From Thetford's postmistress to church pastor
In 1995, Tracey Day, a Thetford postmistress, unexpectedly decided to move to Manchester to train to become a church minister. Now, 23 years later, she has returned to the Mid Norfolk town as the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, eager to serve the community. Jenny Seal reports.
Earlier this year Rev Tracey Day was welcomed into the role of Pastor at Thetford’s Church of the Nazarene. “There was a sense of coming home,” she says about the appointment.
Originally from Great Yarmouth, Tracey first moved to Thetford in 1987 with her husband and three young children. She lived in the town for eight years and worked in a post office within a local shop and newsagent’s on Admiral’s Way.
Soon after they arrived in Thetford, the family started going to the Church of the Nazarene. “I’d like to say I came for deeply spiritual reasons, but I lived just up that slope there,” she says smiling and pointing out the church door to a residential estate. “We had three children, aged three and under, and no car. Now I say it was part of God’s plan and he clearly knew what he was going to do. But it did have something to do with it being 30 seconds outside my back door!”
The Thetford Church of the Nazarene was built by a British and American ‘Work and Witness’ team about 40 years ago on the intersection between two housing estates. In the 1980s it had a thriving congregation; popular with US families stationed at the air bases in Lakenheath and Mildenhall.
Tracey started leading the children’s work at the church and would occasionally preach. Her husband David, who she met at High School, had introduced her to the Christian faith when they started going out. It was at Great Yarmouth Baptist Church that she first got the opportunity to preach at just 18 years old.
However, it wasn’t until Tracey was 33 and voted by the Thetford church to represent them at the Annual Assembly of churches in the District, that she first had the idea of becoming a Minister.
Tracey recalls: “Somebody was preaching and I felt God call me. So I went to the front telling them all the reasons why I couldn’t go to theological college – mainly our house wasn’t worth what we paid for it and my husband had just been made redundant.
“When I got back from the weekend, I said to my husband: “how do you feel about moving to Manchester?” (because that’s where the college is). And he said: “Well I might as well be unemployed in Manchester as unemployed in Norfolk.”
“And to this day I am convinced,” Tracey continues still with a sense of wonder, “that actually he was made redundant in the January, because I was elected just after that to be a delegate to the assembly. Because in all honesty I don’t know if I’d have had the faith to move with three children and him in a really good job and to give it all up to move half-way up the country. But I did – he moved with me, we moved to college, he got a job once he was there and I trained.”
Tracey graduated from the Nazarene Theological College in 1999 and became a pastor in Bolton for eight years and then led a church in North Wales for nine years.
In 2017, Tracey and David made the decision to come back to Thetford.
Moving further from their grandchildren was a hard decision, and the congregation within the Thetford Church had dwindled, but Tracey is excited about the potential to work with the congregation to breathe new life into what they do and to serve the local community.
“Our congregation is small, but they are willing - they try new things and they are more than happy to get involved,” she says with admiration.
Together they have embarked on a relaunch of the church and its activities. The church, which already runs a Family Café, Messy Church and weekly social group, plans to start a parent and toddler group in the autumn, along with a new craft club and a Christianity Explored course. There will also be a relaunch of the youth café that uses the premises and the décor in their community hall has been updated.
On the last Saturday in July, the church held a free Community Fun Day to promote new and ongoing activities. As people eat burgers, chat, do crafts and play on inflatables Tracey draws a crowd by sticking her head in the stocks and encouraging children to throw wet sponges in her face.
It is clear this pastor is up for anything – which may be just what this church is looking for.