“People are too complicated to have simple labels”
Hello there, It has been a while since I have done this, and so much has changed in that time. I have left a job that I loved in Lancaster, working with some of the greatest people that I have ever met. We have left Sedbergh and relocated to Durham, where I am currently training for Ordination within the Church of England.
The idea of me becoming a Priest has shocked some of my friends, but no one was more shocked than I was. Most people have been hugely supportive, yet it still seems surreal when I say it out loud, I am training to be a priest.
Residential college wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I am learning more and more: I realise that what is easiest, isn’t always what is best.
We moved to Durham in September and I started training at Cranmer Hall in October. Here I was, studying at one of the finest educational establishments on the planet.
When I started I felt that I was being judged and I felt that I was constantly being labelled: Conservative, Evangelical, Northern, Undergrad, Naive, Uneducated…
I had long reached a point of realisation that labelling people wasn’t always helpful, and that people were much more than the labels that they (or others) use to identify themselves.
I somehow had seemed to forget some of that when I arrived at Cranmer hall. I felt intimidated and somewhat inadequate to a level that I had not felt for a number of years. I felt that I didn’t match up with most of my peers academically and also in terms of my ability to understand the very establishment that I was committing to serve for the foreseeable future. I looked around and I saw people that seemingly fit the mould more readily than I did. I deduced that they had it ‘all together’ and that they were not feeling anxiety about the new environment that they found themselves in. The feelings within me led to me projecting a confident persona, that betrayed what was actually going on internally. I had started new jobs, and been in new environments over the years, but with each of those places, I was confident in my ability to fulfil the role that was being asked of me. The same confidence was not there when I found myself in the role of a student. It had been a while. I was confident that I had a lot of the tools required to be involved in leading churches, but the two years since starting this journey within the C of E was like staring into the great unknown. I didn’t know many of the phrases that were being used all around me. The language of the trade if you like. I didn’t even fully understand the labels that others were offering of themselves. I couldn’t really think of how best to answer the questions such as ‘What is your Churchmanship?’ in order to help people understand better who it is that I am.
This insecurity and the fact that I was thrust into a community with a lot of new people from a different range of backgrounds, led to me making assumptions and using the very labels used by others to identify themselves and others, in order to try and understand people. I then made assumptions based on the labels that people had used to share something of themselves.
This is not an attack on labels as such. Initially they can be useful, but often they are inadequate and it appears that people can’t be defined by simple labels.
In the beginning people seemed to identify themselves through location, church tradition, age, marital status and various other things.
I wasn’t even sure what label best fit me in order to help people understand me.
I noticed that I was drawn to those that I had identified as being similar to me.
There seemed to be comfort in identifying the things that I had in common with people, when everyone felt like a stranger.
As the months have progressed, the labels have been discarded as I have gotten to know the individuals within the community. People are much bigger then the labels we or others used to identify us.
As we have spent time together, shared experience and relationships have grown things have became clearer. I have found real joy in sharing a journey with this group of people and I have counted it a real blessing to get to know the people that I thought that I had so little in common with. I have discovered a group of special, quality individuals that do my soul good.
I count it a real honour and privilege to be on this journey with this group of people, and there is something special in the fact that we will have spent this time of formation together. We will also be connected forever due to the fact that we will have shared memories and experience.
It is strange when I think back to when I was feeling isolated and that I didn’t fit in, to now feeling like a part of a special group of people from so many different backgrounds. We are so different in so many ways, yet each is a special part of the group. I am really enjoying being part of the Cranmer community.
People are so much more than the labels that they use to identify themselves. or those that others use in order to try and group us together.