Ministerial training in the Church of England: A Round Up

A few years ago, I put together a series of guest blog posts on ministerial training in the Church of England. We are approaching that time of year when decisions need to be made about colleges, so here’s a round up of those posts which might well still be useful and certainly gives a selection of viewpoints from different colleges.

Intro – residential or regional training, full or part time, is one better than the other?
Regional Training at SEITE – a look at regional training from a student’s view point (now St. Augustine’s College)
Residential at Oak Hill – a look at residential training from a student’s view point.
Residential at Cuddesdon- a look at residential training from a student’s view point.
A Mixed view – from someone who has been at both

 

 

Blog Giveaway !

So I’ve been clearing out my study and have some bits that I have accumulated through various means, including stuff I’ve been sent to review, so I thought I’d do a blog give away competition for anyone who fancies a few more theology/Christian books (yes I know limited audience…!)

The prize selection includes the books as pictured above, a mug, small bag and some other bits. There may well be more when I finish clearing out… I should note that everything is new, except that I have added hand written notes in the ‘Parish Handbook’ from when I was reviewing it!

How to enter //

All you have to do to enter is tell someone about my blog via social media and encourage them to sign up to it – either by subscribing via email (which can be done by filling in the box to the right under ‘join the conversation’) or by following the Facebook page.

You can do that either by sharing this post, retweeting or tweeting about it, sharing the Facebook post or just generally sharing info about my blog on social media and pointing people to it (feel free to tag me in any posts). Then, and here’s the thing, you must tell me you’ve done it, either via Twitter, email or FB message. I’ll draw a winner at random on Friday evening and post out next week.  

One entry per person but feel free to share as much as you like!

Sorry but entries are limited to mainland UK because of postage costs.

 

Any questions do let me know!

 

 

There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks // Guest post from Jane Perry

Today’s post is a guest post from Jane Perry. You can read more about her at the bottom of the post.

 

Dear Mrs May,

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday (30/4/2017) you said “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks”. It must be hard, as Prime Minister, to be faced with so many complex problems – negotiating Brexit whilst attempting to maintain the economic stability which you rightly identify as key to the long-term security of our public services, being just two of them. But I do have some good news for you: The continued rise in food bank use is not inevitable. It is something you can deal with, and relatively simply.

In 2014, I was part of research lead by Oxfam, working with the Church of England and other partners, to understand food bank use. We wanted to go beyond taking cheap shots at ‘welfare reform’ to uncover the underlying reasons why families have little option other to turn to food banks and set out what might be done to prevent that happening. You don’t need to do that work, the detail is all there in our Emergency Use Only report, now supported by an increasing range of other studies. And there’s little need to worry about whether those findings are still current, the main thing that has substantially changed in the last 3 years is that things have got harder and less certain for many of those who need our help most.

If you read the report, or indeed just talk to people in food banks, I’m afraid there is one central finding that you won’t be able to ignore: Most people are there because they simply do not have enough money to meet essential bills and to feed their families. With alarming frequency, families told us something had happened which left them with literally no, or very little income. We called this ‘acute income crisis’ and set out how it could be distinguished from – even though it was usually underpinned by – ongoing, chronic, low income. I’ll return to low income in a moment, but first we need to be clear: acute income crisis is real and is affecting 100,000’s of people across the UK right now. That is shocking, but it is something we, or rather Government acting on our behalf, can do something about. Here are 3 suggestions for where to start:

  1. No one leaves a Jobcentre hungry. In the UK, we expect the social security system to be there to support the poorest and most vulnerable, when they need it most. There are good reasons why Jobcentres, not food banks, are the best place to offer immediate help and ongoing support to work on underlying problems. That is what our benefit system is designed to do. However, repeated evidence shows that is not currently happening as it should do. You can fix this.
  2. Ensure continuity of income. Often the biggest challenges facing low-income families is insecurity: not being able to rely on regular income, from work or benefits. Universal Credit is a big step forward. It is essential UC is adequately funded and implemented well, ensuring that a basic safety net is there for everyone, all the time. It is early days, but reports from foodbanks in UC areas are worrying. With continuity of income in mind, you might particularly encourage DWP to think again about the 6-week waiting time for first payments, or at least make sure a robust short-term support system is in place and that all claimants are made aware of it.
  3. An economy that works for everyone. Low pay and insecure jobs are a blight on British society, as is the ‘race to the bottom’ to ensure that benefit payments are kept lower than wages. When work pays, then there is no reason to be afraid of giving decent benefit payments to those who genuinely need it. Again, your Government’s increase in the Minimum Wage are very welcome, but we need a decent Living Wage. Too many people are working hard in jobs where the pay for which falls short of what they need for an acceptable minimum standard of living.

