From the Heart – Rev. Debra Blair – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at Debie’s early religious life and how she developed her nursing career. After life as a Nursing Cadet, becoming a Sister and working as a Bereavement Nurse, Debie then believed God was calling her to become a Priest. Here she continues her story.

As a Bereavement Nurse with extra time on her hands and weekends free, Debie got more involved in St. Mary’s church life and became a Eucharist Assistant which enabled her to set the altar, administer Holy Communion, take Communion to the house-bound and other related tasks. She started undertaking readings at church then was asked to lead an Advent Meditation session. One thing led to another and it was then suggested she go into Ministerial training. Aged 53 by this time, and having worked in Bereavement for 10 years, Debie at first dismissed the idea but, after overcoming some initial obstacles, she felt God was sending her a message that this was to be her new vocation. Coincidentally, her mum died during the year and, as a tribute, Debie and Garry (her brother) bought a bell for the St. Mary’s tower. With more time on her hands after caring for her mum for so long, it was now right to for Debie to decide where her future would lie.

Her first task was to contact the Director of Vocations who she told about all the obstacles she had had to overcome and why it had taken her a year to decide to apply again for Ministry training. Numerous interviews followed while going into the church employment process with Debie still working in Bereavement. Eventually the Bishop telephoned to say she’d been accepted as an Ordinand. After 38 years working for the NHS, Debie gave five months’ notice and left the job she still loved but which she knew she needed to move on from to the next stage of her life.

As she had several associated degrees as well as bereavement and safeguarding experience, Debie was able to complete the training in two instead of the usual three years. The training involved gaining experience of the wider church-life including going to a new church for a few months experience; evening classes and weekend study days; summer school and Easter school and learning about many aspects of the role of a Priest and Deacon. Being fortunate to have an NHS pension, Debie was able to become a self-supporting minister which meant she isn’t paid but could be called upon to work in a wider area. It was in February 2020 that she received a telephone call from the Archdeacon telling her about a vacancy at St. John’s Church in Flixton, Manchester, which had been without a vicar for over 3 years.

However, the following month, the Covid pandemic lockdown came into being which meant all job posts were frozen. Having already been “priested” and acting as a Curate at that point, after several interviews and meetings with some of the church members, Debie eventually became Curate-in-Charge at St. John’s in December 2020.

Since that time, she has worked closely with St. John’s other ministers and lay people, PCC (Parochial Church Council) members, Sunday School leaders, local community groups, hall users, schools, regular visits to the local nursing home, etc.

Her typical workload can include officiating at funerals; organising banns of marriage and interviewing couples; preparing Sunday services; producing monthly returns to the C of E; attending Deanery Synod, Chapter and Missionary Community meetings; preparing for special events such as the Festival Manchester and St. John’s celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee; being a member of the Pastoral Steering Group; home welfare visits, especially to give Holy Communion to the bed-ridden; officiating at Christenings; writing sermons; organising courses such as those for Lent; preparing for special events in the Church calendar such as Easter and Christmas; liaising with another local church for cross-services; writing the introduction for the monthly church bulletin plus all the administration involved in running a modern church. She also manages to fit in time to act as ‘cover’ for other local churches when necessary as well as meeting her own Spiritual Director on a regular basis.

But the most important part of Debie’s life is, and always was, her prayer time and her continual aim of strengthening her faith in God who has guided her closely throughout her life.

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Recent from the Heart Debra Part 1

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