The Nazareth Trust
My name is June Asquith, and I’m a retired vicar from Liverpool. I’m fortunate that I have been part of the church all my life, from being taken to Sunday School at an early age by my aunt, who was a Sunday School teacher. I grew up and became involved in many areas of church life as a lay person. I married Eric, who was another member of my church in Anfield (opposite Liverpool Football Club). We had two children, and it was not until I was 42 that I decided to go to university and study Theology and History.
I then went into teaching for ten years before feeling a call to ordination. At first, I was a self-supporting minister while still teaching and then moved to full-time in 2012. I served in my home church in Anfield, Christ Church, while I was self-supporting and then moved to the Bootle Team Ministry as curate in 2012. In 2014 I was made Rector of St Mary Wavertree. I retired in 2022. All these churches are in the Diocese of Liverpool. I am now supporting the ministry in two churches in South Liverpool.
I was part of my local Anglican church from a young age and a really active youth group. I had been away on a Christian holiday in 1979, and at the youth meeting, they asked if God was calling anyone to serve Him overseas. I felt unsure whether this was me, but I applied to Tearfund for their summer work camps and was selected to go to Nazareth.
Liz and I were asked to be part of the CSSD (Central Sterile Services Department). At that time, we went round the wards and collected used needles and cleaned and then sterilised them, and they were reused. This was before AIDS and before disposable needles were in common use. I also worked in the kitchen part of the time, cleaning out the huge walk-in refrigerator and also cleaning huge canisters for cooking foods. I remember cutting up aubergines and having my hands turn purple in the process. I also remember the very strong Arabic coffee the staff drank and their friendliness but surprise at my drinking both coffee and tea with milk!
I loved working in the CSSD; the staff were so lovely and grateful for our service. In fact, it seemed the whole of Nazareth were pleased that we were there, and we were given a banquet on the last night of our time in grateful thanks for our visit. I also loved early in the morning in the CSSD, those who were Christians would get together and pray and sing choruses before work.
It didn’t seem to matter whether we were singing in English or Arabic, as we knew we were singing the same praise to God. I also felt so welcomed by the Muslim staff. It didn’t feel like there was any conflict between Christians and Muslims, and Jews were welcome at the hospital, though few lived near Nazareth. I also loved the chapel, with the altar a carpenter’s bench, as this was where Jesus would have learned the trade from his father. It was so peaceful and so wonderful to worship together with the Christian staff.
I realised that missionaries were just ordinary Christians serving God where they were. It didn’t matter whether you were serving in Israel or England; you were doing God’s work wherever you were. I was fortunate that I had a sabbatical from my work in the arts at that time to go to Nazareth, but I realised from then that I wanted to serve God in a full-time ministry, but at that point, I did not know what that was. I was shortly married in 1983 but then in 1996 was when I began my degree, and from then on, I believe both teaching and working in the ministry were both places where I could live out my faith more fully.
In 2017 I was feeling a little unfit and decided to take on ‘Couch to 5K’. My church warden asked why didn’t I do a sponsored run, and he would support me. So, with the help of JustGiving, I decided to have a go at the 2018 5K run in Sefton Park, Liverpool. As I have continued to support the Nazareth Hospital since my visit there in 1980, I decided I would split the money raised between my church, St Mary Wavertree, and the Nazareth Hospital.
There is a real sense of God’s presence when we volunteer. Not only the blessing of accomplishing something good for the community but also the sense of God’s closeness in both the good and the difficult times. When I was in Nazareth, I picked up a bug and was ill for a few days and ended up having one of those blunt, second-hand needles put in my backside with anti-biotics. However, convalescing, sitting on the roof of the nurses’ home (now the Pilgrim’s Guest House), I remember feeling so blessed by God. Despite, at the time, planes flying over to bomb Lebanon, I felt nothing could take away that serenity and that feeling of being loved and accepted.
Having visited Israel twice, the land where Jesus lived and taught is such an important place, especially with the ongoing conflict between Jews and Palestinians. The Nazareth Hospital is doing a fantastic job in an area that I believe has no state-provided hospital treatment. Since I was there in 1980, the areas of work and the ministry they provide to the sick, for all people in Nazareth, has grown and developed. Also, the work provided by the Nazareth Village looks amazing. If I ever return, I would love to see that. I love the fact that it’s not just expats, but even when I was there, I learnt so much from the local community, and it’s great that many local students have had the chance to gain education and work through the School of Nursing.