To celebrate International Women’s Day on Tuesday 08 March 2022, we caught up with Revd Charlene Smith – who was recently licensed as the new Priest Vicar of Wakefield Cathedral – to find out more about her role here, within the NHS and what International Women’s Day means to her.
Hi Charlene, welcome to Wakefield Cathedral! Could you please tell me what your current roles are?
CS: I am the Trust Chaplain at the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust, covering Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury Hospitals. Alongside this role I am delighted to have recently been licensed as the Priest Vicar here at Wakefield Cathedral.
That’s great! Could you tell me more about your role as Trust Chaplain?
CS: I’ve been in post at the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust since July 2021. As a Christian Chaplain I see my role as occupying that space between the secular and the sacred, supporting everybody within the Trust – be it patients, families, or staff members – be it through offering pastoral, emotional, cultural, religious, or spiritual support. I also work across the Trust providing the general rites and rituals around Christian worship.
What did you do before taking up the role of Trust Chaplain?
CS: I was previously a Parish Priest as the Rector of Ackworth and Badsworth – I loved my time there but saw the opportunity to join the Trust as a perfect fit for me, vocationally I felt called to be on that cusp between the community setting (the hospital) and the faith that I hold.
You became the Priest Vicar of Wakefield Cathedral just a couple of weeks ago (welcome!) Could you tell us more about what this role will involve?
CS: Of course, I am delighted to be a part of the team here at Wakefield Cathedral. My role as Priest Vicar is a complementary one to my Chaplain role in that I work out in a secular position in the community at the hospital, whereas the cathedral role offers a more traditional position so it is nice to have that sense of balance between the two.
As Priest Vicar I will be involved with the traditional services, presiding eucharist, preaching and anything else which is required. I’m really excited to be back in a ‘church setting’ – it’s what I was trained to do and what I have always loved.
When did you know that you wanted to take on a role within the church, was it from a young age?
CS: Absolutely not, in fact nobody is more shocked to see me sat here than I am!
I’ve always had ambitions to be creative and I had a successful career in fashion earlier in my life. Then in my late 20’s I felt a calling – I decided to get baptized and things really just continued to grow from there. I had a real sense of feeling that God had a hand in what I was doing and where I was going, I gradually started taking more and more notice and it has led me to where I am today.
We often think we have our lives mapped out but I’m a great example to the contrary!
So what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
CS: I think International Women’s Day isn’t just about empowering women, it’s about equality – for all people – and standing up for that sense of equality to make sure every voice can be heard.
I think it is a great opportunity to encourage and support one and other, not only in ministry but in everyday life.
What would you say to other women who may be considering their vocations or even just considering their faith, attending church services etc?
I would encourage any person to follow a vocation if they feel they have that calling in their life but likewise, I would advocate any person to follow their passion and do what will make them happy and fulfilled.
It’s not just about the gender, it’s about seeing past gender roles and labels and highlighting that whoever you are and whatever you feel called to, there is the support in place to be able to achieve it.
Is there any women who particularly inspire you?
CS: My grandmother. She was simply inspirtaionl in every way, a real standout woman – standout person – who could achieve anything she set her mind to.
She was such a loving and warm person who always knew the right words to say, you just had to look at her and she would make you smile and I take inspiration from her everyday and hope I can pass some of her inspiration on to others.
Thank you so much Charlene, is there any last thoughts you would like to add?
CS: I would just like to say that I am really looking forward to meeting more of the congregation and people around the cathedral in the coming weeks and months. I have been attending services at the cathedral for a few months now (just hiding on the back row!) but I’m really excited to get out and meet the great people who frequent the cathedral and build relationships going forward.
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