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Claire Nicholls

ClaireNicholls
University was a big time of discovery for me.  It was also the first time that I encountered anyone who thought ministry was male - this came as a bit of a shock and a challenge.  I didn’t understand why until, on a Christian Union training weekend, I lay in my tent reading Isaiah 6, responding; “Here I am Lord, send me”.

It was at this point - aged 20 - that I knew that God was calling me into ministry.  I began to study some of those difficult Bible passages as God continued to gently nudge me into exploring my call in more depth.  

I worked as a teacher and during that time, the call from God to ministry got stronger, and I was accompanied on the journey by ministers who affirmed my calling, encouraged by working with those in similar positions and pushed onwards by friends and family.

It was at a Baptist Assembly that I took the next step.  I remember vividly that women were encouraged to get on with it and follow God’s lead. My journey to training took 11 years from that first call in the tent, but here I am, ministering seven years on.  I am in an ecumenical context working with the Methodist Church, who only ordained their first female minister as recently as 1974, but have systems in place to mean that any church could have a female minister. Methodist staff meetings are the only ministers’ meetings I go to where other ordained women are present, and remind me that being a lone female voice is not always how things are. One of my biggest challenges around here where women ministers are few and far between, is that I often feel I am representing all ordained Baptist women, and I am the lone voice that cries out – but what about the women we know...?

As we celebrate 100 years since the first woman entered college to train for Baptist ministry, we need to think about how we affirm and encourage women in their calling through processes that bring difficult encounters with those who challenge that calling because they are women.  For me it was those who stood alongside me through those challenges from those I worked with in University CUs.  Now it is those ministers who accept me as equal and go the extra mile to seek to open barriers to affirming women in their calling and ministry.  It’s those who recognise that I don’t do this because I want to, but because I’m called to and can do nothing else, and as I keep on keeping on, pull me back up when someone undermines the person that God has called me to be.  Being a woman in ministry presents particular challenges that we should not ignore, but I am always reminded to go back to that final push God gave me at Assembly to just get on with it and face whatever comes my way.
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First black woman to become an accredited Baptist minister in our Union
Team chaplain at Milton Keynes University Hospital
Minister of Portrack Baptist Church, Stockton on Tees
A Regional Minister with the South Wales Baptist Association. She was minister of Chatsworth Baptist Church in West Norwood, London from 1990-2007.
Minister of Stapleton Baptist Church in Bristol
An undergraduate and Minister in Training at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, on placement at New Road Baptist Church
     100 years of women in Baptist ministry 
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