He walked into the church hall looking cool with his record bags and DJ equipment. I on the other hand, had spent the night homeless at Kings Cross prior to the mission at Notting Hill Carnival and must have looked pretty rough (but that’s a whole other story). Despite my bloodshot eyes and sleep deprived mutterings, my great personality obviously shone through(!) and we started going out. It is a good story of how we met but the best stories always have a beginning, middle and end. After being together for nine years and married for six, I still think we are pretty much at the beginning of that story and look forward to the way our marriage narrative will unfold. As I reflect on the last few years, I can see how God has provided many opportunities to minister to young people and children together. In this installment, I will describe the changes in our circumstances and in a fortnight will post some reflections on what we have learnt along the way.
Degrees of Specialness…
At 21, I was a young bride, but also self-aware. I realised that at my tender age, I needed to develop alongside my confident husband and not in his shadow, especially as he was 6 years older. Neil had grown up in a Christian family and was well respected in his home church in North London. Shortly after we were established as a couple, I remember chatting to an older woman at his home church. She implied that I was very lucky to be with him, explaining that, ‘he’s very special. I’m sure that you are special but he is very special…’ I knew that we needed to be somewhere where I was seen as an individual as well as a wife.
This was part of the reason that we settled in Chesterfield, where Neil worked as a youth and children’s worker for an Anglican church. During this time, I worked in personnel and then research, but was actively involved in supporting Neil in the youth work and leading various groups. This involved having groups meet at the house, weekends away and other associated activities. From the beginning of our married life together, we saw the importance of sharing our lives with those around us.
At the start of 2004 I took up the post of youth worker at Enfield Baptist Church, leading to a move to Enfield, Neil’s home town. Neil began work at the same time at what is now known as Urban Saints and so began a period where we both worked in full time ministry. It was a good time, although chaotic at points. Youth work often involves a lot of weekend and evening work and this is part of the job. However, this can be harder when both of you are doing this at different times! There were times when our diaries clashed terribly and one of us had to leave the car running in the driveway to enable the other to get to a meeting.
It also provided lots of opportunities for the two of us to serve alongside one another, both in the name of work and otherwise. Neil volunteered at various groups, as well as joint work in the area meaning that we were at events together.
Things changed irrevocably on 27 October 2006 when our beautiful boy Daniel was born. I had 6 months maternity leave where I experienced the joy of being a full-time mummy to our son. I continue to be a full-time mum and always will be, however, alongside this I am also working full-time as a youth worker. Neil on the other hand, finished paid employment at Easter and is caring for Daniel. The last few months have been wonderful as life generally has entered a slower rhythm; there are no more cars left running in the driveway. In fact, we no longer have a car and we are enjoying the pace of life associated with this, coupled with seeing the world through a baby’s eyes.
After sharing this background, I will post more in a fortnight on my reflection on joint ministry, dealing with pain, balancing each other and thinking theologically as a couple. See you soon…