Karen Campbell talks on life after the pandemic
My name is Karen Campbell and I’m a Parish Minister in Edinburgh. I have two children called Cameron and Fraser, Archie the Dog and Ron and Harry, the cats.
The other part of my life, for the last two years, has been as Convener of PMPIG (Presbytery Mission Plan Implementation Group). This has been both a challenge and an opportunity, to meet people and walk with them on their journey to decision-making and now implementation.
I knew it would be challenging, but am glad I didn’t know the extent of what was to come. I have not been idle, nor have I or my Congregation been immune to Presbytery Planning and all the attendant challenges, hopes, fears and reimagining opportunities for mission.
One of the main challenges for me has been maintaining a work-life balance and I can honestly say I often failed. Fortunately, I have two sons, who make sure I give myself permission to breathe and stop from time to time, as well as our golden Labrador Archie, who has me on a timetable for attention and walks.
Being out in the open air and walking is often where I find space to pray and to develop ideas for so many parts of Ministry. Walking aids my mental and spiritual health and I always return better, even if soaking wet and freezing.
I have realised since COVID-19 how much the Congregation value my ministry. There were plenty of online things during COVID-19 addressing the needs of the Congregation to reach out in worship, fellowship, bible study and prayer. Now back in person, activities continue in person, except Streaming.
I have protected my soul by taking a Retreat in the URC retreat house in Lindisfarne and taking time to be outside and using prayer and reflections, to breathe in the ozone. The pilgrimage route to Lindisfarne is on my list for the next year. Every week I make a point of taking a morning to walk and pray. It’s important to just be and remember that we are enough for God, and we are called for the people we are.
I also like to read poetry and this is a way which gets me in touch with the Eternal things.
Throughout training, we were continually asked to reflect on how we were collegial, reflective and formative practitioners. It is part of my Ministry DNA and informs everything I plan or consider. I’m a team player at heart. Over the years I have valued Study Leave, which adds value to my ministry in the long run. I also engage in Group Pastoral Supervision, which is a discipline and a blessing.
Ministry is always a sacrifice and an offering up to God of who we are and what we do. In the wake of the 2021 General Assembly, there were many nights when I couldn’t sleep, reflecting on the enormity of the task before us, however, I have hope that what we do is right.
In the last year, a close colleague has been living and dying from a terminal brain tumour. Her faith was a constant reminder that God was right here. Perspective is reached in an instant when we are faced with Eternal things. Not long before she died, she asked me to complete a sampler she couldn’t do. It was simple but felt like a constant liturgy in her life. It contained the words of Sister Julian of Norwich: ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’. It was a pleasure to do this for her, but also a challenge when the single-strand Celtic knot work had to be completed, but if a thing’s worth doing!
Authentic Christian faith requires us all to hold firm and I have held on tight in the last few years while trying to let go of some things which no longer have meaning now, and also embrace new things, and try to be imaginative and not afraid.
Presbytery Planning allowed me to engage with difficult situations and with wonderful people who want to follow Christ, and like all of us are trying to discern how best to do that. We have wonderful people in our Congregations and parishes and have lots of hope for the future.
After long days in the parish and working with committed colleagues in PMPIG and Presbyteries, I like to switch off through music; singing, playing and listening and my new-found pastime of listening to podcasts. I have a whole variety of podcasts I listen to, including politics, history and Ukraine. At the same time, I began to learn Dutch (it seemed like a good idea at the time) with Duolingo. For the most part, I have done ten minutes each day and has kept my brain moving differently after the joys of Ministry and Planning.