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Tracy Charnock

The North West is a vibrant, amazing place with towns and cities that have a real sense of community about them.

Tracy has moved from supporting people on benefits through her career as a civil servant to supporting a community with complex needs as a vicar in Blackpool. She currently shepherds the flocks of St Peter and Holy Trinity Churches on the South Shore of the famous town.

Forever synonymous with seaside fun Blackpool has, in more recent years, seen new growth as it seeks to reinvigorate itself for the 21st century after a period of decline. Serious investment into the area is beginning turning around lives in a town where many people had fallen into the poverty trap. But there is still much to do, and the church sits at the heart of the community, supporting people, as it always has.

It was to this town of contrasts then that Tracy, 38, first moved in 2011 after beginning her ministry in another part of the North West – Manchester.

She always felt called to ministry however and in her teens she witnessed the moment when women secured the right to be ordained for the first time. It was 1994 and the impressionable youngster knew then that she finally had the ‘permission’ to seek after her dream. Tracy says: “Seeing women being ordained for the first time really touched me. Before then I felt at some level that women were not ‘allowed’ in the church; at least in this context.

“At first though I secured a job in the civil service which is something I’m pleased I was able to do. I got a chance to work in the ‘real world’ and in the benefits service I saw people who were really at the edge and rejoiced in being able to offer some help and assistance. It was my first taste of ‘serving people’ which is something I have gone on to do full-time now as a vicar.”

It was while she was a worshipper at St Paul’s Church in Worthington that Tracy first spoke to the vicar who would go on to become her mentor about becoming ordained.

Her vicar was one of the first women to be ordained herself and she encouraged Tracy to seek God’s heart about her future, and it wasn’t long before she did just that embarking on theological studies at Mirfield College in West Yorkshire. This was followed by a three-year curacy in Manchester (which she describes as a wonderful, culturally diverse city) before she heard the call of the sea and moved to the town of Blackpool.

She loves it there.

Tracy says: “I was seeking and praying for the right parish where I could use my gifts. Ministry at the seaside had a certain appeal to me so when I saw the advert in Church Times I knew it was something I had to go for.

“The churches where I am now vicar are wonderful places and as a congregation we offer the hand of friendship in many different contexts; supporting the communities locally every day of the week.

“From our Foodbank, a necessary service in these difficult times, to groups like Rainbows and Brownies for the youngsters; you name it, we’re more than likely doing it!”

Tracy just loves to get alongside people and support them – real church mission work in fact.

She continues: “I like to think my gifts are in building relationships. I get out and about; meeting people where they are and proclaiming the Good News.

“The communities we serve are very varied with people who are financially secure living close to people who have nothing; but when they come into the churches they are equal in the eyes of God and we make no distinctions either way.

“I simply want everyone – no matter their circumstances – to have peace in their hearts and to know Jesus,” she adds.

And what of practicing ministry in the North West, first in Manchester and now Blackpool … would she recommend it?

Tracy laughs and says: “Absolutely. The North West is a vibrant, amazing place with towns and cities that have a real sense of community about them and a real sense of continuity … where generations of the same families have lived, and still live.

“The area offers many challenges for all types of ministry and I have always felt fulfilled in my calling here.”

Diocese of Blackburn Diocese of Carlisle Diocese of Chester Diocese of Sodor and Man Diocese of Liverpool Diocese of Manchester