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

 

 

Pain

Saw this quote twice on Twitter today within the space of 5 mins.

Coincidence? I think not… ;)
So anyway I liked it so I made a pretty little infographic…

Is there such a thing as a Christian Practice of Internet Use?

So I posted recently and tweeted rather a lot about my latest essay for #VicarSchool entitled: Outline and Argue theologically for a Christian Practice of:
Internet Use
. I promised to share some of those thoughts online, so here’s some of them. Bit long for a blog post but hey it was a 2,500 word essay! There was so much I could have written but the essay was about Christian Practice, so that’s my focus, plus I focussed largely on Social Media but maybe I’ll write more on other areas another time! And if you really want to read the full thing let me know and I’ll send it over.I’m so grateful to everyone who responded to my questions – whether I’ve quoted you or not, you helped me shape this essay, so thank you!

For info I’ve not cited all the books and stuff that I referenced in the essay as this is a blog post, but there is a list of some recommended books at the bottom and if you want to know where I got anything from then do let me know…

 

..oo0O0oo..

So, what  earth is a ‘Christian Practice’? Well, I started with this quote:

 

I love this quote, because I mean what even is a ‘Christian Practice’?! Choosing which is our own preferred
interpretation could be a practice in itself! My view is that Christian
practices are less about doctrine (boooorinnnng…) and more about actually seeking God for ourselves. So in a way a practice should be a bit softer round the edges, or less definite than doctrine. It’s not black
and white words on a page, but more
encounter with God. It’s almost as if we are building something where, if
the doctrine is the foundation or the structure, the practices then enable us
to fill the space and to decorate even!I like that Dykstra talks about a practice being communal and prayer is a good example of that, because even when we pray alone, our prayers join with countless
others around the world, rising together before God. Prayer is
something that should permeate our lives, not be something that
happens once a day or twice a week, or whenever we feel the need, it is as
fundamental to our lives as breathing, without it we would wither and die
spiritually.

Right so now we have that sorted, what about using the internet?

Use of the internet has rapidly become an integral part
of 21st Century life. Of course there is a choice not to use it, but
I would suggest that like prayer, without it life becomes less full, it withers, it becomes
difficult to live, it is, I think, perhaps controversially: like a life
half-lived.

So then, use of the internet for Christians as a ‘practice’ should be an
extension of a faith-filled life. We should seek to
find God within it, to allow his presence to be apparent within it and for it to
be a place where God is experienced and made more fully known to us.

So, Social Media then…

I couldn’t find statistics for Christian use of social media (any ideas anyone?), but even if it
were a very small percentage of these figures above, it would still mean a huge number
across the entire world. I wanted to look at this in more detail and as you probably know I posted here and on Twitter, asking people used their social media as Christians.

There were some key areas that people talked about including a sense of community, being part of something bigger and being supported and encouraged online, especially those for whom physical community is difficult, perhaps thorough disability.

Of course the idea of community makes sense, as humans
we were created to live in relationship with others, as we see in the creation of
humans in Genesis – and we seek to be part of something throughout our lives. Internet use is by it’s very nature relational and
communal, as I discussed earlier with the example of prayer, millions of people
taking part in something at the same time.

I loved this from @thehippypenguin said:

it’s connected me with a lot of like minded people I
otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with.

and

I’ve seen people offer prayers, support me in faith
stuff, talk about the big issues. All with a godly focus. Like a church almost

And I also love that people really felt God’s presence using the internet. This is a key point, that spiritual growth can indeed be achieved through internet use. After all, God has used some rather varied means to reach out to human kind, including a burning bush, bright star, a rainbow and even a talking donkey, so why not the internet too?! The responses ranged from seeing him through the words or responses of others, to a more active and personal answer to prayer. ‏‪@CatDeBie  felt that she was constantly reminded of God’s presence through following other Christians on Twitter and ‏‪@NoNonperson suggested that she felt God’s presence more in online interaction that at church.
@giles_morrison said this:

Difficult. I find my compassion challenged, there’s more to despair of in creation and I’m unequal to the prayer challenge. 

might be tiny fraction of looking into the heart of God. I’ve become more reliant on prayer by the Spirit. I don’t have the words 

What a wonderful idea, that he might be experiencing a tiny fraction of God’s heart by simply using the internet, I love that! But indeed this is something that came across in several responses and one I can relate to as I have felt God’s presence online on numerous occasions, and sometimes very personally. Read my owl story for example, if you haven’t already… 

..oo0O0oo..

