Vicar School (first published at Dreaming Beneath the Spires Blog)

This post was first published at ‘Dreaming Beneath The Spires‘ Blog, by Anita Mathias on 1st March this year… after my post on the Easter School, though it might be a good post for anyone who wants to know more about Vicar School itself…
So, Vicar
School – sounds so jolly nice doesn’t it? Almost conjures up images of greying
men in tweed and middle aged women in twin sets in wood panelled rooms, bibles
open on our desks listening intently whilst we are taught how to give a good
exegesis. Of course, the reality is rather different. On my course, we are very
mixed: in age, churchmanship and dress
– not sure I’ve seen a single twin set actually! And it’s nice that we are all so
different because we can learn so much from each other, but because so many of
us are doing different things it can be harder to form strong relationships. For
example there are people I only ever see when we’re away on study weekends
which is about twice a term, then there are those in my Tuesday class who I see
each week but not all of them at weekends. It does get a bit confusing – I am
just over half way through my first year and I think I’m just about getting the
hang of it all!
So how did I
end up here? Well, just getting into Vicar School is a slog in itself. Getting
selected for me meant going through the ‘discernment process’ in the Church of
England. My husband always jokes that this sounds like a bunch of bearded
polo-necked men in a room thinking a lot, and well, there certainly was a lot
of thinking involved. It’s a pretty thorough process that I usually describe as
being like going through intensive therapy. Very worthwhile but hard work and a
bit of an emotional roller coaster too. So when I was finally selected and
ready to go to college it felt like the end of a rather long journey when the
reality is, it’s actually just the beginning of another hard slog.
So, the
course began back in September last year, with a weekend away with the other
first years. Literally thrown in at the deep end: a weekend away with a bunch
of strangers in surroundings that would be at home in a Harry Potter movie
(ever been to Aylesford Priory?). Trouble with the weekends is that they start
on a Friday evening and if you’re anything like me, by Friday evening all I am
capable of is vegging on the sofa with a glass of red and some trashy telly.  And yet, here I was, all ready for some
academic hard stuff. Hmm, well, we actually
started this weekend with some good old fashioned ‘get to know each other’
exercises. Oh goody, my favourite (not). Ours was ‘if you could choose an
animal to represent the Church of England, what would it be?’. Then: ‘now find
other people with the same animal, without talking’. Cue lots of people looking
like idiots and wishing they were anywhere but here. I would like to add, there
was no alcohol involved at this point… I’ve got to admit I wrote in my journal
on that first evening ‘what the **** I doing here?!’ Thankfully it did get
better, and since then it’s been pretty full on. We’ve had several weekends
away, had some fantastic teaching, done our Mission Placement and begun to form
friendships too.
I suppose I
shouldn’t be surprised at God working through the course to teach me, mould me
and guide me, but I am. From the first term’s teaching on church history, which
I thought would be massively dull but actually really loved; to getting fed up
with more traditional worship styles (I’m a charismatic) and then finding
myself weeping uncontrollably during a course Eucharist. From reluctantly
starting the discipline of the Daily Office and then finding that God speaks to
me through it every day; to realising that at heart I am an Anglican. It’s been
quite staggering really (especially the Anglican bit…).
I’m also
loving how what I am studying is really feeding into my work – I work for my
church and it’s amazing how things that seem pretty irrelevant just slot into
what I am working on. In fact I’m currently preparing a report for church on
mission and growth, most of which will also feature in an essay I’m doing
(rather convenient that one…)
Of course
there are still moments when I wonder what on earth God has got me into. Weeks
when I have work and college
deadlines looming, or when my kids are on school hols and I still have to find
time to study, or, as is coming up shortly, planning for the dreaded whole week away at Easter. There have
been days when I have wished that I were the kind of person who would be
content to be a stay at home mum, when it all seems just too much. And yet these
are the moments when I am reliant on God more than ever. To be honest, without
him I think I’d have walked after the first evening.
So, as I
look ahead there is a certain level of mild panic at what the future holds, at
where God might send us, but at the same time there is excitement too. I have
learned so much already and yet I still have so much to learn. I am loving
learning, loving getting back into academic writing, loving the reading (well
most of it, not so sure on Kantian ethics….) and the research. This is a path
that whilst being terrifying and unsettling, also feels completely right and
where I am meant to be.

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  • Reply
    April 25, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Very insightful description of a process that I wanted to be in, but was turned down for.

    But good to know as I commence training for LLM this Autumn.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    really pleased for you Ernie, where will you be training?

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