Youth ministry through music

Reverend Joy Ludlow signing and playing guitar during a service

“I’ve never seen a Vicar with a nose ring” is a comment The Reverend Joy Ludlow has heard a few times before. While she’s not a Vicar, at 28, the newly ordained priest says her nosering, tattoos and part-shaved head make her stand out from people’s usual perceptions of clergy. “Mum loves my tattoos,” Joy told Messenger with her tongue firmly in her cheek. But mum, The Reverend Peggy Ludlow from the Parish of Toodyay-Goomalling tells a different story. “Her tattoos and piercings drive me mad! If I say anything she gets more, so I’ve learned silence,” Peggy told Messenger . Joy’s dad is The Reverend Dr Brian Ludlow from the Parish of Gingin-Chittering. With parents in shared ministry, it seemed natural that Joy would also follow God’s call. “I’ve always known. I’ve preached youth service since I was 15, then Sunday School too,’ Joy said. Her journey to ministry began young, when as an eight year old she asked her friends if their Barbie dolls had been baptised. Her mum remembers it vividly. “When she was a little girl her friends stayed for tea and she asked them if their Barbies had been baptised and of course all the Barbies ended up in the bath and ‘baptised’. Joy was always involved in church. It’s very special to have someone younger in our family to come to this life.” Joy laughed heartily when she found out her mum had shared that gem of a childhood memory with Messenger.

The classically trained singer has a Bachelor of Music from Cardiff University, a Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Theology from Trinity College in Bristol, UK. Joy was Ordained at Gloucester Cathedral last year. She also stands apart from the pack because of her ability to use sign language, and her work with Deaf Church in the UK. That skill goes back four years, when, while studying she met a deaf student called Neil and decided to learn. Neil had a signer with him in the mornings but not in the afternoons for lectures. Joy and Neil struck up a friendship and she learned on the go and has no formal sign language qualifications, yet. “My theological sign language is very good, because of using it in lectures and studying, but my general sign language is not as good!” At Joy’s Ordination, the Bishop learned the beginning of the service in sign language and all members of Deaf Church were there. Peggy says it was an honour for Joy. “They (the deaf parishioners) loved it, it was really special.” When Messenger spoke with Joy and Peggy, it was on the occasion of Joy being in Perth to visit family. She received permission from her local Bishop as well as Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy AO to preside at a special signing service for the deaf and hearing impaired at St Luke’s Church in the Parish of Gingin-Chittering. It was also attended by parishioners who had used sign language at schools.

Joy says Deaf Church has added a new dimension to her preaching in traditional church. “It makes you a better storyteller. Things have to be more visual and there is no metaphor in sign language. I use a lot of props and build elaborate prayer stations, because we have to use other senses and hands. These methods of preaching also help those who aren’t deaf and those who learn differently, to engage with church and the Bible in different ways.”

“I wear a black clerical shirt for Deaf Church because your hands really need to stand out and I wear lipstick and line my eyes (to also make them stand out).” The Reverend Peggy says watching Deaf Church is a very different and rewarding experience. “It’s very moving expressing faith in that way. You sign and somebody else speaks, you don’t do both. Deaf Church is completely outside my experience, they don’t have hymns, music is not for them. It’s allowing them to be who they are. If you’ve never heard, you don’t need music.

Article published in October 2018 Messenger magazine