16 Dec A Sketch: Residential fellowship Reflection – Amy Wright
Dr Amy Wright and her husband Chris live in Te Whanganui-a-tara, Wellington. Amy works as a Medical Registrar at Wellington Regional Hospital and she is deeply interested in living a life that cares for and serves others wisely. Amy and Chris worship at Lifepoint Church and recently got married. In 2021, Amy graduated from the Residential Fellowship. Here, she shares some of her learnings from the seven-month programme and the impact it’s had on her work, life, and faith.
I first heard about Venn Foundation when I moved back to Te Whanganui-a-tara from Dunedin, having completed my medical degree at Otago University. I moved into a flat with several others who had completed the Fellowship and who spoke highly of the impact of the programme. I started attending Space evenings and got to know the Venn staff. I was struck by the depth of thought, heart, and authenticity of the organisation and so decided to attend Venn Summer Conference in 2020. Once again, I was struck by the team and the teaching. They offered a style of theology and learning that I wanted to emulate, one where God was clearly at work.
When I made the decision to do the Fellowship myself, I was several years into work at Wellington Hospital. As someone who acutely felt the weight of my work and held high-standards for myself, I was well on my way to burn-out. I was emotionally loaded and wound up with the daily stress of relentless shifts and drawing from increasingly low reserves. Moving to Tāmaki Makaurau to do the Fellowship fell into place in easy and clear ways.
On the Fellowship, I expected to learn and grow intellectually in lots of ways, to make new friends, to have some fun along the way, and to have a break from my day-to-day life in Wellington. I was hit by quite a surprise—although maybe not so surprising in retrospect.
My time on the Fellowship was a frequently painful walk of prayer, which I likened to walking a prayer labyrinth. As a doctor, I’m often walking alongside those who are suffering—an experience that often seems fruitless and painful. Through the Fellowship, I was given space to sit with the wounded healer, Jesus Christ, and see in the gospels a new narrative for my daily work experience.
I was given a broadened and deepened view of God, the world, and my role in it. I was called to a gentler and slower pace with myself and with my growth; it was a reorientation and attunement to God’s purposes and world. One particular gift was the opportunity to do a placement at Ihumātao with Whenua Warrior, an organisation devoted to helping people understand the land, grow their own gardens, and help feed local communities. During my placement, I was able to attend to creation and history in new ways and saw God’s heart in it all.
There are two scriptures that encompass some of my Fellowship journey. The first, from 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, talks about the “treasure we have in jars of clay” and the second, from Isaiah, prophesied about Jesus bringing joy instead of mourning and praise instead of despair. Joy and celebration are able to happen alongside the hardest things, sometimes simultaneously. This realisation also hit home quite practically during the Fellowship, when I lost two of my grandparents and also got engaged over the seven months!
Returning to hospital work on the other side of the Fellowship has meant the return of many of the previous challenges and tiredness, especially with a pandemic continuing to play out. But I know that God is continuing to build upon the deep work and formation that was started on the Fellowship. I feel God’s call to live a wise life and I know it comes with promises and hope, so much more full when surrendered to his purposes.
I continue to learn to trust, rely on, and obey God in my everyday workplace, trusting that he will use this “jar of clay” for his purposes. Sanctity is not sublime. I know that God, in his faithfulness, will continue to provide those special spaces of growth and life in the difficult things.