Rev Debbie Coyne was previously the Vicar of the Benefices of Alne and Brafferton (in the Diocese of York), and will be serving as Team Vicar and Oversight Minister in the Rivers Team.
She attended the Open Day held on 25th May for clergy considering a move:
“I had had initial conversations before I saw the Open Day come up. I’d already looked at the Oversight Ministry information and what the visions and values in the diocese were.
“It helped me to decide to apply for this post, as I saw that those values were instilled in the senior leadership team.”
At the May event there were 21 in attendance out of 23 who had registered; 8 of those who attended were women and 3 of those (including Debbie) have since been appointed to stipendiary roles in the Diocese – all of them women.
Debbie says the format of the event was unique:
“I thought it was very innovative for a diocese; it’s not something that I’ve seen other dioceses do. As somebody who’s quite naturally pioneering myself, and that’s part of the role, I like seeing dioceses trying something different.
“The whole format to the day was really well organised, and it felt as though it was a genuine space to explore. It wasn’t a ‘selling’ of the diocese to the people who were there; it was asking if people genuinely felt called to be there, and not saying ‘we need people to fill these roles’. It was a sense of asking ‘if you think God is opening this door, we’re interested in you stepping through it’.
“Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. The event was very open, honest and transparent.”
Before being ordained, Debbie studied a joint honours in English Literature and Psychology at York St John. Afterwards she worked as a Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant in mainstream primary schools, and had considered doing a PGCE before being called to ministry:
“I grew up in a Christian household and my dad was ordained in the United Reform Church in my mid-teens, but I was adamant that I would not be ordained! My plan was to be a primary school teacher, then a teacher of the deaf.
“I had a choice about where I wanted to worship whilst I was at university, and found myself at a Church of England church in York. As I look back I can see God gently nudged me along the way, but I was still absolutely determined that I was going to be a primary school teacher.
“I loved my role as a Teaching Assistant, supporting those with additional needs and hearing impairments through British Sign Language, but increasingly I was given prompts about becoming a vicar. The DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) in York’s diocese had a conversation with me and asked if I had considered ordination. He said ‘I see some people as dog collared, and I see you as dog collared!’
“I went to work in Tanzania for three months and prayed about this, and had a PGCE application in. Whilst I was out there I read a book called ‘What happens when women say yes to God?’, and I couldn’t read the last chapter; the words kept swimming on the page. Eventually I felt God say ‘you’re willing to say no, but you’re not willing to say yes’. At the point that I was willing to say ‘yes’ I was able to read the last chapter.
“I was reminded of the bible passage significant to me at the end of my first year of university, and I felt God speaking to me through Lamentations 3:27: ‘it is good for one to bear the yoke in youth’ (NRSV). When I came back to the UK I told the DDO I wanted to explore ministry, and the following October I started at theological college”.
A second Open Day for clergy was held on Tuesday 27th September at St Francis’ Church in Bramley, and a third event is planned for Tuesday 13th June 2023.
Debbie says anyone thinking about a change should go to the Open Day:
“I’d heartily recommend attending the Open Day if you’re thinking about a move. I think it gives you a really good impression of the values and an overview of the way in which the diocese works. For me, I’ve only had positive experiences of engaging with anybody at the diocese so far.
“I hear great things on the grapevine, with clergy networks buzzing and saying that the Diocese of Sheffield is the place to be. If you want to be in the place to be, come to the Diocese of Sheffield!”
To book your place at the Open Day in June – or ask for more details, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org