Talking ministry: Following in the family tradition
Published on 15 December 2022 4 minutes read
Perhaps it was inevitable that Sia Van den Bremt would feel drawn to become a preacher.
Now training to be a Reader with the Church of Scotland in Brussels, she follows in the footsteps of family members who were ministers or lay preachers within the Methodist Church, as far back as her great-grandfather who was a Methodist evangelist.
Her parents were even serving as missionaries in Sierra Leone when she was born – hence her rather unusual first name.
"In the region where I was born, the first daughter was traditionally called Sia," she explained.
"I did go back a few years later and it was wonderful because for once in my life I didn't have to explain my name!"
However, the family did not remain in West Africa long and soon returned to England where, despite the family's strong Methodist connections, Mrs Van den Bremt's religious upbringing took a more ecumenical turn.
"We moved to a new town after my dad died. When the New Town was built, they decided that instead of building five churches they would just build one," she said.
"We had Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Anglican, so I was brought up with very little idea of the difference between all these denominations and it was a very interesting experience to have."
This meant that when she moved to Brussels in the mid-1980s following another family connection – her grandmother was Belgian and met her grandfather while he was serving in the First World War – she had an open mind about which church she would attend.
She said: "I didn't really know where I was going to go to church, but on the map, just down the road from where I was living was something called ‘Eglise Ecossaise', so I went along and I fitted in and I've been there more or less ever since."
Brussels' Église Ecossaise, St Andrew's, is part of the Church of Scotland's International Presbytery and when Mrs Van den Bremt decided it was time to follow in the family preaching tradition, she decided to do so as a Reader within the Kirk.
While not full time ministers, readers are commissioned by the Church of Scotland to lead worship, preach and offer pastoral care when required. They can also serve as locum ministers during vacancies, and can work across or beyond their Presbytery boundaries.
"I always thought that I should preach some time, but I held off because I thought that if I wanted to be sure that God wanted me to do it, then I had to wait until somebody asked me," said Mrs Van den Bremt, who works for an international agricultural sector business.
That did eventually happen when she was invited to preach after chatting to the St Andrew's ministry team.
Closest to God
Now three-quarters of the way through her Readership training, Mrs Van den Bremt says she loves the preaching aspect of a Reader's duties, but also loves the preparation which goes into each sermon.
"I feel that's when I have a dialogue with God and that's when I feel closest to God and that's wonderful," she said.
Mrs Van den Bremt, who has two grown-up children with her Belgian-born husband, admits that she can get nervous when she gets up to preach, but still feels that if someone needs to hear a message, God will pass it on, no matter how clumsy she feels her words may be.
"I feel I need to send it upstairs and say: Just do what you need to do today, God!'" she laughed.
If Mrs Van den Bremt sounds modest about her preaching, perhaps that is because she has some tough acts to follow in her family.
"My grandad was a Methodist minister in the North of England in the 1930s and we moved back to that area when my dad died," she revealed.
"There were people who spoke to my mum then who remembered my grandad's sermons. I think that is incredible, to have touched somebody in such a way that they remember 30 years later. I don't know if I can aspire to that, but that would be the ultimate, to have someone remember something you said 30-odd years later.
"To be able to have that effect and bring God to someone and that they remember it so well after such a long time, that is an amazing privilege."
Each month, the Talking Ministry series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, as well as discernment resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage your own reflection on how God might be calling you.
You can read Sia Van den Bremt's full interview and access the resources for December on our Talking Ministry page.