Elizabeth Thompson moved to Australia from the US and found fulfilling roles working with therapy dogs and the NSW ambulance service, as well as further study.
God has always been central in Elizabeth’s life. Originally from the United States, she was raised in the United Church of Christ before studying at Harvard Divinity School.
After graduating with a Master of Divinity in 2009, Elizabeth worked for Harvard University and lived within an Anglican monastic community as a laywoman.
‘While serving within the guesthouse ministry of the Society of St John the Evangelist, I realised I was called to serve and worship in an Anglican context.’
Confirmation into the Anglican communion followed in 2010, and Elizabeth decided to remain as a committed laywoman, putting aside ordination until she worked out her vocation.
Her life direction changed when she met an Australian who was studying in the United States. Long story short, Elizabeth moved to Australia in 2013, married, and settled in Sydney.
‘I felt moving to Australia was a chance to again re-evaluate and re-examine my vocation and sense of calling.’
Elizabeth’s first job in her new country provided the guidance she was looking for. ‘Working for a religious not-for-profit sorting donations for the op shops became an active meditation,' she says. 'I set up an alter with a small icon and prayed all day while I sorted through trolleys of shoes, clothes and other goods.’
Since then, Elizabeth has stayed in the not-for-profit sector. She currently works as a coordinator with Delta Therapy Dogs, a national organisation that helps animals bring joy to people. She also volunteers with NSW Ambulance in their chaplaincy program, supporting staff, families and bystanders.
‘We’re there to offer non-judgemental support, a presence, practical help, and, where appropriate and desired by those present, prayer or ritual might be part of the equation. You don’t have to be religious to access a chaplain.’
Elizabeth is a firm believer in keeping up with theological study, so decided to enrol in a course at Trinity College.
‘It had been a while since I’d actively studied in an academic community. I wanted to refine my skills and broaden my understanding of what ministry means now and into the future.’
Trinity's online Graduate Certificate in Divinity, taking in three classes over three semesters, was the perfect choice for Elizabeth’s lifestyle.
‘I love the flexibility and it’s fantastic because I’m able to engage with students from all over Australia with a wealth of perspectives and backgrounds.’
‘There’s a sense of connection fostered through the course. The lecturers create the space for challenging, and sometimes in a pastoral care sense, quite difficult conversations. This really stands out to me, because it’s something that’s not easy in person, never mind in an entirely online context.’
Through the course, Elizabeth feels she’s gaining more tools to follow her vocation.
‘What I’m doing now in my professional and volunteer capacity is exactly where God needs me to be at the moment. As I continue to develop as a chaplain, I seek to be empowered to answer God’s call to serve.'
By Jocelyn Pride