Yesterday marked my one hundredth day as a ONE Programme Intern. Following an application filled out partly as a means of procrastination the day before an exam and a Skype interview at the ungodly hour of 5am New York time, I write this from the Joint Public Issues Team Office on the fifth floor of Methodist Church House in London. I spend three days a week here, the other two in the House of Lords as a researcher.
My loved ones were a little puzzled by my choice to take up a job with a Church that I am not a member of. I reply with a joke that my colleagues have heard recycled a few too many times; that I am not, indeed, a Methodist but a Methodist sympathiser. So what is an Irish Catholic with a background in Law doing here?
I am here because I am not interested in a career but a vocation, in serving others, therefore serving God and in being part of an institution forced to step in when the State fails, something sadly all the more necessary in these extraordinary times. In short, a social conscience informed by my faith brought me.
The purpose of the ONE Intern programme is to equip a generation of new leaders by enabling them to develop their professional and spiritual lives in tandem. A faith lens has been an important one through which to view the Lords for someone who finds herself at times seduced by the prestige of hobnobbing with eminent people.
I know that I am not alone here. A fellow researcher told me that having worked in the Commons for 8 years, he had yet to tire of the splendour of the building. I am forced to remind myself that doing so is a civic duty although I can’t pretend that I haven’t enjoy telling people about my post-graduation plans.
As the spiritual element of the programme lies at its core, I elect to tell you not about the insider gossip I’ve picked up in the House of Lords, but instead what my faith has taught me. And so I turn to someone whose words are more instructive than anything I’ll ever hear in Westminster:
‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?’ (Mark 8:36)
In a world where our achievements and qualifications define us and how others see us, it is easy to forget that the most important facet of our identity must be our status as children of God.