of the CMS pioneer course now – I did a year from 2018-2019 and graduated with the certificate and am now back doing Year 2 over two years as an ordinand. I love the course. It really gets me thinking about myself and my practice. At the moment I’m doing the Mission Ecclesiology module with Paul Bradbury – it’s so interesting! Even though it’s all on Zoom at the moment, it’s still really good. My brain normally feels like it wants to explode by the end of a Monday. I spend the rest of the week processing all I’ve learnt ready for the next week. I love it. The people on the course with me are brilliant.
HH: Can you tell me a bit about how you became a pioneer? I know browsing Facebook you saw an advert for our open day at CMS on the pioneer course but didn’t think you met the criteria. Tell me more, and do you now feel you meet the criteria?
CA: When I got to the open day, I remember Jonny talking about what makes someone a pioneer and I agreed with everything he said. I couldn’t believe it! I remember saying to him afterwards “You just described me!” So that was it really!
Doing the course helped me to see I was in the right place. I just needed confidence and self-belief that I was one. Now, having done the certificate and passed Pioneer Panel, that has been affirmed by others, which is always nice.
HH: Now you are studying with us as a pioneer ordinand, can you say a bit about how your path came around to ordination?
CA: So, I had been investigating ordination for a while before I started down the pioneer route, I didn’t think I was as a traditional priest! The CMS open day showed me that I was a pioneer and knowing I could study as a pioneer ordinand at CMS meant I pushed that door and found it opened!
HH: Can you tell me a bit about what you were doing before lockdown? I know you were running ‘Reading Family Support Hub’ – supporting families, helping families in your town of Reading – any interesting stories to share?
CA: Yes – one of the families I helped were from Nepal. The wife was 29 weeks pregnant when she got Covid. She got poorly quickly and ended up having to have her baby delivered by C-section whilst she was in ITU. When she got better and came out of hospital, her son had to stay in special care. They were living in one room of a flat with another family and her mental health wasn’t great. Working with the council I managed to get the family alternative accommodation, helped them move and eventually the baby was discharged home to the parents. The sight of seeing the family all together and happy was one I won’t forget in a hurry. It was so satisfying to know I had helped them get to a place where they could cope on their own.
HH: How are you coping with lockdown? I know you have carried on having monthly retreats; not going to a retreat centre but having them at home. That must be both interesting and also challenging, can you tell us more?
CA: Retreats at home take a bit more discipline. You have to ignore the temptation to hoover, put the washing on etc. I tend to put worship music on to start with, to help me engage with God. And then I will spend time focusing on a Bible verse, meditating on it and doing something crafty – drawing, colouring etc. If it’s nice weather I can go into the garden, which is great.
HH: Lastly, Carol, how can we pray for you?
I would love prayer for my new placement. I have just started in a parish in South Reading where there is a high level of deprivation. There is much that could be done there but it’s knowing what it is that God is calling me to do there that is important. I have a bit of an idea, but need to see exactly where God is leading me. Also, prayer for my TI (Training Incumbent – the vicar who supervises my placement) would be good.