 

All of this though, does require a definite choice to participate, which could be in actively choosing to follow or like other Christians on social media but also in engaging with the platform, posting prayer requests, responding to others or seeking out spiritual advice.So a Christian practice of internet use is communal both in a
passive sense – by being part of something bigger, but also in an active sense
– in actually receiving from God through others, by being online.

And experience is great, but that’s just a part
of a Christian Practice, being shaped and formed as a result is also vital. Pam Smith mentions this in her fab book ‘Online Mission & Ministry‘ as she talks about how using the internet has been key in her formation both as a
Christian and as a minister. She highlights the importance of Christians
sharing thoughts and ideas online in order to explore faith. Likewise, Romans
2 tells us we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, in order to
know more of God, therefore in any Christian Practice we must allow ourselves
to be formed and changed, through God, by being online. This passage also tells
us not to conform to the pattern of this world, so we must also be aware of how
we use the internet so that we are there with a Christian presence and not one of
this world.

One of my fave people right now is Pope Francis (@pontifex). On
the World Day of Communications last year, he said felt the internet was a
gift from God, when referring to its benefits and possibilities! He asked also:

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture
of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter
others in the light of the Gospel?

What indeed? Something to ponder further I think…

..oo0O0oo..

As I look
back to Dykstra’s definition then, I see a
Christian practice of internet use that embraces communal action in which God
is made known. A practice that, in a 21st Century way, has a ‘virtual’
monastic air to it, where prayer punctuates the day as internet use does for
the modern Christian. Social media statistics show
that a large portion of users access their accounts several times each day and
often at the same time each day. In this way if the Christian
internet user does so with God as his focus, he is continuing the tradition of
thousands of years of believers seeking God several times each day. The monastery
is virtual, the community is online and the prayers and praises typed, but
together they provide a constant chain of prayer, praise and thought toward
heaven.

 

Seeing God in the pain

I feel like shit. And I’m not even going to apologise for swearing. It feels like the only word that explains it right now. Worse than ‘I feel terrible’, ‘I am in pain’ or ‘I am fed up’. It’s all of those things and so much more. So, I feel like shit.

I’m in pain, not sure if it’s an old back problem flaring up or something new. I haven’t been able to walk properly for a week and now I can’t even move off this one spot I’m sitting on the floor without being in pain. And I don’t mean an ache or a something akin to a headache, I mean an excruciating, acute, knife in my leg kind of pain, the kind that means if I find a position where the pain is manageable, I ain’t moving. It’s the kind of pain that means weighing up the options on everything I do: how badly do I need the loo? how much do I actually need a drink? do I really want to read that book over there? How long will the laptop (my lifeline at the mo) last without being plugged in? So far the things that have got me moving are: finding the painkillers (and oh how I praise God for painkillers) and getting a cup of tea (well, needs must when you feel like crap and tea helped although it did cost me).
I’m not writing all this to invite sympathy, I’m not good at receiving it anyway, I just want to explain how I’m feeling as a kind of intro to this post. Which I guess is really just some thoughts on pain and how we (well, I) handle it… So here’s some things I’ve journalled in the last few days:
..oo0O0oo..
I made it an hour out of bed this morning
before the onslaught began. I thought I can handle this, today is a new day,
repeating to myself:
Thou, Lord and God of power, shield and sustain me this day….
I willed myself onwards: I can do this. Get a grip you stupid woman.
Don’t let people down. Let yourself down, that’s bad enough but DO NOT let
others down. We are a team, we support each other. But not willing to be
supported. Everyone who had asked I snapped ‘don’t be nice to me, I’ll cry’. Truth of course, I was only just holding onto
my composure by a thread as thin as a cobweb. Even a gentle breeze would destroy
it.
And that was it – a simple and
sympathetically voiced ‘are you ok?’ from someone who cares. But I had to shut
it down, not willing to fall, to break.
But to no avail… I am broken and in pieces
anyway.
Sobbing, heaving, sighing. Broken.
Thank God (and I mean that) for a dear friend
who came and gently picked up my pieces and didn’t attempt to stick them back
together, she just held them and gently gave them back to me.
..oo0O0oo..
As I lay in my little cocoon of self pity all sorts of devil-sent-lies were in my
head…
You’ll have to take pain killers for weeks
You’ll be in pain forever more
There will be horrible side effects
You won’t run again that’s for sure. You are useless. You won’t be able to walk, you’ll put on weight and be fat. You’ll have to sit around all day doing nothing…
People will be talking about you – did you
see her – what a wreck, she can’t cope
Your team will think you are useless, you
never pitch in, how selfish of you
Your family will get fed up with you always needing help
..oo0O0oo..
Well what a difference a few hours makes. Not sure if it’s painkillers, the emptying of tears and snot or just: a few hours.Now there’s just anger and frustration, oh and the fog of the pills of course. Can’t think straight, can’t read properly, can’t remember anything… There’s the pay off.

