West Leeds: Meet a 21st century vicar with a timeless mission

Charity Hamilton has had a calling to the ministry since the age of 14, but said she struggled with wearing a dog collar at first.
Charity Hamilton has had a calling to the ministry since the age of 14, but said she struggled with wearing a dog collar at first.
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Reverend Charity Hamilton doesn’t exactly present the traditional image of a vicar.

But the 33-year-old Methodist Minister is a ray of light in this working class corner of west Leeds.

Originally from Whitehaven in Cumbria, Charity arrived in Leeds two years ago and took over Lower Wortley Methodist Church, which was originally built in 1884.

Her remit also covers Whingate Methodist Church in Armley and Hyde Park’s Methodist Mission.

With a solid background in community work, she is used to dealing with, in her own words, “people who are struggling, on the margins”.

Charity found her calling aged just 14, and has always been drawn to the concept of Godliness and community in unison.

Asked how, as a modern young woman, she reconciles church traditions with 21st century living, she said: “There’s this image of clergy as being almost like robotic, forgetting that we are human.

“When I was first ordained I really struggled with wearing a dog collar, because I had always worn really nice blingy necklaces, and thought they didn’t quite work with this.

“I felt like I had to be a person people expected me to be.

“But then I thought what people need is a normal human being.

“Someone who struggles, and who watches Eastenders, and who likes Facebook and who goes to the pub, because that’s a natural human journey with God.

“First and foremost we are meant to be honest with ourselves and each other.

“There’s no point in pretending that I’m a 65-year old bearded man, when I’m really not!”

She said that in the Methodist church in particular, it was no longer that unusual to find Ministers in their late 20s and early 30s, and the Leeds district in particular has a high proportion of younger Ministers.

“We have had women in Ministry in the Methodist church for 20 or 30 years, even before the Church of England,” Charity explains.

“The congregation does tend to be older, so in that sense I am in a minority. I bring the average age of the congregation down significantly every Sunday morning!

“But I hope they feel energised and encouraged.”

She says the church’s range of community groups, young parents classes and other activities are vital in reaching out to younger people too.

“Like all communities, this community is suffering at the moment, for example issues like costs of food and affordable accommodation,” she said,

“I would hope that the church offers them some practical support, but also offers them a base, where they can be without that stress.

“This is a place where people can come and be a community.”

Jason Greenwood of Mamas & Papas

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