An interview with Claire Louise Stewart, Youth Worker at Carnalea Methodist Church (CMC).
Claire came to Bangor 5 years ago to work in a ‘Team on Mission’ (TOM) with the Methodist Churches and in schools. Claire did a placement with CMC whilst studying at university and is now employed by CMC. She also works with Positive Futures.
How do you feel God led you into youth work?
Well He closed doors to other things. I really wanted to be a teacher but that didn’t happen. Then a TOM Team were based in my church in Sydenham and I got involved with them and applied to do it the following year myself. (Even though my parents told me not to! Like they told me this year not to go to Ibiza with 24/7 Prayer!!) Within a week of doing TOM I knew it was what God wanted me to do!
It’s scary. People talk about God’s vision or plan for their life. They talk as if it’s a treasure hunt or something. For me, it’s right in front of me. I’m one of those people. I say: God’s got that, so I need to trust and not worry!
What are you most encouraged by?
The older generation. People older than me in my church. They are so encouraging and support me so much. I’m a massive advocate of the inter-generational church. Each generation worshipping and learning from each other. In CMC I am so blessed! By Connect (women’s group), by everyone pretty much. Learning from people who have been on that journey before me.
Also the young people. They really get God and really understand! This year we had 7 young people accepted into full membership of the Methodist Church. It’s been amazing to get to be part of their journey. All because I answered a call from God!
What has ‘moved you on’ with God the most?
I have always had to fight for my faith! My parents were not Christians. I think they are now but they don’t. I always had to know the answers to difficult questions that were put to me. I’m also really into prophetic worship. The Holy Spirit gives me a song to sing. One I didn’t even know but there I am singing it! It’s interesting and scary when you let yourself go out of the picture and let God in.
Towards the end of Summer Scheme this year I got all the kids to lie down with eyes closed and asked them to raise their hand if they would like to be a friend of God. Nearly all of the 130 there raised their hands! Doing things like that the microphone is shaking. I’m petrified! I’m actually such a shy person. My Mum can’t understand how I do it. But it’s God, not me.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Believing I can do it! And forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself. I have found it difficult to believe God forgives me and loves me so much. It’s a case of letting God just use me.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 3 years at CMC?
I’m aiming for spiritual growth in the young people. And the congregation – though that’s not my job!
What’s your favourite thing to do on a day off?
Hang out with my Mum. We’re best friends. When I was living away in Bangor in TOM Team I realized how important she is to me. I got really homesick. I do all I can for her.
Article by Elizabeth Porter