Kirsten Norfolk, Assistant Curate from the United Benefice of Mounts Bay (and originally from Padstow) is one of seven people who will be ordained Priest at Truro Cathedral in July 2017.
Describing her year serving as Deacon as a “huge privilege”, Kirsten says: “I was greeted with such a warm welcome to the Mount’s Bay Area, continually receiving encouragement and support – I feel truly blessed.
“My first year has been full of variety, with many amazing and humbling encounters. It is such a privilege to walk alongside others and to hear and share stories. Within the sharing of stories, experiences, fears and joys – God is very much in those encounters and conversations as together we discern where God is calling us as we seek to discover the Kingdom.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have welcomed and supported me this past year – it is a real joy and privilege to be serving in Cornwall.”
Growing up, Kirsten was a member of the Methodist Church in Padstow.
“My dad’s family were Methodist and my mum is an Anglican. I was part of the Methodist Church right up to my teenage years when I left to study English and Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire.”
On trips home from university Kirsten started attending the Anglican Church. “There was a period of time where I was between the two churches. I felt I was sitting on the fence and needed to make a commitment. I did feel guilty when I moved on from Methodism, however today it has given me a real passion for ecumenism.”
Kirsten’s road to ordained ministry has been one marked by questions and despite her move to the Anglican Church, Kirsten felt there was something holding her back from being confirmed. “I’m a very questioning person and there was much internal wrestling going on.”
After a year of working, Kirsten went backpacking for three months. “When I got back it was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a plan. That’s when I saw the job advert for a Worship Department Administrator at Truro Cathedral. I thought I’d apply and by some miracle I got the job.”
“It was an amazing place to work, where I spent five and a half very happy years but in the early years I still had no conscious sense of calling. I think there was probably more going on than I realised though.”
Kirsten went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which featured three weeks in Egypt, Jordan and Israel. She said: “It was amazing and I think something was happening there.”
“Coming from Methodism, I was able to take communion in an Anglican Church but I had stopped because it didn’t feel right. On that Pilgrimage, we had a Eucharist in the desert, where I received communion – it was incredibly special. But it was still a year before I was confirmed; an experience that proved to be a very significant milestone in my journey of faith”
Further pilgrimages to Landevennec followed and Kirsten admits that there was a lot bubbling away under the surface.
“During my time at the cathedral I helped organise funerals and weddings. It was especially during the funerals work that I felt most fulfilled. I took an introduction to counselling skills course because I thought maybe that would answer the nagging feeling I was beginning to sense. I think in my heart I knew I was being called towards Ordained Ministry but I just couldn’t accept it.”
Kirsten worked closely with the then Canon Precentor, Perran Gay. “I told him that I thought I knew what I needed to do but I was too scared to admit it. He advised me to speak to my parish priest and then the Diocesan Director of Ordinands and it went from there. I have been truly blessed by so many people who have given me so much support and encouragement during the discernment process and throughout my time at Theological College.”
Kirsten says her journey to ordained ministry has been challenging at times but has also been full of rich experiences, including spending four months at a seminary in Berkeley, California. “I found my middle year at college very challenging but I think it needed to happen. I have grown because of it and I think a lot of my ministry will be walking alongside people who are also questioning. Having the opportunity to spend time in another part of the Anglican Communion was just fantastic, I learnt so much and gained many new perspectives.”
As part of her course at Ripon College Cuddesdon Kirsten did a placement in a prison. “It really made me see the gospel in a whole new light, it brought theology alive. As a chaplain, you are there as a beacon of hope and not to judge. It was an influential placement. As people of faith, we are sometimes called to sit in the uncomfortable places – it is the holding in tension of both the cross and the resurrection.”