Church on Sunday can feel worlds away from our day-to-day lives. We asked Christians to tell us how their lives connect with their faith for our new Whatever You Do prayer calendar. The prayer requests will be tweeted each day. If you have a Twitter account follow them on the Whatever You Do account: @1CorTen31

Annik Coatalen is a ballet teacher.

Annik Coatalen

I teach ballet to all ages, but particularly children aged between seven and 17. I have been doing this for more than 40 years, having danced all of my life. I was brought up in France, with British parents speaking English, and just a French paternal grandfather. Dancing and my Church of England upbringing (my maternal grandfather was a parson in Somerset) were all intertwined, as they are both a way of life that require dedication.

Aged 12 I was sent to Elmhurst Ballet school in Camberley – a boarding school with strong Christian values. Father John who was married to the headmistress, Mrs Mortimer, was head of the Actors’ Church Union. There were daily services, and two on Sunday. We wore our ballet shoes and pointed our feet as we walked up the aisle in our small chapel if we were in the choir.
I completed the three-year teaching diploma at the Royal Ballet School and became a professional ballerina dancing for various companies in Europe. I had to give up following extreme pain in my toe joint. Marrying a Frenchman, and falling on hard times were the making of me. I had to start teaching. I had always been terrified of that prospect as I was too shy but I found it so much more enjoyable than focusing solely on myself.

I love to move, and I love music and art. I also love children, and I am so lucky to follow them for many years, even after they leave me. They know I am a Christian as I always wear a crucifix. I love one which my mother often wore, that was given to my grandfather on his confirmation in 1892, when he was 12.
I hope that my way of being sets an example. I certainly see how caring the parents are for each other in times of need. People often say that my school is like an extended family.

Although the children that I teach here have every material gift, they suffer more with stress and the pressure of wanting to obtain Distinctions in exams, and often have three activities after school. The challenges are the admin which keeps changing, and old age creeping up and making it harder to demonstrate fully.

Annik’s prayer points:

For all mental illnesses, be it anorexia, depression, stress.
That children be protected in every way, and be encouraged to do their best.
That everyone, including myself, gets their priorities right. God is King. Jesus is Lord.
That Christianity can boldly reassert itself all over the world.

Derek Lancaster is a Licensed Lay Minister at All Saints, High Wycombe and a Senior Manager in Procurement for multiple local authorities.

Working in the ever evolving world of modern management as well as serving as an LLM means I have to juggle my roles carefully. As well as 400 miles commuting each week and a busy job, I serve at All Saints, looking after worship, with the music director. I look after church communications, maintaining the Facebook page and producing displays. It doesn’t leave much time for my wife, Jan, and so we guard the time we have together as a family. Our children are grown up but we look after our grandchildren regularly.

I have been working in management for 20 years. Alongside the routine business, I have a lot of interaction with colleagues, doing coaching and helping them develop. I can’t directly evangelise but that doesn’t stop me speaking of the things of God. I believe that God is love and that ‘those that live in God live in love’ and therefore sharing that with others at work is important. Some people have never felt very loved and it is about affirming them as people.

I see God at work when I’m coaching someone and they have one of those lightbulb moments that moves them on. It’s just a joy to be able to give thanks for that. I see that God is at work in the hard times people go through. I am aiming to reflect God in a small way. It’s a tremendous privilege to be able to help people. Normally I tell people I’m a lay minister early on. If people want to know about my faith they ask questions. Occasionally people have asked me to pray with them, but that is absolutely by invitation rather than prompting. I usually pray for a person I’m coaching before we meet, and depending on how it goes, afterwards. I’ll also try and pray before key meetings.
I offer pastoral support at work. Someone was going to a funeral and I simply said to them: “I hope it goes well, I’ll be thinking of you.” You never know what seed might be sown. On one occasion I arranged a quiet hour and said everyone was welcome to come and practise mindfulness, or pray or simply take time out. A handful of people came and that was quite good but one or two eyebrows were raised and I haven’t repeated it.

When things are going badly or I get something wrong my faith draws me to be more open and to seek forgiveness. I apologise and am honest about it. Without faith it would be easy to be from the “never apologise or explain” school of management. I do encounter that from time to time.

One of my biggest challenges is juggling lots of things and a busy diary. I’m leading a big project and there are always people wanting things. When you are busy, it is a challenge to try and make time for those who need it. Working on projects involving change leads me into difficult decisions, for example around people who may not be performing well, and of course, dealing with redundancies.

My secular work helps my work in church. Those in full-time ministry can forget what full-time work is like and it is helpful to remind them. It brings a different angle to my preaching, with illustrations from the world of work that are more recognisable for people with jobs. I have a very ordinary, office based job. It isn’t the sort of role, such as nursing or teaching, that you might traditionally expect someone involved in ministry to have.

I have got a really great boss who is very open and encourages my coaching and pastoral work with people, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to flourish at work.

Derek’s prayer points: 

Praying that people who are having a hard time at work might be affirmed in their work and realise God’s calling on their lives
For leaders who have to make difficult decisions in times of austerity
For the elected council members who run the local authorities and have to make tough decisions.
For those who deliver front-line services for local authorities, both staff and contractors, especially for schools and for social care teams
For Christians who are not able to share their faith at work
For my parish of All Saints, High Wycombe, for our ministry team, and for all who come to worship or to visit.