About Me

My photo
I was commissioned as a Church Army Officer in 2000, and spent 9 years working in parishes, mainly with children and families. In 2009, I began ordination training at Ripon College Cuddesdon. I married Clare in July 2000, and our first child, Nathan, arrived on September 22nd 2010.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Leavers' Course

The Leavers' Course started today, and suddenly it's starting to hit me that we finish in less than 3 weeks! I've always known this, but with things like exams and Themed Study Weeks to think about, it's been something that's there but not totally on the radar. But now there's nothing else to focus on!

There's lots of different things happening. We will have some spiritual and theological input, as well as practical things like Child Protection (not that I've done any of that before!) and Canon Law. Today we began by thinking about 'desert island theology' - basically what might sustain us during curacy. One thing we were asked to do was to think of three books that we would have on a desert island; my three were:

Love's Endeavour, Love's Expense (Vanstone) - a remarkable book about God and authentic love
Restoring the Woven Chord (Mitton) - a book about Celtic spirituality
The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) - my all-time favourite novel!

Martyn (the principal) gave us a long list of books which sustain him - I have read a grand total of one of them! But that does mean I have a lot of suggestions of things to read in the future!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Community Mission

We are currently in the middle of the latest Themed Study Week, this being one of the weeks where we get to choose out of a number of options.

I am doing a week on 'Community Mission', a fascinating topic which has already raised a number of questions for me, arising out of the experiences and stories of those who are facilitating the sessions.

The thing which is really becoming central for me is to reflect upon what my calling to be a priest is in this context. There are a number of factors that have caused this:
  1. We were asked to do an exercise in which we write what we would like to see in our own obituary. The first question to help us reflect on this was, "What has been achieved?" I really struggled with this because I just don't think in terms of 'achievement'. My aim is basically to 'act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God'; if I can do this, and in some small ways contribute to the human flourishing which is God's intention for all his people, then I will be happy. 
  2. One visitor was very honest with us about an experience he had with a parishioner, in which he was so focused on bringing about transformation within the local community that the parishioner voiced how she felt pastorally neglected. Having done a Long Essay on liberation theology recently, I am very enthusiastic about tackling structural sin, but at the expense of neglecting the pastoral needs of individuals? There's a balance there which is fine and full of tension.
  3. Today, the question was asked about what a parish priest is called to be: chaplain to the congregation or to the community? On paper, the answer is simple: 'the cure of souls' is for the whole parish, not just the congregation. But when the congregation have the expectation (be it explicit or implicit) that the priest is there primarily for them, then how does one handle that?
Lots to reflect on, therefore! Tomorrow we will be visiting a project in Reading, to see for ourselves an example of 'community mission in action'. Then on Friday we will reflect on the whole week together. Should be interesting!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Pastoral Ethics

Yesterday and today I sat my two papers for the ethics exam; having completed them, I have officially done everything I need to do before I leave college! I still need to do 3 modules in order to complete the BTh, but those do not have to be done before ordination.

The exam yesterday was a mix of ethical theory and application - we had to write three essays, at least one from theory and one applied. I wrote on natural law, capital punishment and homosexuality.

Interesting as those topics were, today's was both more relevant and a lot harder! Today was the Pastoral Ethics paper, in which we were given a fictional case study (from parish life), and had to both identify the ethical issues at play, and state how we would respond to the parishioner. Without going into the details of the case study, it highlights how we can talk and talk about what the ethical response might be in an ideal world, but we willl be pastoring to real people in hurting situations, where the answer will always be more complicated than the ideal. It is helpful to have theories and ideals and theology in our 'resource boxes'...but, as has been said more than once in my time here, people in the parish won't care how much I know until they know how much I care.