:Minister in pastoral charge of: Cheddington, Stewkley, Swanbourne, Waddesdon, Whitchurch and Wingrave.
I thoroughly enjoyed my childhood growing up in Montserrat, which is in the Leeward Islands, the northern portion of the Lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies. Montserrat is known as 'The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean'. The luxuriant forest, mountains and hills with lush vegetation, rivers, waterfalls, and sulphur springs ignites one's fascination and imagination.
I did not attempt climbing the breadfruit or coconut trees but enjoyed stretching for fresh guavas, sugar-apples, manciport, guinep, star fruit (carambola), plums, berries, tamarinds, and mangoes. My dad loved gardening and delighted in taking us to his allotment where he cooked on a woodfire which set our tastebuds ablaze. He had sugar cane that we enjoyed getting our teeth into and which he shared with others. The fresh water from the springs was the best that the Caribbean had to offer. I once met an elderly gentleman on the island of Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, who said to me, 'Did you know that we get water from Montserrat?' Of course, my heart was filled with pride and joy. Having the opportunity to travel the Caribbean islands helped me to appreciate water from the taps without residue. Montserrat was rich in natural produce, peaceful, and blessed. Today much has changed due to the ravages of the Soufriere Hills volcano. Most of its vegetation was destroyed by pyroclastic flows and the islanders rely on vegetables imported from neighbouring islands like Dominica. Many nationals have migrated to Great Britain and other parts of the world. Some people do not have the courage to return because they prefer to remember Montserrat the way it used to be.
It was during this time of adversity and challenge that my faith in God grew. The materialistic world quickly vanished and my faith and love for God and his people became dominant. In a rapidly changing world, I want to make known, through the guiding wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the God who is closer than our very breath and loves us all. It is this intimate knowledge of God that brought Methodism into being. It gave the founders the desire to engage in God's mission so that others could come to the realisation that the God of Moses, Abraham, and the cosmos is not a phantom. God is real in our everyday experience, as we turn the pages in the newspaper, pull weeds from the garden, water the plants, eat, drink, and laugh.
My favourite aphorism is 'To God be the glory', for I am indebted to God. He made himself known to me even while I was being formed in the womb of Eva Agatha Daley, who passed away in October 2010. My discerning mother knew I was called for a special purpose from an early age, as I imitated her rhythmic prayer life and the attentive reading of well-known Bible stories. Although my dad, Selvin Daley, was not as religious, he sat in the back pew listening and observing. As children we did not complain about attending church at 7.30 am because we were delighted to join other children as we sat at the front gazing into the preachers' eyes trying to make sense of their sermons. Later, at 3 pm, we returned to Sunday school where we were nurtured and encouraged to serve Christ, using our gifts and talents in his service. I was never the first to speak. I was quiet and reserved, making way for those who were bolder and eager to share their opinions. On Sunday afternoons I also joined my brother Curtis and went through the village sharing and trying to preach to the elderly who were patient with our ignorance.
My first thought of preaching occurred when I was twelve years old. As I walked along the aisle, a senior member stopped and said words I did not want to hear – 'Noreen, you have a voice to be a minister'. I did not entertain the thought because I was too shy and bashful. This, however, prompted me to go on a search to meet God in an intimate way like John Wesley. I believed that John Wesley, like myself, wanted to know God intimately and personally, rather than relying on the experience of others. Therefore, I made this solemn prayer in my teens, 'Lord, I want to know you for myself'. As the French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal said, 'There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus'.
Not all of us are like Moses, who had a theophany through the burning bush (see Exodus 3). However, we give God praise and thanks for those who were bold enough to share Christ openly and boldly like the late evangelist John Workman from Barbados. His services were inspiring, with short sermons where most of the time was spent praying for the needs of the people. This caught my attention as a youngster, so every time he visited Montserrat, I attended every service trying to get a revelation of the God about whom our forefathers spoke so passionately. I think the change that I needed was the boldness to share Christ. I had a spirit of fear. Truth be told, I was afraid of people. I was afraid like Jeremiah; 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak. For I am only a young woman' (see Jeremiah 1:6). My chains fell off and my heart was free when I attended the Leeward Islands District Youth Camp in St Martin. There were activities for everyone. We attended evangelistic services in the evenings, and reluctantly I went to the altar, and as I knelt, I said these words, 'Dear God I am tired of coming and nothing is really happening'. God always puts us to the test, and just when we are about to give up, he answers our feeble prayers. At last, the change that I longed for came. My fears dissipated. Everyone observed the change that God wrought within my heart. I became bold in telling others about Christ. I knew that God had made himself known to little Noreen.
Not long after, I was selected to represent my Circuit at District Conference. I was given the opportunity to lead devotions for my Circuit and the late Rev. Lester Bowers shouted, 'Candidate for ministry'. Each morning I got up and prayed, wanting to make sure that it was God's will for my life, and his will become clear. As the Rev. Dr Clifton Niles preached his sermon at Conference, I had the urge to go forward to surrender my life to full time ministry, but I held tightly to my seat, with tears rolling down my face. I knew that God was calling me. In the middle of his sermon, he stopped and said, 'God's Holy Spirit is calling someone to full time ministry, and I bid that person to come right now'. In all my tears I went forward, and never turned back. The stupendous God has been my rock and stay.
I completed my local preacher and candidate exams in a year. I spent four years in Jamaica at the Theological College of the West Indies. In my final year, I attended the World Council of Churches in Brazil; which opened my eyes to the diversity of Methodism. It is customary for Montserratians to wear our best clothes to church. I loved Harvest during my childhood because I would get new dresses, for the morning and afternoon services. With that custom buried within me, I took out my best wear for Brazil and, to my surprise, all the locals attended church in shorts and flip-flops. Oral and I, who represented the College, felt so out of place. On the other hand, the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands were the opposite. At Christmas morning services in Barbados, members dressed as if they were attending a wedding then they would take part in a parade in the park. In St Vincent and St. Lucia dress is moderate. But as I grow in Christ the focus is not on dressing but on how Christ becomes alive in our personal witness, and the mystery of God becomes tangible in our communities. I often quote the words of St Paul, 'I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection' (see Philippians 3:10).
Shortly after my ordination in St Vincent and the Grenadines, I got married to Lafton and we have a son, Emmanuel. As a family, we like to cook, bake, and play football and a little bit of cricket. We all have a passion and longing to participate in God's mission and help others to feel the glory of his presence and discover the mystery and wonder of a God who longs to make himself known to his people through grace and justice.