..oo0O0oo..
I hate this. I really do. It’s like my boundaries are being reduced each day. First I couldn’t run, then it was walking, then a week off work, then, well then just whatever I can find that is pain free – well it’s not pain free, but managable in the pain is the best I can hope for…

..oo0O0oo..

When will this end?

..oo0O0oo..

I am so frustrated
and angry right now. Oh yes I know, I
know, God will teach me through this – of course He will, that’s what He does
and already is. But I’ve had enough of that at this moment in time. If I’m
honest I don’t want to be taught anything right now. I’ve had enough illness and
infirmity in the last 7 years to keep me going for a while.

Can’t He see that? I’ve had enough.
..oo0O0oo..
But then…Then I’m ashamed.

I am so blessed, I have so much more than so many. I am so much better off than so many.

How arrogant am I? To say that I don’t want
to learn from the living God? How dare I? How can I rebuff his teaching, his love, his
compassion and comfort?

..oo0O0oo..
And yet now I seek, I feel like I’m in a whirlwind, a hazy fog, where is He in all this? I am seeking, looking, not knowing or understanding…
Where are you Lord? what am I not seeing?

 

Prayer Doodling Round Up

 

Prayer Doodle by me!

So as you may know I’ve been enjoying prayer doodling recently and now I discover it’s actually ‘a thing’! So here’s a bit of a round up if you want to find out more…

Praying In Colour by Sybil MacBeth is a website (and a book) full of resources, definitely worth a look… the website says this about Sybil:

Sybil can’t remember a time she didn’t pray; but she also can’t remember a time she prayed “well.”  The prayer practice Praying in Color was born when her desperation to pray for family and friends intersected with her love of color and doodling. As a confessed non-artist, she marvels at God’s sense of whimsy and humor in giving her a way to pray through drawing. One of her favorite passages from Scripture is 2 Corinthians 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NIV)

Then there’s this from Mara Measor a completely different kind of doodling, line drawings and no colour. I love the simplicity of her drawings.

This, on the Finding Hope blog with some good advice on where to start.

I also just love this from Shirley Harvey, although from her bio I suspect we’d differ on our definition ‘God’, this is such a raw and honest post with doodles just falling out of her…

Valerie Sjodin has a wonderful blog and website, it’s more on prayer journalling in general but just so inspiring. Plus she has an amazing Pinterest board to check out as well!

If you are stuck for simple ideas or where to start have a look at some of Pam’s doodles here

And my most recent doodles are here and here.

Happy doodling…!

