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Mother Christine, new senior priest at Abu Dhabi

Mother Christine is the first female senior priest in the Gulf region and is taking to it like a camel to sand.

Mother Christine wearing traditional black priest clothing and a face mask walking through a stately room with arabs in traditional thobes and headwareIt’s not often that the answer to a question about hobbies, in an interview with a priest, is

Well I’m training to be a camel jockey and it’s great fun

but speaking to Mother Christine Trainor, the parish priest at St Andrew’s Abu Dhabi, you soon learn to take nothing for granted. Christine is the first female senior priest in the Gulf region. She arrived during the covid restrictions but is now getting to know the diocese and its people, and is rapidly getting into her stride in the parish. 

Christine, dressed in a pink blouse, sunglasses with a rucksack on her back, stroking to a camel's neckMother Christine is a hugely experienced priest. When she was born in Charlottesville, Virginia female ordination was not yet a reality, but after women were ordained in the Episcopal Church it was certain outstanding role models that urged her toward her own ordination. She, in turn, wants to be a role model for others and not just for ordained ministry. She has an holistic view of ministry that sees the ministry of welcome and the ministry of stewardship, for example, as key ministries in a living church. Before ordination she had a role in the stewardship team at Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut and has a great respect and ambition for lay ministries in the church generally. Following ordination, she has worked in New York City, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, California, and St Paul’s Cathedral in London in a varied ministry journey. This is her twelfth job. 

Her work in midtown New York taught her especially the value of the ministry of welcome. The axiom on which that ministry was built there was,

Everyone who comes through the doors gives us a new encounter of the risen Christ

and that is an attitude which she has carried with her and which corresponds neatly with her very positive view of diversity. She has thoroughly enjoyed working in churches, such as in California, where, geographically, the church is situated on a fault line between rich and poor, for example, with a congregation that represents both communities. She says that the UAE is the most diverse place she has known and finds that exciting. She came to St Andrew’s at a time she describes as ‘transitional’ and that too appealed to her. Having read the story of the church to date as outlined by the people who wrote the job description, she said she, ‘felt their prayer’ and feels privileged now to be their priest. Encouraging a culture of vocation in the church, she has found a wealth of talent and possibility. 

Christine, sat on a panel of 5 speaking on "The reality of dialogue between east and west and ways to support it."Christine admits that being called ‘Mother’ is a bit weird for some people. It’s a form of address she uses in contexts where the majority of priests are called ‘Father’, as they are in the diocese, to express parity. But more than that, she believes that ‘mothering’, and the nurturing function that involves, is an important aspect of ministering in a church family. She has two children who have now reached what she calls the ‘launching’ stage, and she takes the idea of launching seriously as an aspect of ministering, helping people both to recognize their gifts, and to launch out in faith to employ them. So, it is making a statement but a statement that she feels is going with the tide in the region, where she sees the role of women changing at a pace. She says,

it is great to be here at this time and to be part of it.

Mother Christine has written or contributed to some thirteen books. Some have been in the Bible Challenge series and others have been related to the observation of, for example, Advent. The common theme in her work has been reflection, both on experience and on Bible text and Christian tradition. She has now turned her hand to writing fiction – with a completely fictional character who comes from the US to work in the UAE. She doesn’t say whether this fictional character is learning to be a camel jockey but she herself is attending a school to learn to do just that. Her other passion is swimming in (warm) open water. She says,

where else in the world could I do those things?