The Latimer Trust interviews Kirsty Birkett.
How did you become a Christian?
I became a Christian at the age of 20, after much seeking. I looked most deeply into Buddhism and some of its offshoots in the New Age movement, but was entirely dissatisfied with what it taught. Yes, it affirmed a spiritual reality, but how was one to know what about it was true or not? Good or evil? New Age tended to assume that anything spiritual was good. But it could not account for the reality of evil and suffering in the world.
During that year, my sister became a Christian. Through her, I heard the gospel and realised that this was truth. It came with a ‘downside’: Christ could tell me the truth about spirituality, but that truth was that he is Lord and I must obey him! I did not want to give up autonomy (as if I had any, anyway), but I realised that if I did not follow Christ I would be living a lie. So I prayed and committed myself to him
Who is or has been an influential person in your Christian pilgrimage?
I am deeply grateful to both Phillip and Peter Jensen. Phillip, in his role as Anglican Chaplain at the University of NSW, taught me the Bible in my formative years as a Christian. His regular teaching through church and at Campus Bible Study (and at the yearly student conferences) gave me a solid foundation in doctrine and exegesis. He is also one of the kindest and most deeply pastoral ministers I have ever met.
What piece of advice would you give young ordinands going into ordained ministry today?
Going into ministry is always difficult. Today there is the problem not just of ignorance of Christianity, but of hostility in that ignorance. That is, people don’t understand what Christ teaches, but think that they do and have been told to hate that (wrong) view. There is great need for patient explanation and endurance of misunderstanding. The world longs for love, but does not know what it is or how to embrace it. A life of ministry will require a very thorough grounding in how to read Scripture, and what it teaches. It also requires a love of people and a liking of them; you have to want to be with people.
Which is the best book you have read in 2021?
I can’t possibly remember all the books I read in 2021! I read a lot of books on the Psalms, as I was writing Living Without Fear. I also read a lot of Anselm; his Prayers and Meditations as well as his theological works. One book which was quite a slog but worth it was Seven Treatises by the Puritan Richard Rogers.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on an introduction to Christian Ethics for Christian Focus Publishers. That will be followed by some kind of handbook on resilience, based on research into resilience that I did a few years ago. I want to turn that research into a practical book not just about the nature of resilience, but how to acquire it, and practise it, it in life and ministry.