Dear Friends

It’s always difficult to know what to say when writing a ‘first’ of something - what to put in and what to leave out - that’s the question! Let’s start with a big ‘Hello!’ to you all.

The last few months, since Mike, Nat (now 11½ ) and I spent such an enjoyable January weekend with you, have passed by too quickly, but also too slowly, as we have prepared in our own ways and separated ourselves from familiar ‘landscapes’ to embark on this new adventure in faith among you.  We are excited to come and live and work amongst you and I can hardly believe that I am now to serve with you as a Minister in SPACE!

The outset of every adventure starts as an intrepid step into the unknown, so at times we have all felt both excitement and fear in equal measure as we’ve prepared for, and now as we set out on, the journey ahead.

This is the latest twist in a life-long journey of faith, as I have responded to God’s persistent call.  Preparing for ministry was a mixture of great opportunity and great challenge.  Getting to grips with academic work was a testing experience at first, but I’ve learned a lot from some wonderful, thought provoking lectures and tutors; from a rich variety of pastoral encounters and visits and through so many people through whom I’ve come to know an even livelier God than I had already encountered in my life-long adventures in faith.  Through challenges and joys, God has been shaping me for ministry and, I believe, particularly preparing me to share in the ministry and mission of SPACE.  I know the time I spend and share with you will continue my learning and continually equip me as I learn from and share in your experiences of God’s lively and enriching presence among you - in the everyday and ordinary, as well as in the special and extraordinary experiences of faith and church life.

I hope my skills and interests will enable me to serve you well. I trained and worked for some years as a URC Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) working in Nottingham and Leeds with a range of Community and Church groups and individuals.  I enjoy art and listening to music and watching films and sustaining breaths of fresh air out in the hills.

We moved from Leeds to the South West, for family reasons, where there were no CRCW posts, so I worked for a number of years in the Charity, Community and Voluntary Sector. It was during this time that I first perceived God calling me back to take an active role in ministry.  But now I felt a new challenge, to participate fully in the Church’s worship life, sacramental life and in pastoral care, as well as in the ‘familiar’ community activity of previous days.

So, I began candidating for Ministry in 2002, but illness and then motherhood diverted my attentions.  But God’s call never really went away and his persistence became more and more irresistible when I began working for the South Western Synod as a Synod Pastoral Advisor.  So, I started the process again, was accepted for training, starting my academic studies at Westminster College, Cambridge in September 2011.

Now, four years later, I’m very much looking forward to the variety, the challenges, the joys and the ‘privilege’ of ministry; to meeting you, getting to know you, working with you and to hearing about and sharing your faith journeys. I look forward to all that you will teach me as we grow together and learn together; as we listen for God’s lively word; as we read and study the Bible together, worship and pray together, as I learn the ropes and venture into a new stage of the life-long journey I have both enjoyed and ‘wrestled’ with, a journey which continues now as we become companions on the road of faith in God, through Jesus Christ, at this time and in this place; sharing stories as we walk together with Christ as our constant companion.

I pray that God will equip all of us and bless our work together as we seek to share our faith and God’s great love in word and deed, and in sacrament and service, as God’s love burns in our hearts, fuelling us for the journey.

Wishing you all God’s blessing,

Janine Atkinson

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