Katrina is an ordinand studying full-time at West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked her to tell us a bit about herself, and what being a student here means to her.
I live in the Guildford Diocese and I’m married, with a grown-up daughter.
When a small voice started calling to me about 20 years ago, I asked a vicar friend whether that voice would ever go away. The answer was, “not any time soon.”
At the time I worked in banking, but was made redundant at the same time our daughter was going away to boarding school. My husband and I wondered whether this was the moment to listen to the voice. But our daughter didn’t want to be the ‘vicar’s daughter’ (though she says she doesn’t remember this)!
So I took a job in social housing and then worked at Guildford Cathedral.
In 2017, I was stewarding for ordination services. Usually I’m at the back, welcoming and putting people at their ease. This time, I was at the front, and everything was happening right in front of me. The small voice was suddenly shouting incredibly loudly; “THIS is what I’ve been talking to you about.”
My husband was incredibly supportive about doing something about it, and I spoke to a colleague at the cathedral who turned out to be a lecturer here; the first step that led me towards being accepted as an ordinand.
Why St Augustine’s College of Theology?
I love having the opportunity of two centres – the peace and tranquillity of West Malling Abbey, deep in the Kent countryside, combined with Trinity House in Southwark. My daughter lives in London so it gives me an excuse to see her and visit the city.
The welcome from the staff, and the nuns, is wonderful, and it feels like a family. It’s big enough to have lots of interesting lecturers and connections, but small enough that everyone knows everyone.
My very wise daughter said, “you are about to embark on something challenging and possibly uncomfortable. You need to be somewhere where you feel comfortable and safe.” She was absolutely right. I feel nurtured and cared for in a family environment, but also poked and prodded – challenged.
It’s the right place for me.
How is your course helping to shape your leadership?
It’s making my foundations deeper and broader, as though, instead of walking on a stiletto shoe, I’m developing a snow shoe. I know I feel more confident and my faith is deeper and stronger, despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges that are inevitable when studying theology.
That’s giving me a very firm foothold. From that I understand and appreciate more, and I’m coming to a place of greater peace.
There is a wide variety of people here – different ages, social backgrounds, ethnicity, points of view and churchmanship are represented. I’ve learned a lot about other people, and myself.
At first I thought about school chaplaincy, as I loved leading a church youth group for many years. But now, through more thought and prayer, I feel called towards to being a vicar, possibly in a rural community. I imagined people would flock to choose rural communities, but that’s not the case. There are a number of problems in rural communities that people aren’t aware of, and nowadays you’re responsible for more churches than just one. In a large city you can be anonymous, but in the countryside everybody knows you, so you’re never off duty.
My parish placement is going to be in a different church – local, but very different from my own experience. At the moment, I don’t really know where I’ll go next. I know that God knows, but I don’t have enough experience yet.
That’s what college is for, different experiences that shape you into the leader God wants you to be.