Cross of St Piran Awards 2023: Charlotte Irwin
From ‘Slurps & Burps’ to Soup Tuesdays, Charlotte Irwin has been a mainstay of St Agnes Church since she and her husband moved to the parish 21 years ago.
She started by helping with the Sunday School, and joined the Parochial Church Council a decade ago.
She is also a member of her Deanery Synod, the Diocesan Synod and the Bishop’s Diocesan Council. Her efforts at all levels continue to sustain the work of the church across the diocese, a true Rock of Agnes.
Charlotte was born in Derby and was brought up attending an Anglo-Catholic church in Bath. As a teenager she “rebelled” – as she puts it – and started going to a local Baptist church. She confesses she continued “dabbling in other denominations” but eventually returned to Anglicanism. “I think I never really left it,” she says.
She met her husband on her very last day as a student at the University of Warwick. They’d both been members of their university’s chaplaincy but hadn’t met till that day. It was on a minibus – on a chaplaincy trip to a monastery in France. The rest, as they say, is ecclesiastical history.
They married in 1990. Her husband is also an active member of the church at St Agnes. “I feel very much that this award recognises both of us, and also our local church community,” she says. “It’s very much not just a one-woman show.”
She admits that her feelings about receiving this symbol of the Diocese’s appreciation of the value of her work are somewhat mixed. “We all like to have some recognition for what we do,” she says, “but I’m also embarrassed because I don’t think I’m anything special. It’s genuinely a team effort.
“So I’m quietly pleased but also a bit embarrassed.”
Charlotte attributes her faith to a Baptist friend who showed her that faith wasn’t just about believing in God but about having a personal relationship with Christ.
“My faith is a foundation and a constant in my life,” Charlotte says. “It’s always been there. It’s the foundation from which I draw strength.
“Probably like most people, I’ve often just bumbled along and at times my faith hasn’t been so active, but it’s always been there. It’s a comfort, and strength and integral to who I am. It probably makes me a better person than I would be without it. I hope it makes me dependable and compassionate.”
Charlotte expresses that faith through her efforts to support her community and her church.
“I care passionately about my local church, about it being in and of the community, about showing the community what we really are,” she says. “It’s about showing the community the church is relevant, and that it’s a place for them whether they have faith or no faith, that we welcome them without preaching.”
Her modesty is striking. “In all the things I’ve done, nothing is particularly big, nothing headline-grabbing. But it’s all about those small things, about trying to make the church a place where people can come and hopefully find God – and certainly find warmth and love.”