Vocation spotlight: Following the call to be an artist–priest

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August 2022

Vocation spotlight: Following the call to be an artist–priest

by Theodora Jejey

If someone had told me three years ago that I would be training for ordained ministry in the Church of England and that training would finish with a self-supporting curacy, I would have looked at them with bemusement.

Yet, what I would have readily dismissed is now the reality and the next chapter of my story.

Before coming to Ridley, I worked as a professional actor in the theatre. I did all kinds of things which I loved. It is also the only work where I truly feel God’s pleasure and delight in me in a tangible way. It was one of the many ways I knew that being an actor was my vocation. I imagined giving it up when I came forward for ordination training, even though laying down my vocation as an artist never felt right.

So I will now be a self-supporting curate, which means the Diocese does not financially support me. I am responsible for finding my work and my housing needs. I will complete my curacy at Saint Barnabas Church Pimlico Road part-time. Sharing this news with others was often received with surprise, followed by a look of pity, sadness or disappointment. It made me feel I had failed in some way. After all, isn’t the goal to be trained to be a parish priest and only a parish priest?

The simple answer is no.

Going forward, part of my work will be to work out what it means to be an artist–priest. This road is less travelled, and very few people warn you about the fear when you’re trailblazing, especially with very few in front.

So I’m going back to work in the theatre, but I will begin by working backstage in the wardrobe department (among many things, I have an interest in costume). I am called to come alongside and be amid theatre workers and those in the arts. These include company managers, stage managers, lighting crews, cleaners and those who serve you ice cream at intervals. It also includes those in the spotlight (literally!) — the actors who give themselves six days a week, performing ten shows a week. I am called to those who won’t come to church because of bad experiences or their working hours exclude them. These are the people I say to God “Here I am, send me”.

Theodora Jejey completed her ordination training at Ridley in 2022
Theodora exiting the Senate House as a Trinity Hall graduate. Photograph by Lloyd Mann, University of Cambridge.