Folake is a former student at St Augustine’s, and was ordained in 2018. We asked her to tell us a bit about her journey towards ordination, and how studying at St Augustine’s helped to prepare her for her current role.
My journey through discernment
I had been involved in prayer ministry since I was 15 years old, and really wanted to do something with that. When I began to worship at the Rochester Cathedral in 2008, I noticed this area of need there. When I took the idea to the Rev. Canon Jean Kerr, she got the consent of the council and then asked me to lead it. It was like a dream come true leading a prayer and healing ministry, and it felt like that was what God was calling me to.
I admit I went rather reluctantly into ministry to begin with. During the annual Dickens festival in May 2013, the Rev. Canon Jean Kerr, in her usual practice, opened up Rochester Cathedral and created various prayer stations to encourage visitors to pray. While Jean was showing me the different prayer stations, she took me to a table with a deck of cards called ‘Jesus cards’
In case you’ve never used them, they are a deck of cards with Bible verses printed on them. They are arranged face-down across the table and you randomly pick out three cards without looking at them. Once they are revealed you choose the one which speaks to you the most. Mine was; ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:16).
Jean looked at me and said; “I have goose-bumps right now, I think you are being called to priesthood.” This brought tears to my eyes, because two weeks before this encounter, I had a nagging feeling that I was being called to serve in some capacity in the Church, but I didn’t know what exactly. I thought leading the prayer ministry was it. Jean’s words, however, came as an answer to my prayer that God should reveal His purpose in that nagging feeling.
Nevertheless, I was so resistant to begin with, and looked into other ways I could serve, like being a Reader. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised I was being called to priesthood. I resisted for the next 18 months, while everyone and everything around me said, ‘yes’. And I found myself being recommended for training following the Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP).
I decided on St Augustine’s (or SEITE as it then was) mainly because of its location. Even then, I wondered if I could do it. I nearly packed my bags to go home on the first night of induction. There was just too much academic work, and it had been 30 years since I last wrote a formal essay. I was so troubled that night that I asked God, “Father, is this really what you are calling me to?”
I had this book which I always carry with me on trips, titled ‘I am with you’. In my troubled moment while I was praying, a page number from that book dropped into my spirit. I opened it to that page, and read; ‘do not be afraid of what you are becoming. Watch and see what I am trying to show you.’ From then on, I stopped struggling with the idea of becoming a priest.
Studying at St Augustine’s
I really liked the spirit that came across from the staff, a feeling of oneness, and hoped this would filter down to the students. It was also reassuring that there were many other mature students there, and I knew I’d like it. The weekends where we all got to know each other were special – as we got to meet the London students too – and the size of the College suited me. I liked the fact that we were able to pray in the Chapel before and after lectures, and that we would round off with prayer. It appealed to my background as a Christian.
Then the College moved to West Malling, very close to my home, so that was wonderful. And of course, it’s beautiful there, with the serene atmosphere. The style of teaching worked for me in the sense that it combines practical and theoretical. I have a love-hate relationship with essays, and the idea of writing one every term was the ‘hate’ part! But every time I wrote one, I ended up loving it, because by the time I had finished I would have learned things I had never heard of before. It also served a practical purpose – it’s helped shape the way I write my sermons now – as an essay demands that you make clear what you are trying to say and it has to flow all the way through.
How did St Augustine’s prepare you for curacy?
I did my curacy at St Peter’s with St Margaret’s Church, in the Parish of Rochester, where my training continues. My curacy has ended but I’m still there until I get my own parish (although I’m on furlough at the moment).
The sense of family that we got at St Augustine’s went with me to the parish. Through the College I was able to do a placement there before I became curate.
It’s been a lovely four years. I found the parish so friendly and supportive, and much of this is also credit to Rev’d Dr Joel Love, who is a great leader and has really supported me. He would throw me in at the deep end and jump right in with me. It’s always a joy to be there for the people of the parish. They mostly aren’t wealthy, but they give so much of time, support, and love.
One of the things I found useful coming from St. Augustine’s was the use of the daily office or daily prayer book for morning prayer, which we do regularly here. St Augustine’s prepared me for that, with how to use the daily prayer book. I didn’t know what that was all about to start with, as I hadn’t used it in my previous church background, but we used it regularly so that got me ready to navigate and use it. That was all down to St Augustine’s, bringing you into different church traditions.
Truly, I have been shown a lot since I started this journey. I am looking for my own parish now, and don’t know where I will be going yet. For now, I need, once again to trust, wait and see what I will be shown by the one who has called me.