Is it possible to have such a career change in life?

For our new Child and Families Development Worker at Aberdeen North Parish, Claire van Geete, it has been possible!

Claire says, ‘Prior to entering teaching some 16 years ago I was a performing artist and ran my own company called ‘The Company of Fools’. Many years prior, as a children’s Sunday school teacher, I was handed a bag of clown costume and tricks by our Sunday school leader. She said she felt I could make good use of these. What was so amazing about this was that at the age of 24, despite having been faithfully brought up in a Christian church by my mum, I had been a lost and seeking soul for many years until the day Jesus opened my eyes. Having accepted the Lord as my personal Saviour and being born again by power of the Holy Spirit, I had felt everyone knew exactly what their ministry was, except me (not true of course but you know how we can feel this sometimes). I had been walking home one evening when I saw a picture of a clown in a shop window. I said with a very sad heart to the Lord, ‘see that’s me I’m nothing but a clown’. Within a few days Sunday arrived, and the bag was handed to me. How great is our God! Not only this but I was given permission to surprise the congregation with a clown appearance a few weeks later. And so, my clown was born. A few weeks later I began performing with a Christian puppet theatre group called ‘Hands Christian Puppets’. They asked what’s your clown name? Their story was of Noah and the rainbow, so I imagined sliding down that amazing arc of promise and colour splashing into God’s great grace and love at the bottom. And so Splash! the clown was christened.’ In 2002 Claire was awarded the ‘Clowns International Slapstick’ award being the first female and first solo Scot to win that.

She says, ‘I believe it is good that we are here in Aberdeen North Parish with the people of our parish and catchment, and at this time’.

The population of Aberdeen North Parish is 23,000 and is the largest in the city of Aberdeen following the union of Summerhill, Northfield and Mastrick parishes. She is not phased by the enormity of her task but holds onto her faith for guidance.

She says, ‘I believe the Lord is our shepherd and He is our helper and that He will lead us and show us the way to follow Him’.

Rev. Susan Sutherland

Rev. Michael Shewan

Claire van Geete

In Claire’s new role with Aberdeen North Parish, her ability to build rapport with children and adults will be valuable. Her experience as a primary school teacher and also an additional support needs practitioner will be hugely important as she strives to build relationships with local schools. She also has experience at secondary school level with additional support needs and her MSc research focussed on the barriers to learning numeracy and mathematics.

With this wealth of expertise, she is prayerfully planning how to make an impact in the Parish. She proposes starting with homework clubs, or support for parents with home learning, and has set up a classroom at the Mastrick Church site. This will be known as the Learning Zone.

She says, ‘I have also been reaching out to Mastrick Community Centre where the wonderful manager, staff and volunteers are doing an amazing job in the community. I am discussing with the centre how we at Aberdeen North can support the groups that exist there and develop complementary support groups for children, youth and families. I would love it if anyone in Summerhill or Northfield former parishes could let me know of any community contacts in their areas, as I will be reaching out there next.’

 

On a personal level Claire says, ‘I am of Belgian/Irish decent and delighted to be also Scottish! I have one daughter, Angela and currently live in Dundee but am seeking accommodation in Aberdeen’. In her Clowning days, they travelled to many places and Claire performed in circus, theatre, schools, universities, business, city centres, church and homes. She ran workshops in circus skills and clowning and Angela used to lead the younger children. Travels included a mission to Rwanda with her pastor at the time, Hugh Henderson (now running Mission International from Dundee).

She says, ‘This was a very special time. So, for me it was quite a bereavement to put my clowning away and enter teaching in 2006, but I believe God is reviving not only our faith but our joy!’

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A vital aspect of her role will be to support Rev Susan Sutherland and Rev Michael Shewan, ministers at Aberdeen North Parish. Her work will include: Messy Church, parish support, supporting parish ministers on school visits and welcoming children, youth and families into church life.

Claire says, ‘I felt the Lord stir my heart since I first came to visit with Rev Susan Sutherland and Rev Michael Shewan. I read a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, ‘Fields white for harvest’ and knew this was my calling’.

Claire says, ‘I have had some initial ideas which include a Christmas Fayre (4th Dec) and inviting the community centre children’s clubs to Aberdeen North for a Christmas Christian Extravaganza; where we will have fun and share the Christian Christmas message.’

You can contact Claire

Email ClaireVanGeete@churchofscotland.org.uk

Phone: 07526465105

We pray every blessing on Claire as she embarks on this new journey of faith and ministry. We are so grateful that she heard the call to come and work with families in the Northfield, Summerhill and Mastrick areas.

Will we see some clown ministry in Aberdeen North? Sure we will!