Alison's Story - Foundations Course
Foundations Course at the School of Ministry
At midnight on Wednesday evening, 26th July, I put the last full stop into my sixth and final assignment for this academic year… phew! The course started last September as twenty-four new recruits from all across the Diocese, gathered at The Wilson Carlile Centre in Sheffield to be ‘the pioneers’ for the new Foundations course. Led by Canon Dr Christine Gore, Director of Formation for Ministry and Principal of St Peter’s College, and held by God we embarked on a new chapter in our lives. Gosh, what an incredible year it has been, full of ups and downs, lots of joy, laughter and tears along the way and at times an absolute white knuckle ride, but we have made it to the end.
We have met on twelve Sundays, roughly once a month and three Saturday mornings throughout the year. A typical day at the Wilson Carlile starts with tea and coffee before a Eucharist service at 8.50am. Lectures begin at 9.30am and finish at 5pm, punctuated with a mid-morning break of porridge and croissants, a cooked lunch and a mid-afternoon break with cake if you can manage it. According to my Weighing scales, yes I managed it! At 5pm with scrambled brains we say goodbye and leave each other. I have always gone along to Choral Evensong at my church afterwards and I have a vivid memory of the first time Revd Neil saw the look on my face as I walked into church, he simply said, “Alison, sit down and let it settle”, the best advice he could have given to me. It has now become a standing joke when I walk into St John’s on a School of Ministry day, he’ll say “sit down and let it settle”.
We have completed three modules - Introduction to the Bible, Mission and Evangelism and Introduction to Christian Doctrine and History. What I don’t know about hermeneutics, exegesis, eschatology, five marks of mission, liberation theology, the Early Church fathers and the wonderful Augustine of Hippo, my hero, as he was the person who put LOVE into the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity. I smile to myself as I write this remembering when Brian and I were asked as Church Wardens, to write a report for Angie our then Curate. We were asked to comment on “how the curate used hermeneutics and exegesis in her preaching” ...the pair of us sat pouring over the Oxford dictionary not knowing what on earth hermeneutics or exegesis were let alone how one might use them in a sermon. Now I can write an essay about them!
We have written six, 2,500 word, fully referenced assignments, all to strict deadlines which is a very proud achievement for a humble dental nurse. During the Spring term we went through a process of discernment and interviews to decide our futures beyond Foundations. By this point I was very clear that my calling was to Reader ministry and fortunately the people who interviewed me agreed. For some it was not as straight forward as that, I was lucky... this is when the tears started. By then we had become a very cohesive group of twenty-four people and we all shared each other's joys and disappointments.
On our last School of Ministry day, a couple of weeks ago, having done a ten minute presentation on the Doctrine of Salvation in front of the whole class and two lecturers, I said to Christine "this term has been really hard and I'm up to here" she very cleverly said to me, "just think of the Vicar of Dibley, you know, the episode when she went all around the parish having a Christmas dinner in each house.. you are just at that point when you couldn't eat another sprout" and that just summed it up really, I couldn't eat another sprout. So over August I enjoyed having people to stay and read some chick flick fiction which I didn’t have to make notes on!
So, beyond Foundations, this month I will become a Reader in training, now a registered student of Durham University with two more years and another twelve assignments to go to Licensing, hopefully in September 2019. In the middle of September, I will start a three-month placement at St Mark's Church, Broomhill. I am very much looking forward to working alongside Sue Hammersley and her team down the road. I will be experiencing a different churchmanship, a different approach and lots to get involved with. I will miss my church and my church family terribly but I am sure the experience will be worth it. I am so grateful to Revd Neil, I could not have done this without him and I feel blessed to have him at my side. He has guided me, advised me, encouraged me, supported me, on occasions when I have tearfully said to him "I can't do this" he has said "you can because I believe you can" and I have done. He has painstakingly proof read my assignments, of course, with the odd bar of chocolate to bribe him along the way! He has been amazingly brilliant.
And I thank my church family for love, prayers and support. Last Sunday morning as I carried the Gospel down the church to read for the very first time, I felt totally held by God and by my church family.
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