Brought up as a pastor’s daughter in Dublin, Sian Fitzgerald’s journey took her to heartbreak and back before she returned “home” in more ways than one. Sian shared her story with VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams:
(From the April - June 2017 issue of VOX.)
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I was born in Scotland and raised in a Christian home. My dad is a pastor, and we came to Ireland when I was two years old. We were here in the Apostolic Church in Dublin until I was 13 years old. Dublin was very much in my heart, and when we left I found it difficult. I always had a longing to come back.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS?
I walked with the Lord until I was about 15, and then I completely left the church. Those were hard years. In my heart, I didn’t really want to leave the Lord behind. But I’m very much a black and white person and I couldn’t live two lives. For four years, I walked away from the church, but in my deepest heart I still loved Jesus. I felt like I was a failure, and I was so broken.
When I was a 19, a lady called Audrey Harper was speaking at a special service. She was a converted witch, so I went to hear her. It was the first service I had been to in four years. The Holy Spirit began to move, and I knew I couldn’t stay away from the Lord any longer. That night, I gave my heart back to the Lord.
WAS IT ALL PLAIN SAILING FROM THEN ON?
For a while, life was quite good. I walked with the Lord for many years, and by the time I was 27, I was living in Windsor with a nice job, a nice car and a nice home, but suddenly I found myself in a crisis. It affected everything. I lost my home. I lost my job. It is amazing how in just a moment everything can look so different. One night, I didn’t know if I wanted to live or die. I fell on my knees and said to the Lord, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I’m so broken. Lord, if you want my life, you can have it.”
I knew the Lord, but that was the moment I fell in love with Him. I ended up back on my mum’s doorstep with seven boxes containing everything I owned and a broken heart. In that time, I met with God in a very deep way. He lifted me out of my brokenness. They were six months of deep inner healing.
SO HOW DID YOU END UP BACK IN IRELAND?
Around that time, I was invited to a wedding of a very dear family friend in Dublin. I wasn’t planning to go, but my friend rang me and asked me to come. As soon as I got off the boat, I knew I was home. Within a few days, I found out about a Bible school in Greystones and applied. In 1998, I moved back to study at Carraig Eden. I wasn’t planning to go into ministry. Having grown up in a pastor’s home, I never wanted that, but I loved the Lord so much and I wanted to give Him a year of my life.
While I was in the Bible school, I woke up one night and felt God saying to me, “All those years you thought you were homesick, and it was me calling you back to Ireland.”
My dad used to say, “You were born for Ireland.” I have such a deep connection in my heart. I adore this place, and I adore the people here and feel very much a part of this.
I met Patrick about six months later, and we knew God was speaking to us even though we were very different people from different backgrounds. We were married in October 1999 and came to minister at the Apostolic Church in Dublin - a different building but the same church where I was as a child.
AS A PASTOR’S CHILD, YOU NEVER WANTED TO BE IN MINISTRY, YET YOU ENDED UP DOING JUST THAT. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE?
I had such an issue with ministry, but God brought me on a journey. I had seen my parents’ struggles, but the vital element I had overlooked was the grace of God. Although I had seen them come through hard times, I hadn’t experienced God’s presence in the same way as they had.
Ministry has been tough. There have been heartbreaking times and disappointing times. There are nights when you go to bed and you can hardly sleep. There have been many times I have felt like running away to the hills, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I love God’s people. I love serving God. Our love for Him keeps us going.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR MINISTRY?
One of the frustrations I feel is seeing so many Christians in bondage. Jesus came to give us life abundantly. It is as if I gave you €100 for your birthday but you only spent €50. When people come into that freedom, that revelation and that relationship with Jesus, they experience such joy. When I see that operating in people’s lives, that is my highlight!
YOU HAVE JUST BEEN ORDAINED AS A PASTOR IN THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH - THE FIRST WOMAN TO TAKE ON THAT ROLE. TELL US ABOUT THAT.
I’ve been operating in a pastoral role in the church for 19 years, but up to this point our denomination has never ordained women. I was raised in this church, so I’ve been on a journey. So often, people inform us what our theology is, but I began to search the Scriptures for myself. I spoke to people I really respect in authority and leadership. The Lord began to challenge me that ordination was important.
I feel a bit different since I was ordained in February. I didn’t think I would! I really feel that God has such a heart for this nation and wants to impact people’s lives. We have recently changed the name of the church to “People’s Church”. Jesus didn’t come to authorities and dignitaries; He came to the ordinary people.
We meet so many who are searching and struggling. Life looks glossy, but beneath that surface is a lot of turmoil in people’s lives. Our ideas of God can be so distorted, and that breaks the heart of God. Our heart is to reach into our community, reach as many people as possible with the Gospel and encourage people to come into that freedom of relationship with Him.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PARENTS WHOSE CHILDREN ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR FAITH?
I always try to encourage parents with my story, that even when I turned my back on God and wasn’t where I should have been, I still loved Him. As a parent myself - we have three daughters - I know that life is crazy. I want people to know that what we teach our children, and what we model in front of them never leaves them. I think of it like oxygen - even though we cannot see it or feel it, we know it is all around us. That was how it was for me. I had been taught that Jesus was the Son of God and that He would always love me. That was the underlying foundation for my life, even when I walked away from the church.