Claire’s Ordination at Guildford Cathedral
Previously we heard all about Claire’s charity cycle ride around Egypt. This week, Rev Claire Isherwood (Assistant Curate at St Paul’s, Camberley), talks more about her family, her role, and what makes her tick.
What’s your role at St Paul's?
I am known as an Assistant Curate. I am able to lead worship and preach, take funerals, baptisms and weddings and celebrate Holy Communion. Apart from general pastoral responsibilities, I also have specific responsibility for overall pastoral oversight of the elderly in the church, and at the other end of the age spectrum, Baptism Preparation.
You are quite actively involved in volunteer projects in Camberley, such as Street Angels, and Healing on the Streets. What drives you?
I believe that God shouldn't be contained inside the walls of a church building. To me, church has no walls and I want to be where God is at work, meeting people who don't yet know him and sharing the love of Jesus in practical ways, without judging.
Tell me a little bit about your background Claire, where did you grow up?
I come from all over the place (some would say that hasn't changed and I am still all over the place at times!). So I have no particular roots. I was born in Oxford where my parents lived in a small rented cottage with no mains water or sewage. They got water from a well and used an outdoor privy! Can't believe that was in my lifetime. We moved to North Wales when I was 6 months old, where we stayed until I was eleven living in four different places. I grew up with my two brothers and one sister enjoying the freedom of roaming in the countryside between Snowdonia and the sea. I could speak welsh fluently because we were taught in welsh throughout my primary school years. After that we had a brief stay in Birmingham, and then ended up on The Wirral in my mid-teens. I went to eight schools in all. After all that I studied Dental Surgery at the University of Liverpool, which was where I met my husband Steve, over a dead body (actually 60 of them) in the Anatomy Dept.
How about your family?
We have two children, Jennifer (known as Jenna) and Tim. Jenna lives in Leeds, working for a Law Centre that specialises in helping marginalised and disadvantaged individuals. She plays viola in a band that performs their own songs in Leeds and Northern England. Tim has just been accepted for officer training at RMAS after working for 5 years for a local energy consultancy.
You were recently Priested at Guildford Cathedral. Tell me about that. What is it, and what does it involve?
Priesting is the short name for the service of Ordination of Priests. It takes place a year after the ordination of deacons. It is a service where you make various serious and binding vows, and then the bishop and other clergy lay hands on you and ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill you for your work as a priest. I am always a deacon, which is all about serving God and his people. Priesting gives the added privilege and responsibility of shepherding his flock, celebrating Holy Communion, and offering blessing and absolution to God's people in his name.
What made you want to be a Vicar, and why now and not earlier?
The first thing I should say is that I am not a Vicar - Mark is the Vicar!
I had a nagging thought that wouldn't go away no matter how much I ignored it. The thought was simply that God was calling me to do more for him than I was already. I spent about 4 years thinking and praying, and wishing it would disappear! Gradually that thought crystallised into a realisation that God was calling me into the ordained ministry, and that this ministry was specific to St Paul's and the Camberley area. This was confirmed by going through the selection processes of the Church of England, and by the support I received from Mark, Sue and others in the Church who were kind enough to pray for me.
Finally, what is your hope for the people of Camberley?
My prayer for Camberley is that people will come to know Jesus in a personal saving relationship with him. Years ago I had a picture of a river of fire coming down from heaven onto the centre of the platform in the chancel at St Paul's and then flowing in and out of all the chairs, out of the back door and down into the streets of the town. I have never forgotten it, and pray that one day the Holy Spirit will flow through our town in an unmistakeable way bringing us all to our knees before the glory of God.