As I’m sure you’ve reflected since, the only appropriate response to Andrew Marr’s question about nurses using food banks is “if that’s correct, that is appalling. I’ll look into it and do everything I can”. The only thing that is intractable about foodbank use is the determination to love and care shown by those who run or support them. That social solidarity should be encouraged but there are so many better ways that energy could be used, turning ‘I need…’ into ‘We can…’. However, people cannot move forward if they are left without enough money for food. Their lives are complicated, but the message is clear: This will not do. Policymaking is complex, but that’s no reason for inaction.

 

Jane Perry  previously worked within government, at the Department for Work and Pensions, and for the Policy Studies Institute and National Centre for Social Research. She is now an independent social research consultant. She was the lead author of Emergency Use Only report (Oxfam et al, 2014), pioneered the ‘Listen Up!’ project in Sheffield Diocese, and also produced Paying over the Odds (Church Action on Poverty, 2010).

 

Hidden Beauty

It’s my day off today which means I have slept in, my husband has taken the kids to school and I have finally surfaced at 11am, and breakfasting with a cup of tea and some chocolate (because I can, ok?), I find myself looking out the window onto the garden we’ve spent many hours working on this weekend.

We love our Curacy house, it is an absolute blessing, and far beyond what we had hoped for. But when we moved in, it’s fair to say the garden was a tad neglected. A lovely neighbour from the church had been round and moved the lawn but aside from that it was a bit of a jungle. There was a rotting shed in the corner, a strange sort of fenced off inner sanctum, which we later discovered was the result of a previous tenant owning a lot of cats, (random, yes) and very overgrown. Thankfully we like a gardening challenge and over the last year (aided a lot by my parents) we’ve started to transform this mess into something more loved.

When you preach regularly you tend to view life through the lens of ‘well, that would make a good sermon illustration’ and there are so many in this garden but I think my favourite here was the gift of an apple tree.

This was one side of the garden when we moved in.

 

You can just about see that those grey posts are holding back a chicken wire fence and what looks like a large amount of ivy, in fact I’d call it an ivy tree it was that bad, as well as some other overgrown bushes. On closer inspection we found that behind this fence was another 4 foot of garden, with the fence going round 2 sides of the garden. It was impossible to work out what was behind it or to weed or plant anything as you just couldn’t access it. So one swift phone call to the diocesan housing department and they agreed we could take it out, but on the strict understanding that they weren’t paying for it!

So we all got to work. 

And work it was, the fence posts were about 4 foot into the ground in a large amount of concrete and it took an entire day to get the first post out. But when we did, we were amazed to find a tree behind it.Not only that, an apple tree, with apples growing on it. You can just about see them poking through the ivy here:

 

 

A lot of cutting back followed and the first of many many trips to the tip before the tree and some wonderful plants that had been hidden, emerged from the chaos, including well established rosemary and sage plants. Suddenly we found that the overgrown mess we thought we had, actually contained both the beautiful and the sustaining. 

The garden is still very definitely a work in progress and further cutting back halted whilst the birds nest, but here is the tree now, and the herb bed that we expanded in front of it.

 

I love the image this gives of the stuff that is hidden in the mess of our lives. Some of us are pretty messed up and then God, the ultimate gardener, starts to prune away and pull out our weeds. It’s tough going sometimes, hard work and painful.  Bits of roots get left behind and start to regrow and need to be pulled up again, but this time it’s less painful, until there is nothing left of that weed.

And underneath it all is something worthwhile, something beautiful, something that with a bit of nurturing can grow and flourish.

And into that we can plant new things, useful things, things that bring glory to God, things that can give life, and sustain us.

Just like me, our garden is still a work in progress, sometimes it’s raining and cold and I don’t want to go near it, other times it’s easy, the sun is thing and I can’t wait to get out there, and sometimes it’s just darn hard work.

