Our May lunchtime conversation was with two City Women, one approaching retirement and the other embarking on her career in Birmingham city centre. Barbara Hatton and Alice Pyke shared very different workplace experiences of living out their faith at work. But what shone through consistently in our City Women lunchtime conversation was the down-to-earth prayerfulness of each of them, in such different contexts.
Barbara has just retired from Anthony Collins Solicitors. She was surprised to be offered the job as Anthony’s secretary, feeling she’d given all the wrong answers – for example, “Why do you want the job?” “I don’t, but your Personnel Manager thinks you need me”! Anthony Collins Solicitors was founded on Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”; and Barbara has been at the praying heart of the firm over more than 22 years. She has had opportunities to pray during conversations at the photocopier and also to pray in conversations with clients over the phone. Barbara shared the story of how, as a young mum, she heard a man in church talking to God in prayer so naturally and easily – and that experience brought her faith to life. One of the aspects of office life that Barbara’s always found challenging is keeping up with the latest technology; but she’s realises that God has used the challenges of IT to make connections within the firm. She’s had to ask for IT help from colleagues on many occasions and those cries for help have built mutual friendships, opening the channels for prayer.
Alice is in her 20’s and has worked in Birmingham city centre since last year. She works for an educational charity specifically focused on growing a movement of outstanding middle leaders in schools in challenging contexts, to address educational disadvantage. In her workplace, there are rigorous targets to measure the impact of the training and development that’s offered to the teachers; Alice is determined to see beyond data on spreadsheets to the individuals who the charity seeks to touch – both the teachers and the youngsters they teach and influence. Alice is passionate about her work – she loves the way it provides support in an area which can make a real difference. She’s grateful to have made quick links into the ChaplaincyPlus network, making connections with others who care about the heart and soul of their work.
Both Barbara and Alice spoke highly of their colleagues – it’s invaluable to work in trusted, supportive teams. Both are passionately committed not only to their colleagues and organisations but also to their work and to staying in touch with God’s presence in the workplace, through all the challenges and opportunities of the working day.
Favourite Bible verses?
For Alice, it’s Matthew 19 29. It took courage for her to leave her home and parents to come to the Midlands, without any links in this part of the country and it wasn’t always easy: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life”.
And for Barbara it’s Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Barbara carries this verse in her heart as a constant reminder that the Lord delights in her, is rich in grace and mercy: when she is rejoicing and singing His praises wherever she is, He also sings and rejoices over her!
People came away feeling energised by the accessibility of the heart and soul stories that Barbara Hatton and Alice Pyke have shared with us – vastly different stories, but both sharing such authentic experiences of God at work. Someone who came to her first City Women event, bringing along a friend too, said: “I was hanging on their every word – and my friend was so inspired”.
A blessing for our own workplaces, as we make space for the heart and soul, where we are now:
Bless us as we make space for the heart and soul of our work,
as we are fully ourselves, in the place where we find ourselves.
Bless us as we acknowledge the path that led us into our current work,
whatever the mix of the planned and the unexpected;
bless us when we are taken in unexpected directions,
when we have to fit in to a context where we never would have imagined ourselves,
when we have to live with work that we don’t find easy,
when we give the right answers and find the doors don’t open
or we give wrong answers and yet the door opens.
Bless us in finding the surprise of life and connection today
in this place, in this role, in this work,
in all that we hold and handle,
as we enter in to the “work me” with integrity;
and bless us in the core of ourselves, the “real me”
that sometimes hides behind the mask of the “work me”;
bless us in allowing the “real me” and the “work me” to be connected and consistent.
In a world of measurable targets
where chargeable hours and results and the bottom line can dominate,
bless us in holding on to humanity and compassion,
not allowing commercial pressures to distort,
remaining wholehearted even under pressure.
Bless us in the midst of the mix of certainty and uncertainty
that is woven into our work.
When we encounter stress and anxiety,
help us to connect with deeper certainties
that can anchor and hold us through the challenges.
Bless us as we manage the things that drain our energies at work,
finding ways to do what we need, naming and sharing the challenge,
drawing on the support of trusted colleagues and friends;
and bless us in affirming the things that resource and energise us at work,
particularly invaluable colleagues who pull together creatively.
Bless us with thankfulness, noticing and nurturing the good,
giving on, by emulating the example of those who have inspired us,
supporting and encouraging one another,
celebrating the diversity of life-giving connection wherever we find it,
relishing way that colleagues who are so different can shine with the same integrity.