Cham Kaur-Mann is the first Asian woman Minister with the Baptist Union of Great Britain. She is Co-Director of Next Leadership, whose mission is to transform global leadership from the ‘inside out’, equipping leaders to serve well, in today and tomorrow’s world
Picture the scene: female, Sikh, from Marshall Street, Smethwick, Birmingham - hears about the god-man Jesus, as a child. Those of you who know your social history from the 1960s, will be familiar with references to Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ to appreciate the context of my early years.
This exposure to Jesus came about as the result of the happy ‘accident’ of being taken to a Christian youth group by our then Jamaican lodgers. This ‘accident’ was unappreciated by both my community and parents once they realised what (and who) I was being exposed to. Years later, while at university, I had a decisive encounter where I gave my life to Jesus. I said, “yes, I will follow you, no matter what.” And of course, life would never be the same.
Frankly, I didn’t realise what I was letting myself in for! Not only did I face opposition from my family and my community amounting to ostracism, but I then entered into the world of the Western church. The learning curve was exponential. Having to adapt to church culture, and in my case Baptist church culture, all felt very peculiar.
I felt like an outsider, who didn’t know the rules of engagement or understand the language. The texture and sound was strange and a far cry from the familiarity of the gurdwara I used to attend. Why did people sit on pews? Why no meals at the end of the service? Indeed, why no food in the middle of the service? Why did people wear thick coats during the service? Why wear shoes in the service? Why, why, why…
So, when I sensed the call to ministry, no one was more surprised than me! Who, me?! Why (again)? Surely not? There was no one else I could turn to who looked like me or who had a similar background to mine. There were no role models to follow, or to draw strength and encouragement from.
What kept me going? In a word… Jesus! And the call… and the reminder that if God had called me, no one could ‘un-call’ me! I also had a few good friends who loved me and believed in me and some mentors who encouraged and inspired me to persevere through the ‘selection process’ – alien though it was.
Opposition certainly came and there has been ‘friendly’ (and unfriendly) fire, sometimes from the unlikeliest of places and people (surprisingly, I was actively discouraged from my call to ministry by a woman in ministry).
I now appreciate that my cultural heritage, the way I eat my food, the unique perspective I hold and the lens through which I look at the world - are all a gift from God to the body of Christ. In the words of a wise friend, I remind myself, ‘God has called me, because
of who I am and not in spite
of who I am.’