Becoming a SPA (Southwark Pastoral Auxiliery) by Moira Roberts, All Saints West Dulwich

I was joined by my fellow course candidates at Southwark Catherdral in the afternoon on the 9th September 2017, having just completed the Bishop Certificate, growing in Faith and Life course.  We were all presented with our certificates and a dedicated prayer from the Bishop. We even got a mention and photo in The Bridge. 

Doing the Bishop Certificate was the beginning of my journey in becoming a SPA.   I was a little apprehensive at first starting this course and a bit overwhelmed after the first session.  But gradually after a few sessions and definitely after completing my first assignment I was much more comfortable, and realised I can do it.  Also along with the incredible people I met, I have made lasting friendships, we fully supported and encouraged each other. 

Another process of beginning my journey was to meet with a Vocations Advisor.  I met a couple of times with Mother Susie Simpson, Prison Chaplain.  These meeting were very informal and really helpful in talking about your own faith journey and God’s calling.  This personal story very much becomes you script throughout your process as you meet different people.                                                                      

These meetings I found came with great guidance in order to explore my vocation. Resulting in recommendation to continue with my journey.

With Mother Susie’s good approval I then completed the SPA application pack.  Again along with my faith journey story, sponsor and encouragement from my incumbent, my becoming a SPA process had begun.   Followed by an interview with Andrew Zihni and then on to the Selection day. 

Finding out that I had been successfully recommended for SPA ministry made me very proud and excited.  Having started the process with the enrolment of the Bishop Certificate in September 2016, and remembering how I felt then, now being told I had been selected in July 2017, I felt that I had already grown in my Faith and Life and was ready for the next stage. 

SPA ministry to me is being able to care for those who sometimes do not have a voice, being compassionate, a good listener and being responsible for another’s wellbeing. 

Being able to share in God’s mission. 

9 months on Moira shares about when she was commisioned as a SPA...

The last time I wrote a piece for the website, I had just been to Southwark Cathedral for a service on completion of the Bishop Certificate, Growing in Faith and Life course.  I was presented with a certificate by Bishop Christopher.  Doing the Bishop Certificate was the beginning of my journey in becoming a SPA. 

Now 9 months later I am back at the Cathedral, again with Bishop Christopher, along with all the Diocesan and Archdeaconry SPAs.  I am here to be commissioned as SPA with Yvonne and Nicola.  The three of us have made it, we have been together in training for the last 9 month every Tuesday evening at Trinity House, three weekends at Wychcroft and we are finally here.                                        I was very nervous and slightly excited.  I couldn’t quite believe it was me.  God had called me and I had listened.  The cathedral was full, and my family and friends were all there.                                         As we processed in I had this sense of being extremely proud of myself and the sense that God was also proud.  I read the first reading, which I was so nervous about doing, but when I stood up and started to speak, I heard this voice saying “you can do it, you are not alone”.  I am not sure whether it was just me telling myself, as if to reassure me, but I had a slight suspicion it was the Holy Spirit surrounding me, and I cannot seem to shift that feeling, not that I want to.                                                       The whole evening was so special, I couldn’t stop smiling. Becoming a SPA has been the best part of my faith journey.  And to have made such great friends along the way has been a bonus.  Everybody involved in the training has been so supportive and encouraging.  It has been really good to meet other SPAs and hear their stories and to have their support. 

Within the 9 months I have learnt so much more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses.  I have met so many different people, who have contributed to my journey.  During the training we get the opportunity to complete 3 visits and 1 placement.  I have been to a men’s prison, slept overnight in a church with the homeless and had fun with children in an after school club.  I have worked alongside assistants living with people with learning difficulties.  All of these adventures I would never have encountered in my normal day to day life.  All of these experiences have enriched my life and inspired me to fulfil my calling.  

I am very proud to be a SPA and with God by my side I will continue to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him, now and always.