Richard Cornfield is the Associate Rector at St Paul's and St George's Church in Edinburgh and the DDO of Edinburgh.
Being married to Jenny Cornfield means that inspiration from a woman is never far away. She constantly amazes, challenges and helps me. Her passion for justice means an inspirational story is never far from her lips. So my imagination and creativity is always at work because of her. But saying the Chair of Trustees of Sophia Network has the capacity to inspire on the Sophia website doesn't seem quite the right thing to do.
So I want to tell you about Penny Frank. 20 years ago I went to work at CPAS in their children's and young people's department. Very nervously and tentatively I began full-time paid Christian ministry. What a culture shock. I felt like a fish out of water in my trainee role. I was really pleased to be in my role and to begin what I felt was a vocational calling, but my self-confidence and self esteem were low.
I was summoned to go and see Penny who at that time was responsible for CPAS's children's ministry. So I went to her lovely home in Birmingham. Loads of questions were going round in my head as I travelled there. 'Am I doing the right thing?' 'Have I really got the skills to do this job?' 'Am I really called to do this?'
I arrived and she welcomed me. It was a lovely day and so we sat outside and drank coffee. Penny had no idea how I was feeling but in the middle of our conversation she turned to me and said 'I need to tell you something.'
She just simply said, "You need to know that God thinks you're in exactly the right job at exactly the right time and I do too." In one fell swoop she introduced me to a ministry of encouragement and combined it with the prophetic - a dimension I'd never encountered before. It was revolutionary. It demystified the charismatic and gave me permission to be me. It was a moment to set me free, which I look back on from time to time when self-doubt enters my life.
It also opened up for me a ministry based on encouragement and it stopped me being scared of saying what I feel is on God's heart. This for me has been an invaluable leadership tool. Leading the team in my previous parish was based on these moments with Penny. They gave me the insight that a key job of a pastor is to encourage and inspire and remind the team that God is at the centre and he is moving and speaks right to the heart of our ministry. In other words he gives us what we need as we move out for him.
Penny showed me grace in action. It was transforming. Always is. It's also what people in the church, both leaders and members, most need to see.