Although fully aware of the ’pitfalls and general sense of fatigue with the Church of England’, Hannah Stephenson-Kelly could not escape the call to become a priest and has some encouragement for those feeling disIllusioned with the Church.


Source: Herrmann Agenturfotografie / Alamy Stock Photo

A few months before the world went into lock down, I had two startling words from two women who I was being mentored by. They both felt that God was speaking to me about entering into ordination in the Church of England.

They didn’t know each other and neither of them had ever mentioned it before, so when both of them gave me the same word at either side of the same week, I knew it was time to listen.

Two years before I had received a similar word from a friend’s mum who had generously been praying for me as I stepped out of university and into the working world. Where two years ago I had laughed at the idea, this time I knew that I was ready to heed God’s call.

My mum had already stepped onto this path a few years before. Having felt a call to ministry for some time, she had bravely followed the call into the CofE and just as I was receiving these words she was in the midst of ordination training.

In truth, having received a sense of call I was apprehensive. 

I could see in her journey, one that was not without its difficulties, yet there was real hope for the place of parish ministry and indeed a revived heart for Jesus, and Jesus only, in her friends and colleagues.

In truth, having received a sense of call I was apprehensive. Though my only experience of the Anglican church had been enormously positive, I was more than aware of the pitfalls and general sense of fatigue that people associate with the Church of England.

But a still small voice had been whispering for a while about the restoration of Jesus’ heart at the centre of Christ’s bride and I knew I did not want to be on the side-lines. It can be so easy to shout at the referee from the safety of the stand, but it is a much higher call to roll up your sleeves and decide to do something about it.

Since starting at Wycliffe Hall, where I am currently training, I have been amazed at how many others have had the same call and the same vision over the last few years. My cohort is young, diverse in regards to tradition and full of the Holy Spirit. Many here were surprised when they felt the Lord leading them in this direction, but have found that many others are being drawn into becoming companions on the way.

It can be so easy to shout at the ref from the safety of the stand, but it is a much higher call to roll up your sleeves and decide to do something about it.

I am not naïve about the very real problems we face. There is nothing like theological college to show you that diversity of views is helpful, but also hard and that unity is not a battle easily won. Watching synod - something I never would have imagined I’d find myself doing - was a painful wake-up call to the ways that it feels we have lost our distinctiveness in the present culture.

But this is not a reason to despair. History shows that previous great awakenings in our nation have always come at a time when it seemed as if the Church had lost her way and society had lost vision for needing her. Truly my experience so far has led to more excitement than despair, more hope than disappointment and more faith than doubt.

These are exciting times to be living in and they call for deep prayer and crying out for renewal and a move of the Spirit. The verse my husband and I have been praying in is from Habakkuk 3:2-3: Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord, Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.