AN ARMY captain who turned from conflict to Christianity is now moving from the field to the pulpit.

Darlington woman Rachael Phillips has spent the majority of her life in war zones, working to improve the lives of those affected by global conflict.

Following years of voluntary work in impoverished and struggling communities, life in the Army took Captain Phillips to the heart of Afghanistan, with her work as a cultural specialist meaning she also spent time with families in post-genocide Bosnia.

The Northern Echo: CHANGE: Army captain Rachael Phillips served in a number of conflicts and is now turning to the priesthood picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

It is those experiences she credits with giving her the skills to set out on a new – and unexpected – path towards priesthood.

Capt Phillips was a life-long agnostic until she found herself in a makeshift church one hot night in Afghanistan.

The visit came soon after the death of her beloved grandmother and following a long day helping injured Afghan children.

By the end of the service, Capt Phillips knew she was a Christian – a realisation followed soon after by a calling to the priesthood.

She said: “I realised with some amount of dread that I was being called to be a priest.

“I’d never wanted to be a vicar, it’s not something I’d considered, never in a million years.

“I stood there sweating in my Army uniform and thought, seriously God, this is a big ask, I’ve only just become a Christian.

“Then I started to look at my life and realised it made sense, with all the things I’ve been drawn to, everything I’ve done and the places I’ve been.”

Capt Phillips left her full time job in the Army – though still serves in the Army Reserve – and is now studying for a degree in theology, ministry and mission at Durham University whilst she continues the discernment process.

She believes her rich and varied life experiences will serve her well in supporting others through the church and potential missionary work.

She also credits her faith with helping her come to terms with some traumatic events, saying: “Some of the experiences I had in the Army left me unwell with PTSD and a lot of pressure on my shoulders – I don’t know how I did it without God.

“It’s nice not to have to be in control all of the time – when I feel sad and stressed, I can give those feelings to God and feel much better.”

Capt Phillips delivered one of her first sermons on Sunday, December 20 at Darlington’s Holy Trinity Church.