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A Letter from the Pioneer

We have arrived!  The Barracloughs have landed in the North West!

I was actually born this side of the Pennines in Blackburn and as a young child I lived in Blackpool for a few years as well.  Though my husband, Ben, was born in Wakefield we met at Lancaster University where I studied Physics and he was finishing a Media and Cultural Studies degree.  We both stayed in the city after university before moving to Bradford to work for two different debt charities.

We got married in Saltaire four months before moving to Durham where I began the formal training for ministry.  While I was studying Ben felt called to be a social worker and so began his own vocational training at the same university.  We both finished at the same time and moved to Matlock for my curacy where Ben got his first social work job.  We loved living in Derbyshire and acquired a dog, Beatrix, and a son, Solomon, while living there.  We enjoy running, football and watching sports, dog walks, board games, films and food!


It took three days to get all our belongings here and two weeks for the dog to join us!  Now, after quite a while of waiting, we have moved in and begun to settle.


It feels like we do a lot of waiting in our lives.  We waited for the right job.  Waited for the right house.  Waited to move in.  Waited while we slowly unpacked. (Now we wait for baby number two! Due early January.)  In all this waiting, we listened to God, listened to each other and listened to others.  We had to be patient and attentive.  We had to be OK with other people's timings.  Sometimes things went slowly, sometimes things went quickly. 


In my experience, a life of faith often involves a lot of waiting too. And then suddenly God moves and we have to be ready to run alongside as the Spirit leads.  This may not always be in the direction we anticipated or in the timing that we planned for.  The Bible talks about waiting expectantly for things we have not seen, hoping with eager anticipation.  At the heart of this waiting is prayer, trusting in the Spirit when we do not know what to do or say or even how to pray.


You may wonder what it means for me to be a “pioneer”.  The Church of England talks about pioneers as those who first see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside current church congregations.  Pioneering is about seeing a new future and having the skills and gifts to make it a reality.  It is about connecting with people outside of Church and creating new ways of being Church together.  Sometimes I describe my role as like being a community Vicar or a very public follower of Jesus.  I have the same deep love for the existing church as other priests, but I may express this in different ways as we all seek to work together following the Spirit’s lead.  I spend a lot of time outside of existing church community and events.


In my curacy, I spent my time at toddler groups, with families, at community events, at the local gym, co-founding a beginners running group, meeting people to talk on dog walks or over coffee and sharing my life, my family, my home and my faith with others.  This was alongside church commitments and being part of rural traditional congregations.  Pioneering involves a lot of waiting, praying, listening and questioning.  Looking out for the unexpected move of God, finding Jesus in places we previously may not have thought to look. God is already active in our communities and I am on the lookout for where the Spirit is at work and hope, with others, to join in.


Who knows what it will look like here and what we will find, but I am excited to hear your stories of life and faith here and to continue this exploration together.  I look forward to waiting, praying, listening and asking questions with you all.