Jules’ email update // September 2013
Dear lovely friends, family, supporters and general hangers-on ;)
Welcome to my first email update! If you are receiving this it’s either because a) you signed up or, b) I thought you might like it, or c) you don’t have a choice – eg: Mum and Dad. Some of you I have just sent this first one to, because you have been massively instrumental in getting me to this point, so if you would like to receive this regularly and haven’t already told me (it will probably be once a month but by the time I finish it may well be once a year…) then just reply saying ‘yes’ and I’ll add you to the list…
Also before I start:
It may be a surprise to you, but I am a Christian, so these updates will be unashamedly littered with references to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and plenty of general Church nonsense, so… if you don’t understand /don’t get it / would like to know more / want to generally argue with me etc, then please ask! I am more than happy to convert, er, I mean chat to any of you about all of this so whatever your beliefs, background or viewpoint you are welcome!
So, what am I doing? //
A 3 year part-time BA in Theology for Ministry, at SEITE (watch that pronunciation…) otherwise known as The South East Institute for Theological Education. SEITE covers the south east of England, including, in CofE speak, the dioceses of: Chichester, Canterbury, Southwark and Rochester. There are students doing the same as me, some FT some PT, there are those doing lay courses – ie: they won’t get ordained at the end, there are those hoping for paid jobs at the end like me (stipendiary ministry) or those who will be self supporting (NSM or SSM). There are also independent students who are just studying because they want to or are slightly mad. Some students are doing the course in a year, some 2 years and some 3. There are people from very ‘high’ churches – ie: smells and bells, those from ‘low’ or charismatic churches ie: not much liturgy and a band, and even a student from the Lutheran church (no idea before you ask, but basically not much different…) so we are a completely mixed bunch. The course is part time and includes one evening a week in Southwark and many weekends away (3 a term roughly). I have just been on my first weekend, which was at Aylesford Priory in Kent.
The weekend //
So at this stage all I have to report on is this, the ‘induction weekend’ (By the way if you are at all interested in how I got here you can look at my blog which has many posts on the whole process… pickingapplesofgold.blogspot.com
So, it’s fair to say it was a complete roller coaster. Friday evening I arrived having been under the weather, had a filling (for the first time in 20 years) in the pouring rain and our journey had been a nightmare. We went straight in to supper (which was interesting to say the least) with - to all intents and purposes - a bunch of strangers, in a hall that would not look out of place in the world of Harry Potter, which was then followed by an act of worship – in this case a said service from the book of Common Worship – including saying a Psalm with deep breaths and 3 second pauses between lines which went on forever! Seriously someone tell me what that is all about…? actually don’t…
This was followed by our first session, in which one of the ‘get to know you’ exercises was to choose an animal to represent your thoughts on how ministers should be in the Church of England and then find others with the same animal, without talking. Even for a confident person like me, at 9pm on a Friday evening, with no alcohol involved, this was a stretch I can tell you. Really felt for the person who had chosen an octopus as their animal… So I’ve got to admit I went to bed on Friday feeling ‘what the *** am I doing here…?’ Thankfully it got a lot better…
Some good bits //
Our study weekends away will be in various places but this one was at the beautiful Aylesford Priory, an 800 year old priory, still inhabited by monks (although they are rather sparse, I only saw 2 in my whole time there), right next to the river Medway. The walls are thick and stone, the rooms basic but there is something holy about this place, something serene and restful. One could be quite spooked staying somewhere like this, dark corridors, chapels and thick black beams, but I found the opposite, I felt comforted, protected and part of something bigger. Loved it!
So Saturday was much better. I snuck out for an early run and had a good rant at God about why I was there, really hope there weren’t any early morning dog walkers out in the fields to hear me... Also met a lady more bonkers than me in spiritual terms, who audibly hears the voice of God and has fought demons in Africa – she’s going to be fun! and so glad I don’t feel like the only one who believes in this stuff! And if you are reading this wondering what on earth that’s all about well, that’s how I felt the first evening… that’s the funny thing about the Church of England though (love it as I do) that it is so diverse… there are people on the course from fairly ‘high’ churches who would be happier with incense and bells, but also those who like me, haven’t got a clue where to look in the daily prayer book for the services (and I thank God for helpful tutors who have so far pointed out the relevant pages we need!), but we are all united in Jesus.
We also found out about our mission project, which we will work on for the next few terms, which is right up my street. On top of which I have a nice group to work with, most of who do not live too far away and we agreed that by some stroke of divine genius my house is mid-way between them all so we’ll meet at mine. Hurrah J
Rough stuff //
: An ancient priory doesn’t really lend itself to the 21st Century. So no wi-fi . What?? Yes, nowi-fi or phone signal, except for a small square in the courtyard in which I had to stand like an idiot with my phone in the air to get even a hint of twitter, or speak to anyone at home, not in that order obvs…
|Laptop becomes lamp...|
: On the same note, just one plug socket in my room. Just one. So in the eves, I had the choice of a) the lamp b) the heater c) charge my phone or, d) use the laptop. Now if only my laptop could have straightened my hair I could have got them all in one…
Some other bits //
: I had been warned about the food at Aylesford and even the tutors referred to it as ‘curious’, and it was. Got to say I’m grateful they could feed me at all with the various dietary nonsense I have, but let’s just say I ate a lot of beans this weekend (good thing I wasn’t sharing a room…) and when I say a lot, I mean at every meal except breakfast (although come to think of it they were on offer there too…)
: There was a bar J Although the thing about being a bit under par, tired and generally brain dead is that one glass of wine and it goes straight to your head. Thankfully managed to get to bed before being embarrassing or falling asleep in the pringles…
: So the ‘will.i.am moment’ of the weekend (ie: a good bit) was having Phil & 2 of the kids come up on Sunday and Phil leading worship in our course service. After a lot of liturgy – ie; the generally repetitive prayers/words you get in church services, it was so nice to have a slightly ‘lower’ service on Sunday and have my family with me – I really missed them this weekend.
The ‘Simon Cowell let down’ (or the pants bit) would be just generally realising this is going to a long slog and I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Prayer Stuff //
If you are a praying type then please do. I’ll try and include some prayer points in each email but for now:
: For good time management – I’m really going to need it
: For Phil & the kids – there will be many weekends when they will be at home without me and are going to have to fend a bit more for themselves hopefully without the aid of too much tech and oodles of baked beans…
: For good relationships with my fellow students and that we would be open and loving with each other despite some of our differences.
So for now, that’s it, hopefully by next time I will actually have learned something new and will have some nugget of theological wisdom to pass on…. But in the meantime thanks so much for all your support and prayers, I really do appreciate it. And to all of you who helped me to get here, who put up with a lot of snot and tears, encouraged me, hugged me when I needed it, told me I’d be a good Vicar, or just listened to me when I thought I was going round the twist (you know who you are), a massive massive thank you…
Love & blessings,