Well, I have just finished my first year of Ordination Training on the Yorkshire Ministry Course.
The highlight, without one doubt, has been the people. The other students, the tutors, the brothers of the community. Fellow pilgrims on the journey of ministry and faith, with a particular emphasis on this rather peculiar and specific call to ordained ministry. I can safely say that some of my fellow students will be friends for life, and I am sad about the people who have moved on from the course this weekend, even though I’ve barely got to know them in any objective sense.
The theological / academic side has been amazing. I have wanted to study (formally) the bible and things of God for all my adult life, and it is a joy and privilege to be able to do so, especially with such good guides. Some stuff has been re-affirming what I already knew, some stuff has been taking me deeper and challenging some sloppy thought, some stuff has made me have to revisit and change some deeply held opinion, and some stuff is plain “I’ve never even thought of that before” new! Don’t get me wrong – it’s hard work, and I miss all the other parts of life which have had to take a back seat, most noticeably time with my family, but also hobbies like photography and climbing. My wife and children are making big sacrifices to enable me to do this, and it wouldn’t be possible without their support.
The formational side has been tough, to be honest. God’s been working on my character and weaknesses, and I’ve spent an awful lot of the time feeling quite vulnerable and exposed. It has often been a very uncomfortable process, and without the safety of the course, and in particular the love and support of my new friends on it, it would have been very unpleasant, possibly unbearably so. As often as not the weekends have been roller-coasters of emotion – usually something of significance happens, but it often takes days or weeks to start to understand what!
One thing that has really surprised me is how quickly I fell into a regressive / infantile mode. Without really realising it, I felt and acted like a schoolboy rather than a grown-up at times, and one of the clear challenges from God towards the end of the year has been to just grow up a bit!! I think the structure of the course doesn’t exactly encourage a dependent mode of operation, but it does make it very easy to slip into. I am unsure whether this is avoidable, or is inherent in training and formation; still reflecting on that!
So on balance it’s been an amazing year. I am so so so glad it’s over – but also starting to look forward to it all starting up again in September.