 

Mary Whitehouse Again…

I wrote some time back that I wished Mary Whitehouse would rise from the grave and start campaigning against the moral standards of the day, as she once did. This morning I felt that more than ever as I scrolled through Twitter. I don’t have time to read the paper and rarely watch the news so I tend to get updates via Twitter. Until recently my preferred paper online has been The Independent. But I’ve noticed recently a large number of random tweets from them, this mornings ‘University Introduces Puppy Room’ was one such random item, but is actually kind of interesting. What I do object to though is the porn and sex tweets. This morning I scrolled through to find these in the space of just a few hours:

What women really think about masturbation
These are the most adulterous professions
Top 10 Pornhub search terms
The woman who accidentally sent anal porn to her students 

And that’s just a snapshot over a few hours…

What’s more these are not just one off tweets they are there to generate traffic to The Independent site so they are tweeted again and again. I was complaining to my husband about this and his response was, ‘are you sure they haven’t been hacked?’ – ah if only. But no, this is not worthy of a hacker, because these days this kind of ‘news’ is mainstream.

What on earth is going in if we accept that this kind of thing is ok to be around all day every day? I have kids and I want to encourage them to know what’s going on in the world around them, and in this day and age that’s more than likely going to be online. You would have thought perhaps a national newspaper might be the place? Twitter’s age limit appears to be 13 – which seems far too young to be allowing them to see stories about anal porn for a start.

Of course this is part of a much wider problem surrounding the internet and safety for our kids, I realise that, but I certainly expect more from a paper like The Independent – a ‘proper’ paper – this is the kind of thing you’d expect from red tops!

Where have our standards gone I wonder? I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination but for goodness sake, our society seems obsessed with sex and porn and we are just accepting that it’s ok? It’s not ok! not at all. And of course I’m thinking about it from a Christian perspective but even without that, do we think it’s ok to allow children to be continually exposed to stories about sex and porn, if not actually exposed to the real thing? Do we think it’s ok that they are growing up seeing images and behaviour around them that would have once been consigned to ‘after the water shed’? In fact does the water shed even exist these days?

What is it going to take to change this? Or is it going to get worse? Mary Whitehouse where are you when we need you?  (probably turning in her grave)

 

Methodist Covenant Prayer // Prayer Doodling

Last year at #VicarSchool we had a weekend of Methodist worship, as part of which we did a Covenant Service. As I understand it this is something that happens once a year in the Methodist church, with the covenant prayer recited, a bit like a renewal of vows.

I loved this service and particularly the prayer itself which I have used since then in our own (Anglican) worship. At that weekend they gave out a little laminated version of it which now sits in my bible, and it was this inspiration for a prayer doodle recently…

The words are written in the order of the prayer first then I went back over them and added colour and other bits.

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 & Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

 

Bubbles….

Pic by Serge Melki via Wylio.

A few days ago I sat on a train out of London. Not an unusual occurrence as I have to travel to college each week, but this week I felt a little bit like I was viewing it with my eyes fully open. Because, I realised that we live in a world of bubbles, our own little bubbles.
Isolated. Behind glass. Exposed but Covered.

So, as I sat, reading my book, in my own personal little bubble, I was aware of a change of atmosphere around me. As I withdrew myself from the world of ’emotional fiction’, I could hear the dulcet tones of Whitney Houston somewhere behind me. Not unpleasant, I admit. Unusual maybe, and a bit tinny but not sufficiently annoying to react. However there was definite tension rising in those around me.

 

..oo0O0oo..

Passengers eyes started to catch across the carriage, a shared irritation, a knowing look, a raise of an eyebrow and their bubbles are suddenly burst.

‘Didn’t we almost have it all’ blares out across the worn, chewing gum stained seats. Then it stops and people breathe a visible sigh of relief.

..oo0O0oo..

Headphones, iPhones, laptops, tablets, we are isolating ourselves from the world around us and choosing to do it. Even now as I write this I’m on a train, on my ipad, I haven’t even looked at the chap next to me, or dared to say hello, or shock horror, ask his name!

 

..oo0O0oo..

The world flies by outside and our sterile bubbles of life move on. Are we sharing anything other than a carriage? I have a desire to scream at the top of my lungs or worse, instigate a game… Ha!