I’ve recently found myself with my morning cuppa, staring out the window and looking at the fruits of our labour, the beauty in the garden and reflecting on it. I like to think that’s what God does as he looks at us – sees the beauty, recognises the hard work that has gone into us, and takes pleasure in just admiring us.

Holy Week Reflection 7 // Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday – in the Grave

Read: Luke 23:50-56

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 13 and 14 click on the numbers to get the audio

 

Artwork: two choices today:

‘The Deposition’ Ugolino de Neriolook close up at the faces of Mary and Jesus 

 

or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture (click on the titles to see the paintings)

 

  • Both these pieces depict the raw emotion of a Mother with her dead son. Can you feel the sorrow through the artwork?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As we come to the end of the week’s reflections, why not commit yourself afresh to the Lord? You could use this prayer – The Methodist Covenant Prayer which Methodists repeat every year in committing themselves afresh to the Lord.

 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 6 // Good Friday

Good Friday – The Crucifixion

Read: Mark 15:21-41 perhaps 2 or 3 times

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • Imagine yourself in the text, at the foot of the cross, how does it make you feel?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 11 and 12 click on the number to get the audio

Painting: ‘St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali Click on the title to see the painting

 

  • This painting was inspired by a drawing, kept in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross after he had seen a vision of Christ during a powerful spiritual experience. Dali talks of the unity of the world in Christ through his own interpretation. What does it speak of to you?

 

Song: Strange way by Martyn Joseph

 

  • A cleverly written song on the Crucifixion, have a listen to the lyrics and see what stands out to you and think about why.

Prayer Points

  • We sometimes talk of nailing our burdens or our sin to the cross. What do you need to let go of and give to the Lord right now? Lift it to him in prayer.
  • Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.
  • Pray for those you know struggling in their faith

 

Holy Week Reflection 5 // Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday – The Last Supper

Read: Luke 22: 7-30 and/or John 13:1-17

  • What, if anything, stands out to you? 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 9 and 10, click on the number to hear the audio

 

Painting: ‘Journey with Jesus’ by He Qi click on the title to see the image

 

  • There is much symbolism and many references in this picture, what stands out to you?
  • Where would you be in this picture?

 

Prayer Points:

  • Focus on the line from Luke ‘…my blood is poured out for you…’ Spend some time thanking God for the amazing sacrifice he made for you.
  • Pray for those in positions where service is key, perhaps the emergency services, medical staff or armed forces.
  • Pray for those who serve you personally. At home, work, church or in the community…

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 4 // Wednesday

Wednesday – Betrayal

Read: John 13: 18-30, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How do you feel about Judas? Was he purely evil? Was he deceived by the Devil? Do you think he had a choice about what he went to do?

 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 7 and 8click on the numbers to get the audio.

 

Painting: ‘The Bound lamb (Agnus dei)’ by Francisco de Zubaran click on the title to see the picture

  • The image of Jesus as the pure and innocent lamb is very powerful, especially as depicted here tied and bound and completely helpless. Does this help you to focus on the idea of Christ as a pure sacrifice? Or on the idea of betrayal? Have you ever betrayed Jesus?

 

Prayer Points:

  • Lift up to the Lord any situations where you feel you have let him down, perhaps even betrayed him, seek his forgiveness.
  • Pray for those who are helpless in our wider world, for example those starving in the current famine in East Africa. (Tearfund has some prayer points here)
  • Pray for those close to you who feel helpless in a situation they face

 

Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.

And/or Join us for worship and prayer 8-9pm at TRINITY Southover

 

Holy Week Reflection 3 // Tuesday

Tuesday – The Greatest Commandment

Read: Matthew 22: 34-40, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How important are these commandments to you in your life? In what ways do you show the love of Christ in your daily life?

 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 5 and 6(click on the numbers of get the audio)

Painting: ‘God Hold Me’ by Charlie Mackesy

Available here but you need to scroll down to item 74

 

 

  • Can you imagine yourself in this painting?
  • Can you think of a time when you have experienced God holding you in this way? Perhaps you might need to experience this now in a situation you face?

 

Article: Holy Week in an Unholy World

 

  • Does this article resound with you?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As above, imagine God holding you in an embrace like the painting. Can you invite him into a particular situation you are facing?
  • For situations in the world that need God’s embrace more than ever right now, for example for those grieving in Syria
  • For someone you know who needs to feel God’s embrace afresh today

 

Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.