Introducing Alice Smith
Alice Smith

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in London and grew up in Surrey. My dad was in the London Fire Brigade and my mum was a school secretary and later a GP practice nurse. I’m the eldest of two girls, my sister being just 18 months younger than me. When I was 10, my mother converted to Roman Catholicism. I remember the occasion quite clearly and recognise now that God was beginning to tap me on the shoulder, drawing my attention to bigger questions. I’d always taken faith and the existence of God for granted. I read voraciously and was encouraged to debate, question and form opinions at home over long family lunches with diverse political and social views. This momentous decision that my mother made became a bit of a ‘kairos’ moment in my own journey.

I had a pretty typical adolescence; falling out with parents, pushing the boundaries, resenting the decisions which were being asked of me and feeling restricted in my growing independence! I chose a path which felt boring at the time, taking my studies more seriously rather than following a riskier path. Freer Saturday nights meant I had time to take up a friend’s invitation to the local youth club which met in the church hall. Eventually, some great youth workers encouraged me to get involved musically in one of the youth services and from the moment I walked into the church building, I sensed something shifting in me. Clearly, the Holy Spirit had been at work for some time, drawing all these threads together. This experience of overwhelmingly inclusive, accepting and nurturing youth ministry had a profound influence on me, and eventually I decided to apply to Time for God for their gap year programme, where I tested my vocation in youth ministry and schools work in a United Reformed Church. From there I went to Leeds University to study Theology, followed by a Youth and Community work role in an Urban Priority Parish in Scarborough, where I met and married my husband Andy in 2002. When Andy took a new role as a schools based Learning Mentor in South Shields, I did my PGCE at Sunderland University and went on to work in a housing project for young women aged 16-30.

It is of huge value to me and I hope to my role at St Mellitus College, that I haven’t always worked with young people in a specifically faith-based setting. It has taught me to see glimpses of God’s kingdom and his hand at work in very unexpected places.

What were you doing before you started at St Mellitus College?

In 2006 I started working for the Chelmsford Diocese as a Youth Ministry Adviser – training, resourcing and connecting youth workers, running events, supporting churches as they employed workers, advocating for and developing the participation of young people in church structures and much more. The strong links between the Chelmsford and London Diocese in the forming of St Mellitus College led to an invitation to guest lecture from the early days of the Youth Ministry degree. On our move to Essex, Andy took a new job setting up a Behaviour Support Unit in a struggling secondary school in Basildon, Essex and later went on to train for the priesthood at St Mellitus College on the mixed mode course and was ordained in 2014. We’re currently back in Basildon where Andy is Assistant Curate at St Andrew with Holy Cross.

What do you most wish to share with your students?

I hope that fundamentally I share a passion and enthusiasm for excellent, effective, grounded and innovative youth ministry in all types of communities and churches. My desire is to see youth workers who are sound theologians and practitioners, who remain in face-to-face, frontline youth ministry with young people and alongside other workers for many years. I think I’d also want to share the reality that youth ministry is hard work, sacrificial, constantly challenging and shifts with the seasons of your life, if you let it. My life scripture is 1 Timothy 4:12 – not only because of what it actually says (‘Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to the believers in your speech, your life, your love, your faith and your purity’) but for what it represents through the relationship between Paul and Timothy; the older mentor, sharing experiences, encouraging and cheering on the up and coming disciple and leader. After 20 years in youth ministry, I’m now training and nurturing the next generation. It is a great privilege and huge responsibility but my passion for young people does not change, its just being expressed differently. I’m sticking with youth ministry until God says otherwise!

And what do you do when you are not at St Mellitus College?

I have 2 children, aged 9 and 4 whose social lives dominate the schedules! We love to hang out just the 4 of us, watching films and playing games as well as visiting and hosting friends and cooking up a storm! We have a weekly youth group in our home for young people aged 14-18 and we’re part of a team running Falcon holidays each summer. 5 years ago we joined The Order of Mission, a dispersed monastic order under vows of simplicity, purity and accountability. I usually have a few books on the go – historical fiction or an autobiography, maybe something more theological now and again! My biggest treat would be afternoon tea somewhere with my mum and my sister.