Julie Hulme: Biography

Julie was a British writer and a member of the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Born in London in 1957, she was educated at a comprehensive school in North Wembley, at Harrow College of Further Education, Durham University (General Arts degree, 1979) and Wesley House, Cambridge, where she trained as a Methodist minister from 1991-1994.

From the age of ten, Julie defined herself as a writer and throughout her adult life she followed a call to live the Ministry of Word and Sacrament (which is how British Methodism defines its presbyteral ministry) as a life of prayer. This call was endorsed by the Methodist Church when she was accepted for training in 1991 and ordained in 1995.

Though primarily a contemplative, she was always open to the full breadth of experience in prayer, from charismatic worship (e.g. prayer for healing with the laying on of hands; “speaking in tongues” etc.) at one end of the spectrum to the complex lectionaries and ordered liturgies of the Benedictine tradition at the other.

Julie’s approach to prayer was always enquiring and explorative, asking basic questions such as “What works for me in prayer?” and “What doesn’t?” and most important of all, “Why?” and “Why not?” During the 1980s and 1990s, it was her difficulties in praying and in sustaining the life of prayer to which she felt called that fuelled her research.   Finding little to read that satisfied her, she focused on paying attention to her own responses to prayer, to the Bible and to the world around her.

In 1998, an experience of “burn-out” prompted her to plan a radical change of direction and in 2000 she received permission from the Methodist Church to withdraw from normal circuit (pastoral) ministry so that she could focus on the life of prayer.   However, a series of experiences in 2001-2002, including two bereavements and several months’ treatment for aggressive breast cancer, left her exhausted, vulnerable and unable to pray or write.

Julie’s approach to prayer was always enquiring and explorative, asking basic questions such as “What works for me in prayer?” and “What doesn’t?” and most important of all, “Why?” and “Why not?”

Unable to draw any strength from conventional Christian spirituality, she began to explore forms of spirituality developing outside the Church, especially as these related to the building of confidence; how “everyday” faith empowers us; how such “everyday” faith is related to various aspects of contemporary culture and also to specific forms of faith such as faith in God; and how a greater understanding of “everyday” faith can revitalise Christian spirituality.   As before, her inquiry was rooted in asking basic questions such as “Does this work?” “Why does it work?” and “How does it work?”. Again, her main method of research was to pay close attention to her own responses, explore the ideas in relation to the Bible and express what she was discovering in writing and, increasingly, in art.

However, from 2003 onwards, she also tested out her observations and ideas through Bible study, preaching, planning and conducting courses, group discussions, conferences and retreats. With the feedback gained from this experience, she wrote a book (“Bread in Our Hands: Feeding God’s People in Hungry Times” which was published by the Methodist Publishing House in 2008). In addition, she applied her ideas to pastoral strategy by helping a variety of organisations navigate processes of change. As part of this work, she served as the final Connexional (national) President of the Methodist Women’s Network (2010-2011) and the first Vice-President of Methodist Women in Britain (2011-2012).

Most of her travelling, teaching and organisational work was brought to a halt on the recurrence of the breast cancer in June 2011. Almost continuous chemotherapy treatment steadily reduced her physical capabilities until she became largely house-bound. However, she continued to write throughout this period, from within the knowledge of her now terminal condition. Some of her writing from this period carried even greater depth, arising, as it did, from her “engagement” with her cancer.

She died on 15 January 2014.