Sarah Gillett reflects on her journey from a diplomatic career driven by change to a more rooted life focused on societal transformation.

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“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

(Charles Darwin).

At school I set my heart on a life which would commit me to changing countries, languages and roles at regular intervals. Making many mistakes along the way, I was lucky enough to become a diplomat during a period of history when global change seemed to gather pace.

Change is constant in the Foreign Office. It excited me (so many opportunities), terrified me (impossible-seeming challenges), swivelled me (all those unforeseen “events”), and motivated me (so much to engage with). It also taught me – masses, but still not enough. The teenager who dreamed of helping to change the world, has been extensively changed by the world.

In my post-diplomatic life, I wanted to be more rooted in the UK, and switch focus from international to societal. I now enjoy roles which provide plenty of different opportunities to think about change. One is in the justice system, where a lot of really difficult life-changing matters are handled. Another is working with professionals in the public and voluntary sectors who grapple with hugely stressful and complex change.

St James’s Church Piccadilly is a special place for me to pray about change in our world, our society, and in myself. I treasure being in Christopher Wren’s beautifully designed building where people have prayed for 340 years, shaping and weathering momentous changes.

I love how St James’s embraces change – the initiatives to help with altering outlooks and circumstances for those hit by adversity; the energy which goes into “Changing Our Minds” about how we should respond to climate and other environmental damage caused by us; and the thoughtfulness applied to adapting the church to our current needs as a spiritual community.

The ambitions of the Wren Project, to conserve wonderful 17th century heritage and modify it for the 21st century, is the kind of change that works best for me – preserving the good from the past, and improving it with present knowledge for the long-term. I am particularly thrilled about the Changemakers Programme for young people which is being incorporated into the Wren Project. The programme is designed to equip and support a vanguard eager to pioneer the next chapters of change.

Eastertide is of course about the most world-changing event of all for Christians. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was transformational in a way that I find overwhelming. I come to St James’s to learn how to adapt myself in light of the lessons from Christ’s birth, life and resurrection.

Change is not straightforward. It can be disorienting, and sometimes paralysing. I frequently use Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”