Church Army Evangelist-in-Training
Each year more people are called by God to the vocation of evangelism and begin their training to become Commissioned Church Army Evangelists while continuing to live and work in their own contexts. We caught up with Heather Waller, one of this year’s Evangelists-in-Training, to hear about her calling to train and to tell people in Sheffield about Jesus.
“I was born in Sheffield. My parents are from Belfast but moved here shortly before I was born. I moved to Liverpool for university and stayed there for 13 years before moving back to Sheffield. A friend of mine is a Church Army Evangelist and when I moved back to Sheffield from Liverpool, where I’d been involved in a lot of outreach work, I got involved with what he was doing locally. I ended up joining his Messy Church team and talking with him about all the volunteering I was doing in my children’s school. For years he was telling me I should get in touch with them. Then when lockdown hit and the school closed, I had a bit of time (not much as I was then home-schooling my three children) to think ahead about my next steps. I looked at the Church Army website and discovered that I have the same vision and values and heartbeat to see lives transformed by knowing Jesus and soon began the discernment process. And now the rest is history!
I’m not one to launch in at the deep end with talking about Jesus but I am transparent about my faith with everyone I talk to. I hope people see Him in me whether I’m explicitly talking about Him or not. When I do get into conversation about Jesus, I love how people’s eyes light up as they discover who He is rather than who they thought He was; when they find out how kind He is, the miracles He performed, and how He loves them so much that He died for them even though they didn’t know Him or even like Him. I love to see people realise how He accepts them just as they are, and they don’t need to do anything to earn His approval. I love connecting with people, having a lot of fun and food and having spiritual conversations. I love being authentic and unashamed of loving Jesus and I love finding out about other people’s spiritual journeys too. I studied world religions at university as I’ve always been interested in different world views. My context is very multicultural so there are lots of opportunities for these kind of two-way conversations in my
various roles at school.
“WHEN I DO GET INTO CONVERSATION ABOUT JESUS, I LOVE HOW PEOPLE’S EYES LIGHT UP AS THEY DISCOVER WHO HE IS RATHER THAN WHO THEY THOUGHT HE WAS”
For a number of years I have had a burning desire to set up a Messy Church that is a highly accessible expression of church for people who find conventional church either unappealing or inaccessible for whatever reason. As a single parent of three extremely lively boys, I have a particular heart to remove barriers to church for people who have struggled to feel accepted or who don’t fit into conventional models of church, or feel unable to conform.
A few years ago, I decided to trial a Messy Church in my house. To my surprise, of all the people I invited, it was school parents who came. Some travelled across the city without their children, or even a car, even though it was a Saturday daytime! I had expected it to be neighbours who would come but none of them did. When the Bishop of Sheffield set up an initiative to have 25 Messy Church congregations in schools by 2025, I was up for it. Then, when the diocese approached the school, I was more than ready to be a willing lead! Taking on the role of running a Messy
Church for school families is literally a dream come true. It is now every month after school in the hall. The head teacher loves it. We have huge amounts of meaningful fun and relationship building. It was stalled by lockdown, along with a lot of other things, but we got creative with it all using Zoom, Facebook lives and other online platforms, and that has helped us hit the ground running as we’ve come back. The families who come represent the diversity of the school and we always have a waiting list. People don’t want to leave at the end. I’m excited to see how it will develop and I’m planning to do something like Alpha next term.
Training to be a Church Army Evangelist is exactly what I have been looking for. I feel like everything I’ve done in my life up until now has culminated in being part of Church Army, even though I didn’t know it until recently!
I’m so excited by the topics we study. They’re helping me to dig deeper into the Word so my ministry can be more strongly underpinned by knowledge and understanding as well as my heart and gut. I found the recent training on the wealth of the cross extremely useful as it gave me time and space to really wrestle with the theology of what I deliver on the ground.