Yesterday was spent finalising reports on three students in my College tutor group. Today we had a long tutors' meeting to discuss reports submitted, particularly those leaving to be ordained at the end of this term. A great deal of care is taken to ensure the reports are a rich reflection of each individual and how they have responded to the challenges encountered in training. This is helpful not only to their bishops, but also those responsible for further training after ordination.
After a break at the end of the session, tutor groups met for the first session of term, but it will be another week before all the reports are done, discussed with recipients, and then prepared for dispatch. Meanwhile, when they don't have lectures to go to, students are finishing off study project assignments, or else preparing for exams if they have them. Summer term isn't as busy or as long as the other two, but nevertheless intense for those being ordained and moving away to a new job and a new clerical identity, as it is for those looking ahead to long vacation extra mural projects and more studies in the autumn ahead.
I remember being quite unsettled at the end of my first year in St Mike's, unsure of the value and relevance ( a big word often used in those turbulent times) of much we were studying. Although I did quite well at Greek and Hebrew, I wondered when we would really start tackling the philosophical and theological material that would help us to engage fruitfully with the contemporary world. Our curriculum then was academically traditional and formal, not nearly as broad or attractive as the subject matter covered by today's students. I expressed my frustration to my Bishop Glyn Simon, and much to my surprise, he let me switch to another course and promised to ordain me a year earlier. It meant I had to spend the long vacation preparing for a few extra exams, to compress my studies into two years in College instead of three.
I left with the standard ministerial qualification, but not with a theology degree, and got on with 'learning by doing' on the job, my preferred option. I didn't want to be a scholar, but a pastor experimenting with ministry in a fast changing world. I'm not sure what sort of discussion and confidential reporting went on among the staff behind the scenes in those days. Permission to engage my enthusiasms early made a life-long learner of me, but not always a rigorously disciplined learner. With the hindsight of someone now overseeing other learners, maybe it would have done me good to have endured, and overcome the frustrations of that extra year. I see the value of language training, and wonder if I'd stuck with Hebrew if that would have led me earlier to explore the Christianity of the Middle East and Islam, as I did in mid-life. In the end I guess you can only do what you're ready for.
At the end of a real thinking day, I was grateful for an evening in which Chi Gong classes recommenced.