New Staff Appointment: Chaplain
We are pleased to announce the appointment of our new Chaplain, Dr Rachel Holdforth, who will be joining our staff team from September 2021.
Rachel grew up in the South of England, coming to the University of Cambridge in 2001 where she studied Natural Sciences followed by a PhD in Biomedical Materials Science. After completing her PhD, Rachel worked in one-to-one disability support at the University of Cambridge and later at Brunel University. In 2013, she trained as a Spiritual Director with the Cambridgeshire Courses in Spiritual Direction, which led to a year’s internship with the Simeon Centre for Prayer and the Spiritual Life based at Ridley Hall. While at the Simeon Centre, she had her first taste of giving chaplaincy support, and became interested in Disability Theology, running a Disability Theology discussion group with Ridley students. She has worked as a chaplain since 2017, first in a nursing home in Buckinghamshire and then as a workplace and further education chaplain in Birmingham. While in Birmingham, she completed a postgraduate certificate in Chaplaincy at Newman University.
Rachel is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis where she has served as Disability Advisor and Convenor in various local areas. She is actively involved in her local church and is an advocate for disabled people, recently contributing to HeartEdge’s disability theology series: Shut In, Shut Out, Shut Up. She enjoys accompanying people in their faith, taking an holistic and inclusive approach to faith which incorporates mind, body and spirit. She finds it fruitful to explore faith through creativity, particularly developing lino prints representing Christian themes such as the representation of disabled people in Christian art.
Speaking on her appointment, Rachel said: ‘I am delighted to be joining the community at Westcott as Chaplain. I am excited about returning to Cambridge to become part of this inclusive and enquiring community founded in prayer and desire to serve the God who is faithful. I am looking forward to accompanying others through the ups and downs of theological formation for themselves and their family, and to supporting staff as they seek to prepare students for ministry. I am eager to accompany people in developing holistic rhythms of faith life which bring mind, body and spirit to ministry; developing a healthy balance between prayer, work, rest and playful re-creation. I hope to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” but also provide a safe space to express the full range of life experiences, and resources and support through more challenging times. I hope to encourage exploration of prayer and faith through creative as well as more traditionally academic approaches. I am looking forward to getting to know you all and continuing to learn alongside you as we delve into God’s deep and surprising creative love.’
Revd Dr Helen Dawes, Principal, Westcott House, said: ‘I am delighted that Rachel is joining us as Chaplain this September. Rachel has wide-ranging experience of Chaplaincy in ecumenical and multi-faith contexts, most recently with the Churches Industry Group in Birmingham, where she worked with council staff and at Bournville College. Rachel’s experience as a disability advocate will add further strength to our commitment to inclusion at Westcott House. We also look forward to the richness Rachel will bring to our spiritual life as a Third Order Franciscan and Spiritual Director. It is a joy to welcome someone with such significant and diverse gifts to this central role in the life of the Westcott House community. We look forward to welcoming Rachel to Westcott House in September and sharing in ministry with her.’