As a young woman, Elsie had become involved in almost every aspect of the work of Islington Chapel. Her mother had been elected to serve as the church secretary in 1929, initially to work with the previous office-holder and from 1930, in Robert Shepherd's first year as minister there, as secretary in her own right. At that time the number of women holding such an office in Congregational churches in this country was very low – only nine women, including Annie Chamberlain, were listed in 1930 as church secretaries in the London Congregational Union, out of a total of 251 churches. In that same year only 173 women were recorded as church secretaries in the Congregational Union of England and Wales as a whole, out of a total of approximately 2,700 churches. Strengthening the family link, Elsie's brother, Sidney, and his wife were the secretary and treasurer of the missionary work at the chapel. It was at this time that Robert Shepherd, having detected in her the gifts and the required toughness of mind, urged Elsie to consider the ministry as a calling. She seems to have responded quickly for he was soon teaching her and others the rudiments of Old Testament Hebrew and encouraging her to make initial enquiries about ministerial training.
Her father was not immediately happy about this unexpected course. Striking a cautious note, he expressed reservations about his daughter possibly becoming a Congregational minister because he saw that, although the Congregational Union of England and Wales had admitted women ministers on its roll since 1917, their numbers were small and the pastoral opportunities for such ministers were few.