What’s it like to be a MSE?
For many people, a call to ministry means a 360° about-turn from their previous line of employment. But for Jane Burns, that isn’t the case. After her ordination as a Deacon at Peterborough Cathedral on 24th June, she became a Minister in Secular Employment (MSE) – a pathway that she didn’t know existed beforehand.
“I had a sense that God was calling me to something. I felt quite strongly that it wasn’t parish ministry,” she says. “I spoke to Steve Benoy (Director of Ordinands, Vocation and Formation for Peterborough Diocese) and he talked about MSE, and I thought: ‘That feels right for me – that’s what I’ve been searching for’. It’s not that common – I think there’s only one other MSE in the Diocese – but I’m going to be a Minister in Secular Employment within Contact.”
Contact is a charity that aims to support families with disabled children. Jane has been Director of Fundraising and Marketing there for three years, and she is continuing in her role – something which she is very pleased about.
“My work have been very positive. It’s not a Christian organisation in any way, shape or form, but it’s an organisation with a big heart, and it’s down-to-earth,” says Jane. “I’m responsible for income generation and marketing, and it’s really rewarding. It’s a small organisation – the turnover is £5 million – but I’m on the senior management team, which is a privilege.”
Jane’s new calling as an MSE is an unusual step, though – one which she describes as “exciting and a little bit scary”.
“You’re a minister at work with two main areas of focus,” she explains: “pastoral care, and being a prophetic voice for the Church in the workplace, and for the workplace in the Church. It’s a wider ministry.
“I’ll be wearing a dog collar at work. I’ve been commuting on the same train for 13 years, so people will see a different thing happening.”
Jane is also aware that changes may occur during office hours. “I’ll still be doing my day job – I’ve no idea how that will look, though,” she says. “For example, if someone talks to me about a pastoral matter, when is my ministry hat on and when is my senior management hat on?”
Someone who will be able to advise on this is Reverend Richard Coles. Jane will serve her Deaconship at St Mary’s Church is Finedon – “I’ll be Assistant Curate in the parish – being there on Sundays and being involved in other aspects of parish life” – and is already gaining the benefits from spending time with someone who knows what it is like to walk her path.
“He has a semi-MSE employment. Our secular working lives are separate, but it’s about sharing learning. We have had many conversations,” says Jane.
“He finds that the engagement he has on the train is significant too. He told me that he once missed his stop because he didn’t want to stop chatting to the person he’d been talking with!”
‘The Great Vocations Conversation’ is a new initiative from the Church of England to encourage all ministers, lay and ordained, to have at least one conversation about vocation with someone new every month. Ministers can sign-up to the challenge via www.churchofengland.org/greatvocationsconversation.
If you want to explore ministry further, or know someone who does, contact: