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16th October 2005
Canon Sarah James
Profile of Church Army Board Member and Warden of Readers, Gloucester Diocese
What were your first experiences of Church Army?
About twenty years ago I asked Michael Turnbull to lead a day on evangelism for Mothers’ Union members and to plan the day I went to Church Army headquarters in Blackheath, and was shown around. The day helped me realise that evangelism was something that could happen anywhere and everywhere and it fired me to do everything I could in the next few years to encourage the Mothers Union as a society to get involved in evangelism.
Describe how your work with Readers related to the mission and evangelism focus of Church Army
I am committed to the role of an active laity in the church and as Warden of Readers I encourage authorised lay people in preaching, teaching and leading worship. In selecting new people to be Readers I look for enthusiasm to be effective for Christ outside the church where some of the most effective mission and evangelism is done.
When and why did you join the Church Army Board?
I was delighted to be asked to join the Board of Church Army in 2004 as I consider the society to be one of the most active mission agencies with a special focus of mission and evangelism in the UK and Ireland. I support the work Church Army is doing to remind the church that mission really does begin at home.
What do you think are the main challenges for Church Army?
Church Army has a strong and highly valued reputation and tradition and I believe that its main challenge is to work imaginatively and responsively in a fast-changing society yet hold onto its core strengths, values and mission - engaging and equipping ordinary people to bring the good news of the Gospel to all.
What impresses you most about Church Army?
That’s simple - for me it is the variety and commitment of its evangelists!
How did you come to faith?
For me it was experiencing the persistent ‘still small voice’ of God during my schooldays. Gradually I absorbed this sacred truth and when I was a little older and experienced a sudden crisis I found it held water. He really is our ever present help in times of trouble.
Which biblical figure do you most identify with?
Probably Thomas because he needed explanations and to substantiate the claims the other disciples made, yet then committed himself in loyalty to Jesus -“Let us also go, that we may die with him”.
Tell us about mission and evangelism in your diocese.
We have the usual challenge of declining country village churches, but this is balanced with a number of growing churches. Our suffragan Bishop runs faith-sharing team weekends and deaneries have been recently drawing up Mission Action Plans.
What was the last book you read?
“Leading a Local Church in the Age of the Spirit” by Jonathan Gledhill. I found it very encouraging and practical – especially the chapter on preaching, which is my passion – not that I’m any good at it, but I try to help and encourage others.
What is your vision for Church Army?
I’d like to see a closer partnership with, and acceptance by, those responsible for fostering and training ordained ministers to ensure that clergy and laity work effectively together and deliver the ministry that the church needs to reach out to all people.
Canon Sarah James was interviewed by David Coleman
For Sarah and all the members of the Board of Church Army that they may experience the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God as they discuss and decide on the future direction of the society. We pray for God’s will to be made clear about the specific role Church Army has to play within the agenda for home mission in the UK and Ireland.
Born: Catford, London, 1938
Lives: Painswick, Gloucestershire
Post currently held: Warden of Readers for Gloucester diocese and member of General Synod
Posts previously held: Warden of Readers for Rochester diocese; Vice-chair of Central Readers Council (CofE) , Vice-President of The Mothers’ Union.
Secular background: Chartered accountant
Church Army background: Joined Church Army Board in 2004: member of finance committee
Publications: The Deployment of Readers - 1997; Mothers’ Union Worship Book - 1995; To Live and Work ( MU course for the Decade of Evangelism) - 1994.
Family details: Husband Hywel, four children, four children-in-law, and three grandsons.
This article was first published in Share IT - Church Army's Magazine