Considering her vocation: Jemima Bush

Few of us are fortunate enough to have an unequivocal sense of vocation, something that gives an unmistakable direction to our lives. For many it is more nuanced, their sense of calling can wax and wane or change in emphasis, often depending on other factors influencing their lives.

For young people the array of choices can be bewildering. There is a constant pressure from the early teenage years to take decisions as far as education and careers choices are concerned, all of which feel of monumental importance at the time.

Vocations within the church don’t always necessarily feature high on the list of school careers options. And vocations are not always about a full-time ‘main’ job, but frequently about what people do when they’re not in the office.

So how can young people find their way and balance their sense of calling with all the other demands on their time and attention?

Student Jemima Bush’s message to them would be to take their time and look around for something which makes use of their own skills and gifts in a church context – and not necessarily be set on it being a ‘proper’ job.

Completed an internship

The 21-year-old theology undergraduate has adopted this approach for herself. She has recently completed an internship at Church House, Threemilestone, joining colleagues of many different disciplines and skillsets to see some of the many ways that people’s abilities can be put to use in a church setting.

Jemima hopes to graduate from Durham in June and still hasn’t got a clear career path. But she can see how her vocation might develop. She said: “I have learnt that often when it comes to serving in church, it’s not necessarily what you want to do but rather where your gifts match a need.”

Jemima has been brought up in a home where God and church were a normal part of everyday life. Her mum, Alice, helped to run the local Sunday school, while her dad, Caspar, was a Reader until he was ordained in 2012.

Music became a focus

Jemima’s enjoyment of music soon became the obvious focus for her service in church.  She explained: “My youth group leader, Drew, overheard me singing and saw me worshipping at Soul Survivor when I was 15, and he suggested that I join our church youth band as a singer.

“I really grew under his guidance and taught myself some basic guitar.

“Drew moved onto another job a year or so later, and suggested that I took over leading the youth band. I was really nervous about this and knew the stress of trying to organise and lead a group of peers, but other members of the group encouraged me to go for it since they wanted the band to continue and I was the only person who could make that happen – so I did.

“I don’t love everything about it – although when it goes well, there is no better feeling – but I understand that it’s something I’m good at and there’s a need for.”

“This is what I mean by it not necessarily being what you choose to do in church, but where your gifts match a need. I now lead a worship band twice a term at my church in Durham. I don’t love everything about it – although when it goes well, there is no better feeling – but I understand that it’s something I’m good at and there’s a need for.

“I also often sing backing vocals in my church, which I absolutely love.

“When it comes to speaking in church I avoid it at all costs, but if I need to sing then that’s entirely different and I have a strong feeling that it’s what God wants me to do. I’ve had a great worship-leading mentor called Jonathan, who I met with in Durham after my first Sunday at my church there. He’s really helped me gain confidence and understand that leading worship is something I should do.”

With a dad who has been ordained and a mum with an MA in Theology, it was inevitable that God, faith and church would be frequent topics of conversation at home. But while Jemima recognises that they will have impacted on her choices, she also thinks it has helped to give her confidence to believe in her own decisions, thoughts and faith.

Possible to disagree

She said: “They both showed me that I shouldn’t take everything I hear in sermons, Christian books, articles, and the like, as the absolute and only truth, and that it is possible to be a Christian and disagree with someone’s understanding of certain Christian ideas or ways of reading scripture.

“These discussions and the culture at home of questioning are what made me want to pursue a degree in theology for myself. I don’t think of it as me just doing what my parents did, but rather that they opened my eyes to a hugely fascinating subject.

“In June I’m going to graduate, but I’m hoping to start applying for jobs very soon. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, and it’s very unlikely that I will be able to do anything directly related to my course. I just have to keep thinking and praying and apply for a load of jobs and hope that God puts me in the right one!”