Whatever You Do

Read about the experiences of two more lay people as they live out their Christian faith in their daily lives.

Tony Eccleston:

Tony Ecclestone

When I retired after a lifetime in education and children’s social care someone said, ‘Retire well, and retire often’.  I’ve now retired twice and am back yet again working in schools part-time as the chair of an interim executive board (IEB) and as a member of the governing bodies of two other schools.  IEBs are set up when schools are judged to be inadequate and are not improving quickly enough. While governing bodies of many schools meet only two or three times a term, IEBs generally meet every month, or even more frequently than that.

Over the last 30 years governing bodies have taken on more and more responsibility for schools. Delegated budgets, increased scrutiny from inspectors, changes in curriculum and assessment systems, and safeguarding responsibilities have demanded more and more from governors. At the same time local authorities have been harder pressed in maintaining their support for governing bodies and the pressure on governors has grown.  So it’s a demanding job and not surprising that many schools find it hard to find volunteers.

Sitting on committees and panels may be tedious, but it is enormously satisfying to be in and about schools to see children learning, to celebrate their successes and to play a part in schools’ improvement. That’s why I do it.  And there’s another reason; as a Christian I believe it is part of being salt and light in the community.  Every school must address the development of children’s understanding of spiritual, moral, social and cultural things and we need to have a voice in saying what exactly matters.  This is what will shape the nature of our society in future.  If we believe that religious education is important; that schools must be tolerant and inclusive; that kindness and generosity should be modelled and encouraged, we need to be there.

Of course, there are sometimes opportunities for a more specifically Christian witness. Church groups run after school activities in two schools I know. I am also part of a small team of volunteers that runs “open the Book’ sessions each week in one school.  As governors and volunteers in other activities we Christians can help to ensure that knowledge of the Bible, faith and Christian values remains a fundamental part of our society. That’s also why I do it.  What about you?

Please pray for:

  • Christians who serve in one way or another in schools to be effective influences for good and for God
  • Your local schools
  • The work that the Diocese does to support schools
  • Local churches that engage with schools
  • More volunteers

Emma Carter

I am a research scientist working the field of cellular and molecular biology. It all started with the genetics module in A-level biology; I was hooked, and went on to do a degree. I’ve been working in scientific research for 20 years.

I have always been fascinated by how things work. I have an annoying attention to detail and order, combined with a fascination with nature, which makes me ideally suited to science. During my degree I spent a year working for a pharmaceutical company, and I didn’t like the monetary focus and lack of care for dedicated staff that the company had, so I made a decision to work in academia. Academic research is funded by the Government and charities to further our knowledge of biological systems and to improve people’s lives with cures for diseases. I think every researcher has a passion for being a part of the progress of knowledge, for the good of humanity.

I gave up working in the lab to spend more time with my children, so I am currently working part time as a laboratory manager in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Oxford. A typical day involves purchasing all sorts of consumables and reagents for the team, organising for broken equipment to be repaired, training new lab members in Health and Safety, keeping track of spending, organising rotas for meetings, seminars and cleaning duties, meeting and talking to sales representatives from various suppliers and helping to prepare for funding audits.

Sometimes the pressure of organising things when several people are putting different pressures on with time deadlines can be stressful, plus I sometimes I wish I could be back in the lab doing some real science. However, it is rewarding to see everything running smoothly, and for people to be able to do some really great science without having to worry about the little everyday things like paperwork and restocking.

Financial pressures have definitely increased at the beginning of this year, as the economy has become more unstable, and everyone is putting up their prices. We are also worried that good researchers may not want to come to the UK any more since the EU referendum, and some of our funding comes from the EU, so that will probably not be renewed.

My very first job in science I experienced a strong call from God to go and work at the Sanger Centre on the Human Genome Sequencing project. At the time we were in competition with Craig Venter, who wanted to charge people for the information about the genome, which our team (including Francis Collins of the NIH, who has spoken many times about his Christian faith) believed should be free for everyone. My current role is about being a servant (with Jesus as a model); using my skills and experience to enable good science to happen.

God as creator of the universe has made the world at the cellular level deeply fascinating and beautiful. All the time I see people inspired by the beauty of science, both visually from microscopic images, and from the deduced behaviour and complexity of the cell and its proteins and nucleic acids. Sometimes, surprisingly, I have found many colleagues are also religious, and even those that aren’t are likely to pray for good results! Every day I see in the news stories about science that have saved lives and alleviated suffering; and as a research scientist one is always a part of that vast network of information which ultimately brings these projects to fruition – God is working through our intelligence and curiosity to bring goodness to the world.

Prayer points:

  • That governments and funding agencies can fund more work that will impact positively on lives of those in less affluent countries.
  • To help scientists who struggle with their work-life balance to find a way to work well but not neglect their families and friends.
  • For good Brexit negotiations between the British government and the EU so that the great scientific tradition of our nation will not suffer, and that scientists of all nationalities will continue to be welcome in our Universities.
  • For Postdocs and others who work in science, who are often on temporary contracts and face difficult and uncertain times ahead. Many of these good people have families and it’s not an easy period for their careers.
  • To thank God for our amazing planet, the beauty and intricacy of which we can discover afresh, and in more detail, generation after generation.