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Walking in faith


Walking in faith

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ALTHOUGH indisputably a priest, Tanya Conliffe’s life as a Methodist minister is far from the mundane. The lover of football and  travel enthusiast hardly spends more than three years living in one particular space.

Actually, for Easy magazine it was a task trying to pin the 36-year-old down because of her very hectic schedule.

We caught up with her on a Friday evening, within a room of the Sherlock Hall of the University of the West Indies (UWI), where Tanya coolly explained where the long but exciting journey all began.

“I was called to ministry from the time I was 18 but I didn’t enter until I was 28. It was the summer after A levels so I was questioning should I continue with my studies or go straight into university?

“The minister at the time said, ‘No, complete your studies. It is good education and good exposure to see what the world is like before you enter ministry’.”

Tanya said by the time she was16 she had already given her life to Christ, resulting in her involvement in Bible study, leading her youth group and being active on mission trips.

Tanya strongly believes that pursuing hotel management at UWI’s Mona campus in Jamaica was where God dipped his hand in her life and shook things up a bit. Hotel management wasn’t her area of choice. She had plans of studying international relations.

“It was the Friday of orientation week and they said I was accepted for hotel management and I was like, I didn’t apply for that . . . . But I decided to ask what it was about. They said ‘Well, you do your first year here and do two years in Bahamas’. I was like, ‘I going to Bahamas for two years?’ Okay, I will go,” she said, giggling girlishly.

In retrospect, Tanya, the deacon assigned as chaplain at UWI Cave Hill, now says she is seeing how hotel management will play a big role in her future. Stressing that her ministry is not atypical, Tanya said that as a diaconal minister she is called to service and care – serving the community.

She explained that the bachelor’s degree in hotel management is a tool to help her with ministry more than anything else.

“I could run an orphanage, retirement home, a boarding school . . . different activities and I would still be serving God or serving the church because the Methodist Church across the Caribbean has schools, orphanages and hostels or retreat centres.”

Tanya said in retrospect as a child she always had her sights set on travel and thus wanted to enter the diplomatic corps. Having an uncle who was already involved in that field gave her a good idea of what the life of a diplomat was like and she longed to follow in his footsteps, but God, she said, had a different plan.

“I spent a year in an intercultural exchange in Paraguay and in Vermont. I really like travelling so why not get a career that includes travel? It was two years later I got a call to enter ministry when God said to me, ‘You want to be an ambassador for Barbados but I’m going to make you an ambassador for Christ.”

The former ballet student said that even with “the heavy calling” onher life, she strayed at one point.

For her orientation in the Bahamas, she was given a tour of every night club. Eventually, the bright lights and party scene saw the then 21-year-old becoming a regular attendee. Fortunately, the UWI chaplain had a friend who had her best interest at heart and encouraged her to return to God.

“I would go to a fete and come home at seven in the morning, bathe, dress and go to the Myles Munroe Church for 9 a.m. Even through this I saw how God kept me in his bosom even with all my partying and drinking and by the time I left The Bahamas I had renewed my relationship and was on fire for him,” she explained.

Like most people, Tanya had her share of issues and explained that at one point the unexplainable happened – she was sick for eight months straight. That time was a learning experience for her, allowing her to see that if she pushed herself too hard she could burn out.

Stressing that there is a need for balance, the Master of Divinity student added that she has many responsibilies but she has since learnt to juggle them.

For those looking to get involved in priesthood, this minister warns that there aren’t any traces of glamour in her job. It is one filled with hurt people who hurt people.

“You as the sole person up in the pulpit will be an easy target to receive their hurts. You have to remember that it is a calling. I came in young but after knowing at age 18 this was my calling it still took ten years. Yes, there is a shortage of ministers but don’t rush into it . . . . Make sure the timing is right,” Tanya said.

Despite being hopeful about her future in ministry, she admitted that she was afraid to verbalise certain intentions because of God’s intervention and constant rearranging of her plans. She revealed, however, that she sees herself lecturing in the future and with a heart pumping for social justice she hopes to also pursue a doctorate in developmental studies.