A KENDAL Buddhist has led a life that saw her become acknowledged as the first female Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the world, and become a leading figure in guiding the faith of the community.

Jacquetta Gomes was also one of the founders of the Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) known locally as BGKT in 1991.

She first became interested in Buddhism after studying Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Island for A-level English.

Jacquetta said: “When I was young you didn’t have the interest in, and there was less material available about what we now call minority faiths.

“I came to Kendal in September 1991 because we were starting a group up here, and we moved up in 1996.

“I love it here, it’s a wonderful place to live.

“Buddhism is also recognized as the second largest religion in Cumbria in the 2011 census.

“The area has a very strong spiritual feel, partly because of the local history of the Quakers and Unitarians.” Jacquetta also took part in the sewing of the iconic Quaker Tapestry’s Manchester panel which is displayed at the Friends Meeting House in Kendal.

She added: “For me personally, my faith is the most important thing in my life. I see Buddhism as having a very strong moral code like all religions do, so you’re constantly reflecting your behaviour against Buddhist ethics. It has an explanation for the universe and events, and I feel the Buddhist explanations coincide with scientific explanations.

“The basic moral code is the five precepts of Buddhism; I have taken more than that. I have taken the Bodhicari Precepts. I was the first person in this country to do that.

“But the five precepts are the basis of all Buddhism morality.

“When you formally are given the five precepts you receive a Buddhist name. I did this in 1975 in Sri Lanka, I was given my Buddhist Jayasili name by internationally known Monk Venerable Narada Maha Thera (1898-1983).

“I have been authorized to teach Buddhism and meditation in Theravada Buddhism (Buddhism from South and Southeast Asia) since 1983, and to do that you have to be given permission by senior monks. You only become authorized by the monks, but you can’t ask for permission. They will tell you that you can.

Jacquetta Gomes was acknowledged as being the first female Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the world, after her appointment as a Fire Chaplain by ESFRS East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. She appears to be the fourth Buddhist Fire Chaplain, as well as being the first Buddhist woman to hold the position in the world.

She is included in First Woman in First Women: The first women in law, government, the professions and other notable posts, achievements and matters of interest by Carrie de Silva; City Women's First British Women; Inspiring Women by Women to Work; and in Brighton Museums in 100 Pioneering Women of Sussex a list that also includes Jane Austen.

Jacquetta was the first Chaplain from outside the USA to be included in CIL Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s This is What a Chaplain Looks Like.

Sharon Bailey Director of Beneficiary Services at The Fire Fighters Charity said: “The Fire Fighters Charity supports serving and retired members of the Fire Services Community and their dependants, providing a range of health and wellbeing services to meet physical, mental, and social health needs.

“In 2015, during Interfaith Week, the Charity welcomed Jacquetta Gomes to Jubilee House, the Charity’s residential Centre in Penrith, to launch a new and much welcomed multi faith chaplaincy support service

“In recognizing the needs of those accessing Charity services, and feelings of uncertainty and worry experienced by many following injury or illness, The Fire Fighters Charity wanted to explore how they could introduce pastoral support to its residential centres.

“After discussing our needs with Jacquetta at the FRSCA Fire & Rescue Service Chaplains’ Association Conference the Charity invited Jacquetta to Jubilee House to explore this further.

“Mindful of the diverse range beneficiaries accessing the Charity’s support there was a need to be inclusive and Jacquetta was able to offer the multi-faith pastoral support that the Charity was looking for.

Director of Beneficiary Services, Sharon Bailey, who welcomed the multi-faith chaplaincy support, said: “Jacquetta has been incredibly supportive of The Charity and mindful of the needs of the beneficiaries accessing our residential program at Jubilee.

“She has provided an inclusive focus of support within for beneficiaries of all faiths and none.”