Whitney begins again, the same chorus, ‘didn’t we almost have it all…’
There is tutting and now turning of heads but the same line the same chorus keeps beginning and repeating like a surreal loop. I think the Whitney fan has not realised her headphones are not plugged in. She’d probably be mortified If she knew the whole carriage was hearing her personal, perhaps heart felt, music choice played over and over.

 

..oo0O0oo..

Who are these people, anyway, what are their lives I wonder?
Opposite me is a young guy, a student, clearly flirting with a disembodied voice as he chats into the tiny microphone hanging round his neck.  The voice, even aside from the obvious disembodiment, seems uninterested. I want to say to him, don’t waste your time mate, she’s clearly fobbing you off.

The pretty young Whitney fan, is still irritating half the carriage.

 

..oo0O0oo..

The annoyed suit across the aisle from me, what’s his story? Tutting at the Whitney fan, whilst himself committing the apparently cardinal sin of commuting (according to my friend Matt) eating his dinner on the train… Why is he heading home from work at 10 o clock at night? Why is he having to eat his dinner on the train? Is he lonely I wonder? Why is he cross? Has he had a bad day?

..oo0O0oo..

 

‘Didn’t we almost have it all….’ Did we? Did we almost have something here in this carriage, a moment of humanity? or am I just being overly romantic?!

 

..oo0O0oo..

Then, Sebastian appears. He is stood almost intimately close to me, just a few inches away, I can see the stubble on his chin, the few hairs that have fallen on his collar, the rings under his bored eyes. It should be too close, too intimate, except that we are separated by a sheet of glass. He doesn’t even look at me but stares vacantly down the platform as he blows his whistle and we slide quietly on down the tracks.

 

..oo0O0oo..

Whitney is still warbling, and I share a knowing grin and a raise of an eyebrow with a woman opposite, but I think we are both amused more by the angry suit that the volume of the music. In an instant I am connected with someone else on this train, we shared something more than the experience of train travel with Whitney Houston. We shared an emotion, a response.

 

..oo0O0oo..

And then the bubbles begin to form again. I stare out the window, into the darkness of night punctuated by the blur of a street lamp or a car headlight as we zoom past. Back to our lives, back to the bubbles, nothing more is shared…

..oo0O0oo..

 

Peace

I woke up this morning feeling rather sorry for myself. I have back problems which have been playing up and was up most of last night either coughing or with back pain. Yesterday I had decided to ‘claim back my health’! having not been running for 3 weeks with the back problems, but when I woke up today it was clear I wasn’t going running at all. So I was grumpy I’ll admit…

Anyway I thought well if nothing else I’ll go for a walk, and get all this feeling sorry for myself rubbish, off my chest. I have to admit I was holding back tears on the school run. I really was full of self-pity. Oh woe is me, never mind the hideous things other people are having to deal with. So I thought, I’ll get up on the downs, have a rant at God, get the tears out and hopefully feel a bit better.

Well I love how God has other plans.

I got out of my car on top of the South Downs and the moment I stepped out, it was like breathing in God’s peace. The tears that had been threatening to fall just weren’t there and the self-pitying anger blew away on the wind.

I didn’t walk far, can’t really at the mo, but what I did felt so blissfully peaceful. I started to pray, thinking, right I need to empty my head of all this crap, and I was like, ‘God I can’t even remember what I was going to say to you’, it was as if I had forgotten the frustration and pain, the self pity and anger. Instead I just marvelled at his amazing creation, which for an hour I had all to myself (save several hundred sheep!).

..oo0O0oo..

Beautiful sunshine, the wonder of new life with lambs running around everywhere, the most amazing display of yellow hammers (birds) singing and playing in the gorse, the ebb and flow of the downs themselves, the wonderful colours of the landscape, and the quiet. It was so quiet.

 

..oo0O0oo..

So, 10am and I feel like a completely different person to the one I was a few hours ago, and I didn’t even pray! It was like God saw the thoughts in my head and answered them before I voiced a single one. God is good :)

.