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Teacher left the classroom to follow a new calling
SHE had been a teacher for 24 years – but felt God calling her to become a vicar.
After putting it off for years, she’ll finally become the Rev Buffy Langdown when she is ordained on June 24.
Buffy (picture above being ordained by Bishop Jonathan) had spent most of her career teaching at St John the Baptist C of E Primary School in Rowlands Castle, but left teaching to volunteer at St Luke’s Church in Southsea. Being there gave her the chance to think about how God was calling her to ordained ministry.
She started her theological training in September 2020, initially being taught digitally because of the constraints imposed during the Covid pandemic. Her three-year course ends this summer and after ordination she’ll work as a curate in All Saints Church, Denmead.
Buffy will be one of six people ordained as a deacon at Portsmouth Cathedral by the Bishop of Portsmouth on Saturday. A further six people who were ordained as deacons last summer will be ordained as priests on the same day. Click here to find out who is being ordained and when.
“I’d always had a sense of God calling me into ministry,” she said. “I looked at it in my early 30s, when our children were small, but it didn’t feel that the timing was right. I put it on the back-burner. But there was a gradual process, and I eventually realised that I needed to give up teaching in order to explore my vocation.
“Working for St Luke’s as a youth and children’s worker gave me time to work through things, but deep down I knew I was called to it. I realised that if I didn’t do it now, the opportunity might be missed.”
Buffy had grown up with a Christian faith, but was diagnosed with ME – now known as chronic fatigue syndrome – when she was aged 18 and at university. She met and married her husband Pete, and shortly afterwards went on a healing retreat where she was prayed for. Her health was transformed.
“When I had ME at university, my tutors were very understanding and supportive,” she said. “But this healing retreat made such a difference. They prayed for you every day, and when my parents picked me up afterwards, they said I was so different – my eyes had changed colour and were full of life. Pete had never known me with such energy. And there has been no recurrence since.”
Buffy and Pete had two children, Tobi and Samuel, and Buffy settled into life as a primary school teacher. She gave up that role in 2018 just as Tobi went to university to volunteer at St Luke’s, which is also the location of our in-house ordination training course, Portsmouth Pathway.
“The director of Portsmouth Pathway, James Grenfell, called me into his office and suggested that we start the process,” she said. “I had been hesitating about it, so that really helped.”
Buffy’s first two terms on the Portsmouth Pathway involved digital teaching, with just a handful of meetings as Covid restrictions allowed. She’s been grateful for the chance to meet each week in person since then. Trainee clergy and Readers meet each Tuesday night for food, worship and teaching during term-time, mixed with residential sessions at Ripon College Cuddesdon near Oxford.
“There were six in our group and we knew we had to work quite hard to get to know each other,” she said. “We organised extra meetings on Zoom just to chat. The first time we met was at Hayling Island eating fish and chips in the rain, because restrictions at the time meant you could meet in groups!
“Once we could meet in person, we did. And those regular Tuesday nights eating and learning together, developing friendship, and being involved with each other’s lives have been very important to me. I feel blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to do that, mixed with the weeks at Cuddesdon. It has been really fruitful and a valuable insight into people’s faith journeys.”
She’s looking forward to being part of the community in Denmead as she works alongside the vicar, the Rev Emma Racklyeft. She’s now moved into the village.
“Everyone I’ve met so far seems very happy to see me,” she said. “Emma is very well organised, which suits me, and I feel as though I’m in the right place.
“The final bit of teaching we’ve had was about seeing ourselves in a public role, wearing a dog collar and how people might perceive you. It is slightly scary, but I think you have to inhabit the role of being a clergy person while still being genuine as yourself.
“I’ve had a bit of that experience of being public property as a teacher, and I think you have to accept that if you are walking down the road wearing a dog collar, some people will like that and some won’t. But I know that Jesus will give me the strength to step out in his name.”