In 1962 my family moved to East Kilbride as part of the Glasgow overspill. As a 3-year old child I took for granted moving into a new town with homes with gardens and indoor toilet. I grew up in a Christian family. On Sundays we were sent to Sunday School at Westwood Baptist Church (before the church building was built) and, at 12, became a Christian at an Easter service. In school I loved sport, singing and dancing. From early on I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and when I realised that you could teach PE, my mind was made up. I studied at Dunfermline College of PE in beautiful Edinburgh, but my heart belonged to Glasgow!
For 37 years I taught in various contexts. I gained experience in working with young people from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of educational needs. I began as a Physical Education teacher, then had many years as a Principal Teacher of Pastoral Care and latterly I was Depute Head teacher responsible for Pupil Support in a Glasgow Secondary school. A significant time in my career was a 2-year secondment with the Mental Health Team as a Liaison Teacher. I learned so much about supporting young people, parents and teachers to deal with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bereavement and self-harm. During my time in education I never had a plan but, looking back, I can see where God’s hand directed my paths, equipping me to develop my leadership and pastoral skills for my job and preparing me for the destiny God was calling me to.
In June 2017 my daughter had flown the nest, my husband was retired, and my sister was very ill so, after 37 years in education, I took early retirement. For fun, and because I was being given more opportunities to lead and preach in my local church, I thought I’d study theology!
I’m now in 3rd year at SBC and it has been fun! I was apprehensive about being on the wrong side of the classroom. It’s difficult being a student especially when you know what it’s like to be a teacher who is asking a question only to receive blank looks or heads buried in books or, more likely, laptops! I also hadn’t written an academic essay for 40 years. At SBC every module is relevant, and the teaching is first class. The discussions and seminars are thought-provoking, challenging and have sometimes shaken my long-held beliefs but the atmosphere of the classes provides a safe and stimulating environment to deepen my understanding of what I believe and develop my thinking and my theology. This nurturing environment has been an eye-opener. Learning with people from a range of denominations and sharing a time of worship and prayer each day has been a joy. The mix of ages and stages is beautiful. We learn from one another through learning and social times. There is a real sense of unity by Holy Spirit.
Last year I was called to be the Family & Community Pastor in my own church. So, from a child to adulthood I have been part of Westwood BC. My role is developing but doors are opening within the neighbourhood. I am now doing Chaplaincy in the very schools I attended – Canberra PS, South Park PS and Duncanrig Sec. Most recently, I have led the Chaplaincy team (and church volunteers) in a Mental Health Reflective Space for 400 young people, staff and parents. God is stretching me, teaching me and enabling me to thrive in an environment which I am totally comfortable with – the schools trust me because I have come from an educational background. And best of all, I absolutely love what I’m doing with the young people within my own church community. I feel that God has prepared and equipped me ‘for such a time as this’.
What next? I have never made plans but wherever or whatever it is God has planned for me, I say, ‘Come On!’
Irene Campbell (February 2020)