February: Take this Moment
Each month throughout 2021, the Church of Scotland's ‘Talking Ministry' series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, along with resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage reflection on how God might be calling you at this time.
For February, Ellen Griffiths Weir speaks about her role as a children and youth worker and we explore the theme: Why am I here?
My ministry: Ellen Griffiths Weir, children and youth worker in Shetland
Ellen Griffiths Weir has been the children and youth worker in Shetland since 2018. She was appointed to the role as part of radical changes which have seen Shetland transition from being a presbytery to a single parish. Originally from Glasgow, Ellen is part of a team comprising three ministers and three ministries development staff. She holds a diploma in children and youth ministry and is married to Alastair, a Baptist pastor.
What's your role in the Church of Scotland?
My role has been to support the local congregations which make up the parish in their engagement with children, young people and families in their local communities. It also involves bringing people together from across Shetland to pray, learn and collaborate. I'm a point of contact for other organisations and denominations for anything to do with children, families and youth work too. More widely, I contribute to the work of the whole parish team.
How did you get the role?
Like a lot of people, I guess it has been a little bit circuitous! After studying maths and music at university, I taught maths in a secondary school in London for two years. I then left teaching and moved into business consultancy doing training. It was while I was doing that I realised I missed working with children and young people, which has been bit of a thread all through my life. Even at school I did peer mentoring and worked in kids' holiday clubs.
Through the church I was going to while in London I ended up doing an internship which was one day a week. I had the chance to try a few different things there, including a bit of sung worship leading, but it was the youth work that I came back to and I realised this is what I really love. I went to Oasis College in London to do a part-time graduate diploma in youth work and ministry and at the same time worked for a youth work charity and volunteered at my church.
When I moved home to Glasgow in 2013, my local church was looking for a youth worker part-time and eventually I increased my hours. We came to Shetland because my husband is a Baptist pastor and he'd been looking at different ministry options. The church in Shetland really stood out for both of us – my mother is from here and I'd spent a lot of time in Shetland as a child. Initially my role didn't exist and I got a job working for the local council doing admin. Around six months later, when this Church of Scotland job came up, I was selected for it and started in the summer of 2018. I was the first of the MDS staff put in place as part of a team when Shetland became one parish and formed a new presbytery with Aberdeen.
Is there anything people would find surprising about your route into your role?
It's not what I had planned at all! I loved London – there was so much going on and now here I am in Shetland, somewhere it had never crossed my mind I would end up living. In London the whole world is there – you don't have to go far to meet people from all over the globe. It's always on the go but it can be quite tiring. Shetland suits me – I love it. From my window I can see the sea and the cliffs, I can go and see the puffins, see the orcas, and the seals. The sense of community here is great – people look out for each other. I'm delighted this is where I've ended up.
Any advice for someone wanting to follow a calling?
When I was living in Glasgow doing youth ministry I felt, ‘this is definitely what I'm called to do'. But when I first moved up here and worked for the council I went through a period of doubt – I could see how a 9-5 job had its advantages! I had to go back to the drawing board with God and hold my sense of calling with an open hand. Not that I was turning my back on my sense of vocation, but I had to say ‘look God, wherever I end up, I trust that you'll use me and who you've made me to be in that context'. My advice is to explore your sense of call with an open mind.
I think my biggest thing with ministry is that people shouldn't doubt that God can use them. It's too easy for folk in the church to have a fixed idea of what leadership and ministry are, and trying to convince them that they too are called to lead in their own way – that's what I'd love people to hear. Don't doubt that God can use who you are; you don't have to fit into someone else's mould. Be attentive to how God is forming you and trust that He can use you. I'm all for trying to encourage people to not doubt themselves – we need people and their gifts.
What inspires you to keep going when there are challenges in your work?
It's a combination of how I've found God in different ways and how He continues to grow me – that's the adventure and I'm energised by that. He's never going to stop forming and shaping me, even if it can be difficult. I relish the challenges, even if they're a bit overwhelming. I love being part of God's mission in this way and trust that God will bring good things out of the journey even if it's difficult in the middle of it. Of course, I also gain inspiration, help and encouragement from the people I work with and the people I meet.
What have been your highlights from the last few years?
I absolutely love this job. It's hard, I think because it's a brand-new job and there's no template, but I'm energised by the challenge of that. I have hugely appreciated how the people in Shetland have navigated the changes going on within the church here. I know I won't have a complete picture of how difficult it has been for people; there has been a lot of grief involved in the process and I don't want to minimise that, but there is also a lot of hope and they have really embraced the opportunities presented by the transition. It's such a radical shift and it's an honour to be on part of that journey with people so far.
February Discernment Resources
Why am I here?
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Having lived through the strangest of years, we have all experienced the frustration of large elements of life being paused and long anticipated plans being ruined. Life has been less than it usually is for many of us – less freedom, less people, less variety, less opportunity. As God's people we are not made for ‘less' – we are made for more!
Keeping trusting that God is still active in the world, trusting that God still cares, trusting that Jesus is still the only hope has enabled our faith not to flounder. It's what kept the church open and alive, involved in communities and meeting the needs of the people around us.
There has been a great opportunity for learning over the last year – yes, maybe a new language or a new hobby, but also learning about ourselves. Through noticing what we have most missed, what we've found hardest, we are able to learn new things about ourselves, our resilience and our priorities. Through noticing our creativity, the things we've tried to do, the complaints we have about how things are, we can learn about our potential. We're able to learn why we are here!
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What if God were to use this last season to re-orientate and sharpen us? Rather than seeking ‘normality' might we be ready for God's invitation to a new direction and opportunity to walk a different path? It is possible, that God would speak to us about a new shape our lives will take in the days ahead. Are we listening?
We have been made for more than the everyday grind. We have something to offer to the story which is still to be written for our communities, towns and cities. God has a plan for how he will use our lives for his glory.
It might be easy to be overwhelmed by possibility or discouraged by our own limitations. That's why we take time to reflect on the lessons learned by us and the things quietly spoken by God. He doesn't look to us for our great ability. God looks for our availability. Will we say ‘Yes'?
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
What have I learned about myself throughout this last year?
Which parts of life am I relieved or content to leave behind?
What has God been showing me and saying to me about his work in the world and my part in it?
Am I ready to explore fresh opportunities? What could they be? What might my next step be?
How does this make me feel?
What might stop me?
Prayer – John Wesley's Covenant Prayer
There are two great days in a person's life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.
"I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen."
If you would like to consider how God might be calling you to serve at this time, you may want to discuss further with your minister or be in touch with your Presbytery to explore local opportunities.
If you are interested in exploring a call to the recognised ministries of the Church, you can find more information on our vocations page and can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a Discernment Conversation with one of the Recruitment Team.