Mysteries of Formation
Few theological concepts can sound quite as baffling in the ears of newly sponsored candidates for ordination as the idea of ‘ministerial formation’. What is this mysterious process which promises to raw ordinands the maturity and readiness for all the demands of representative ministry and mission?
This year, students on the Oxford Ministry Course are being offered clearer guidance on the complex challenges of personal formation in the shape of a new handbook of Formational Theology. The handbook seeks to redress the imbalance which is often felt in a culture which puts a strong emphasis on academic study and achievement, by setting out in some depth and detail how the integrity of being and doing must complement the attention to knowing which may otherwise be over-accentuated in training for ministry.
The handbook is being piloted for the first time this year, as Margaret Whipp explains. “There are notes and exercises to help students address aspects of self-awareness and personal growth, including the essential priorities of spiritual discipline and the quality of relationships. Many of these intangible qualities are helpfully described in a series of challenging expectations which indicate the directions of wisdom and holiness in which candidates should aim to develop. Many students will already have experienced the care and guidance of a spiritual director in these matters, and it is hoped that the discipline of regular personal reflection which the handbook invites will encourage students towards a more holistic maturing in their vocation.”
The Formational Theology handbook has been warmly welcomed by local tutors in their work supporting OMC students and their families. “This is exactly the kind of resource we need to help students engage with the many-sided demands of their training. We can help them get their bearings in the midst of some bewildering transformations. With this material we can begin to have some of those honest conversations about how the whole person is being changed in the training process. And, most of all, it will deepen our prayers for them.”
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