An Interview with Farriea Fernandes
We are part way through a short series of blogs which I’m running as part of our current series on race and justice, Undivided. This is an opportunity to introduce you to some of the people who’ve joined our staff team more recently, to learn a little bit about them and hear their hopes for the Undivided series. Last week we heard from Tariq Fernandes, and today I’d like you to meet his wife Farriea, who joined the team in September as a Trainee Pastor on our Catford site.
Farriea, to start off, can you tell us a bit about your background, education and work experience?
I grew up in south east London and I am second generation British Jamaican. My dad was a prominent leader in the Rastafari faith and an activist in the black community. I grew up going to the Rasta temple and engaging in Rasta cultural activities during my childhood until my parents separated and I started to attend a Caribbean church at the age of 11. It was an amazing environment in which I learnt the foundations of my faith in Jesus and the importance of serving in church. However, we were all from the Caribbean which meant there was very little cultural diversity in the church, which really impacted my understanding of the wider body of Christ.
When I was 16 I attended a global day of prayer in London. At this event there were believers from many nations and cultures. This was the first time I was exposed to so many believers from different races and cultures. But the most shocking thing for me, was that most of the people there were white! I just had not realised that white people loved Jesus. This was the start of my journey of God teaching me that if he was God, He was God of all people who put their faith in Jesus Christ, not just the God of the people who went to my very small Caribbean church. This set me on a journey of discovering the multifaceted and multicultural nature of God’s people and his church.
I have a degree in Psychology and Drama and I am a qualified primary school teacher. I love working with children and young people and have done so in different capacities for the last 15 years. Most recently I worked as a SEN specialist teacher in a local school.
How long have you been at King’s, and in what capacity do you serve?
When I came back from a ministry school in 2014, I decided to make King’s my home church. I initially served in King’s Kids, then I started to serve on the worship team and eventually became a worship leader.
I am a member of the Kingdom Choir and in May 2018, I had the privilege of singing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel. This put the choir on a world stage with many exciting opportunities to record albums and to go on tour. As a result, I decided to stop teaching full time.
It was at this point that Hilary, who is the Assistant Site Leader at the Catford site, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in a part-time, flexible role as a Pastoral Assistant at King’s. This offer was perfect for me as it gave me the flexibility to do things with choir but also allowed me to work part time and see the inner workings of the church. During that time I learnt so much about the systems and processes needed to help run a church of this size. I am very grateful that Hilary approached me as I would not have thought about joining the team. I think this highlights the importance of leaders recognising gifts in people and moving towards them.
I am now a Trainee Pastor at King’s.
What do you like about Kings?
The thing that first stood out to me about King’s is how committed the church is to serving the poor and disadvantaged in the community. I have had different opportunities to serve with JRP, and the work they do is phenomenal and so impactful to the wider community.
I also love being part of a diverse community. Being at King’s has meant that I have been able to build genuine friendships with people from all walks of life whose views and experiences are very different from my own. This has not been and is not always easy. However, it has given me the opportunity to hear and understand other people’s views and perspectives.
What are your hopes for our current series around the issue of diversity?
I know that everyone is coming to this conversation with different views, so it is not realistic to think that we will finish the series and everyone will have the same views on the topic. I think a realistic aim is that we build a community that is not afraid to talk honestly about race. I hope that everyone is able to make a personal step - for some that might be learning more about the ongoing legacy of racism, for others it might be starting the process of healing from past hurt and trauma.
Most importantly, I hope that we will continue to be united in Christ.