When Rev. Mark Lawrence became our new circuit minister last September he brought with him an additional and wonderful blessing, his wife Carolyn.  Carolyn supports Mark in every way she can as part of “Team Lawrence.”

Carolyn’s Christian journey began at a Dick Saunders crusade when she was 15.  Her relationship with God enabled her to overcome her teenage angsts so that a fun-loving girl became a vibrant, warm hearted, passionate follower of Christ.  When she married Mark four years later they discovered that he had been converted at the same crusade.  Family is very important to Carolyn,  so she was a full-time mum for most of the time before their two daughters were in full time education.  She now has three grandchildren and another one on the way and rejoices in being with them all whenever possible.

Mark’s decision to enter the ministry in 1995 meant that she had to leave her roots in Bedfordshire as they moved to Wesley College, Bristol.  While Mark was training Carolyn became involved with the George Muller Foundation helping in schools and toddler groups in areas of great social need.  During Mark’s ministry in the Isle of Wight & then Lincoln her involvement with children continued.  She undertook a degree in Education at Portsmouth University followed by a postgraduate course and then taught in schools for nine years.  In 2012 came a big move to Guyana where her teaching skills were really needed while Mark undertook church and circuit roles.  This was a testing experience for them both; they learned to rely deeply on God’s provision and sustenance.  This venture also aroused Carolyn’s interest in the global community.

Back in Devon in 2014 opportunities for teaching were lacking so Carolyn turned her attention to Methodist Women in Britain where she had a national role and gained international experience representing the UK on the World Federation of Methodist & Uniting Women.  This led on to working with the Global Relationships Team at Methodist Church House, linking with partner churches across the world through prayer support and hands-on action.  The next step, following promptings from God, was to allow her name to go forward for Vice-President of the Methodist Conference.  She was duly elected and began her year of office in June 2020.

This was not the best of times to be involved in activities on a national scale.  What should have been a year of personal visits, travel and exciting events became a time of zoom meetings, radio broadcasts, lecturing and preaching remotely.  Sadly she missed out on several once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as a Buckingham Palace garden party, COP 26, meeting refugees in Dover and a visit to Malawi for All We Can.  Hours spent in front of a computer screen were probably more taxing than a busy travel schedule.  However, a very different modus operandi meant that her recorded sermons could be shared simultaneously by several churches.  Working from home she could spend more time with each community she “visited,” joining in with small church groups via zoom thus getting to know many more individuals.  She and the President, Rev. Richard Teal, held regular live Facebook sessions and, for those without access to the internet, they recorded prayers and reflections on a phone line.

The responsibility of being called upon as a national leader for her opinion on all manner of topics was challenging but also a great privilege and Carolyn used every opportunity to bring glory to Jesus and to encourage ordinary Methodists in their walk with God.  Carolyn is particularly conscious of the negative and discouraging impressions a congregation may give, however unwittingly, thereby discouraging rather than welcoming newcomers.  She has long campaigned against abuse and bullying in church so one of her most satisfying achievements was the inclusion of an anti-bullying section in the Methodist Church’s safeguarding policy.

In the short time that Mark and Carolyn have been with us in the Market Drayton circuit we have come to appreciate their powerful preaching skills, the importance they give to prayer and their genuine interest and care for our community.  In addition Carolyn, very much a people person, thoroughly enjoys social occasions; they are a generous and hospitable couple.  Under their leadership we have an enjoyable as well as challenging future to look forward to.  Thanks be to God!