AlisonAlison Harford, 63, lives in Northants, UK, in Christian community. She made a vow of celibacy when she was 35. She answers questions about her celibate commitment.

How and when did you decide to become celibate?

My only ambition in life as I was growing up was to get married but I had been brought up with a load of romantic nonsense, which included rooms going misty and orchestras playing, so when that didn’t happen I quickly became disillusioned!

When I came to the church I belong to now (the Jesus Fellowship), one of the things that attracted me was the abundance of strong (in God) men but God had other plans and, against my natural inclinations, He drew me tenderly towards the idea of celibacy. I eventually made a vow when I was 35 and  immediately felt a huge weight go from me – it was like another baptism in the Spirit and I knew God was with me and affirming me in my choice.

When I was trying to decide whether to be celibate I said to God that if He wanted me to take the plunge then I wanted to go back into nursing (I’d had a break from it for a few years). I thought this was a pretty tall order so when, two days later, one of the doctors in our church asked me if I would work for him as a nurse in his general practice, I was a bit bowled over – to say the least! I kept my side of the bargain a little while later.

What has been your most exciting moment since becoming a Christian?

When I was in my teens I promised God I would be a missionary, probably in Africa, which is why I started training to be a nurse. Years later, after many broken promises, I was having lunch with the doctors and staff in the surgery where I worked when one of the GP’s commented that we were like a mission station in deepest, darkest England. I was overwhelmed with a sense of being in the centre of God’s will and, yes, I was still being a missionary and, yes, a lot of our patients were African!

What, for you, is the worst and best thing about being celibate?

The worst thing about celibacy can be the loneliness and insecurity (especially after losing parents) and the feeling of not being special to one person – no-one to fight your corner when in a fix. I’ve had a problem with over-dependency on certain brothers in the church at times but God is jealous and is teaching me to find a deeper security and affirmation in Him.

The best thing about celibacy is the freedom and flexibility celibacy can bring to serve God and His church in any way He leads. It widens the heart to take in all sorts of people and, as celibates, we find we have a huge family. Celibacy has brought me greater capacity to love.

Have you any celibate heroes?

My main heroes are Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylwood and Florence Nightingale – all single women who pioneered against all odds, were very human but found unlimited depths of love and service both to God and humanity in very practical ways. I’m a practical person!

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