This is the third post in a series on Ministerial Training in the Church Of England. To see the intro to it all click here. I have asked a selection of people to write on their own experiences of training, in different environments.
Today Hugh Bourne gives us his experience of training at a residential college, full time. Hugh is a third year Ordinand at Oak Hill College. Hugh blogs at HughBo.com
I'm a few months into my third and final year of full-time, residential training preparing for ordained ministry in the Church of England - and I think it's great! Before I explain why I think it's so valuable let me answer three common objections to this mode of training:
1) Cost - yes it's expensive, further education is expensive, wherever you go, as is the cost of living. But it's not an issue as the costs are met by a combined effort of my sending diocese and the CofE Ministry Division. This might be an argument against residential training if you're a Diocesan Treasurer, but not from an ordinand.
2) Relocating - this will present different challenges for different people depending on life stage and circumstances, for us it was not a big upheaval, but certainly a wrench to leave friends, family and jobs. But to not do this at the college stage is really delaying the inevitable, it's rare to serve a curacy at a sending church and by offering ourselves for ordination we offer ourselves to the Church of England as a whole - moving will be an inevitable part of ministry!
3) Ivory Tower - no one really questions the fact that many medical students study for 3 years (pre-clinical) before they do much training with real life patients, we actually assume that our doctors our well qualified for the job. Academic study, when done well is incredibly relevant to real life and real ministry because the connections are made, my own college has recently launched an 'integrated curriculum' to help this to happen. There may also be a sense in which the training is disconnected from the parish context, the reality is that in my training I will have had a much broader (if not as intense) experience of parish ministry. It's possible that an ordinand could complete their training having only really experienced one church (their whole life!) - that doesn't prepare well for wider ministry in the CofE.
|Students wrestling with theological essays...|
Let me tell you about some of the things I get from 3 years of residential training:
: Over 1000 hours of lectures - (approx... x12 1hour lecture, x10 week term, x3 terms, x3 years).
: A BA degree which gives accreditation to my study, demonstrates a level of academic competence, is transferrable and can be built upon. While some mixed-mode courses offer the same level of accreditation there really is no comparison in terms of academic rigour (just compare teaching time).
: 24 hour access to a theological library of over 50,000 books.
: We get a free lunch! But seriously, catering means I can get on with study and some of the best conversations happen at the meal table with my fellow students.
: A breadth of church experience in two year long parish placements, one intensive two-week parish placement, a week long chaplaincy placement and week long parish mission.
: Daily chapel services which immerse me in a breadth of liturgy and ground me in a worshipping community.
: The time and expertise to commit to learning Greek and Hebrew (I only did a year of Greek, but many of my peers have done three years of both!).
: I train side by side with Anglicans, Baptists, Charismatics, a whole range and spectrum of people from different backgrounds. Some are training to be ministers others to be missionaries or youth workers. There are groups which meet to pray, practise preaching, help each other learn languages, revision groups, social groups, special interest groups - study and worship are in sync and both done in community.
: We live in community, my neighbours are my peers, my lecturers do their laundry in the same laundrette, children play together. My neighbours are my peers now, they'll also be in the future providing a basis for long term support for the next X years in ministry. : When I leave college in June to begin a curacy I will have spent 4 years in full-time parish ministry (including 3 years of practical study here and here, followed by three years in full-time training to degree level here.
Paradoxically I feel incredibly well equipped while feeling rather inadequate for the ministry ahead. If I had the choice between residential and a form of mixed-mode training (I realise some have no choice realistically), to choose mixed-mode would in my mind be downplaying the importance of being academically equipped for ministry and would be a disservice to the people which I will serve. After all no one wants to be operated on by the doctor who hasn't spent adequate time in the classroom!