I’ve just got back from the YMC Easter School, which was a really good time. About the only thing I don’t like about the course is that you tend to only get information about things just before they happen! So I thought that I’d jot down some thoughts about the Easter School while they’re fresh in my mind, in case it’s of use for next year – either for me or the next batch of first years.

So, the YMC Easter school is seven nights away, either starting or ending on Easter day (there’s a 3 year cycle of Easter week, Easter week, holy week). It’s one of the requirements of Ministry Division that ordinands have a certain number of nights on residential training, of which at least 7 have to be in a block – hence Easter School! So it’s basically a Sunday to a Sunday, one of which is Easter day. 2016 will be Easter week again, and 2017 would be holy week in the normal pattern.

Practicalities. The first and last day follows the same pattern as the weekends, namely arrive on the first day from 4pm, but no later than 6pm for evening prayer. The last day finishes after lunch, which is over by 2pm (normal weekends have a 5 minute doxology at 2pm). Book early and you can sometimes get a bargain on train tickets – I went there First Class for £13.00! The train station is about 20 mins walk from St Chads, but its pretty hilly. Also like weekends, towels and bed linen are provided – my room had 2 good pillows, so didn’t need to have taken my own. It is worth considering taking a spare pillow on Mirfield weekends if you like the extra support. There’s also a posh dinner (although several people were in jeans, which was fine) and a review night which was really good, so if you have a “turn”, bring it along! Last practical point is about cash – there are various collections for one thing or another, and a bar. But the city centre is 5 mins walk along the lane, and there are plenty of cash machines there. The Cathedral bookshop is great for gifts.

We got the timetable about a week before, and it looks busy (and it is a full week), but in reality there is a lot of ‘punctuation’, and I found there was quite a bit of time to process stuff between timetabled sessions. I personally had a low ebb on Wednesday, and felt intensely vulnerable. Interestingly enough, several other people felt low at different points. It’s not really surprising, and it is a spritual activity we’re engaging in, but worth being away. There are course chaplains present if you need to talk to someone.

On YMC, we are split up into prayer groups, of 6 or 7 people, for our time on the course. The prayer groups meet twice at weekends, and twice at Easter school. Each prayer group also leads at least one worship service (morning or evening prayer) so worth packing instruments and music if that’s your thing. Car access to St Chad’s is a hassle due to Durham’s restrictions, but there’s info about that in the programme. There are also optional prayer times – a period of silent prayer before Morning Prayer (i.e. at about 7.15), and then Compline at about 9pm. I personally like the peace and space of these times – there’s usually only a handful of people, and it’s worth making the effort at least once!

If I manage to get ahead on my essay, I might write some stuff about the content (this year’s topic was “Communicating the Gospel”). As this is my first post of 2015, I wouldn’t hold your breath!