The aim of our training programmes is to prepare the whole person for mission and ministry in today's world. Courses in both mission and ministry help to develop an understanding of the mission of God and the tasks of ministry, and courses in human development and pastoral practice equip you to know what it means to live a fully human life and how pastoral care is responsibly exercised. There are additional optional courses in pastoral psychology, covering topics such as group dynamics, conflict, sexuality, mental health issues and human identity.
On Sundays during term-time students go on placement to a local church, perhaps of their own tradition, perhaps to a church very different from previous experience. There are two types of Sunday church placement the Observational Placement completed in the first year when students are expected mainly to observe and reflect on their experience and the Ministerial Placement completed in the second or third year when students are expected to preach and lead worship on a regular basis.
During the summer, students go on a four week church placement. Usually this is an important time of transition from lay to ordained ministry. Students both shadow their supervisor, usually the vicar of the parish, and work on their own initiative. Summer placements may take place in the local area or in your home area or in another part of the country, and a few students go overseas.
Placements give a rich variety of experience to become familiar with the range of worship styles represented in the Church of England, through pastoral care in different contexts, the challenge of unfamiliar situations, and practice in attentive listening, practical service, preaching and leading worship, and responsible initiative and theological reflection.
A variety of opportunities are available for students to experience parts of society and ministry, which they may not have experienced previously, in sectors like chaplaincy to hospitals, prisons and hospices or in work with charities that focus on work with the homeless, traveller communities or areas of deprivation. We also have good connections with local schools and care homes to offer students a chance to experience a place which may play a significant part of parish ministry. Students complete these placements in a single block during college vacations or on a weekly basis during term time. The afternoons of both Thursday and Friday are mostly clear of classes to enable this as a possibility.
All placements are selected by students following a discussion with the Placements Co-ordinator to ensure that a good balance of experience is possible for each student.
Good listening – to God, to oneself and to other people – is the foundation of effective ministry. Courses are offered in the skills of attentive listening at both a basic and an intermediate level, taking into account previous training and experience.
This is the skill of applying theory to practice, and in a manner that is theologically informed. Although unfamiliar at first, most students quickly get the hang of theological reflection and use it enthusiastically to help them get the most out of their placements.
A course in communication focuses on some of the important areas of preparation for the ministry of preaching, such as the nature of communication in contemporary society, Biblical interpretation, authority in ministry and the preacher’s relationship with the congregation. Next, a series of workshops looks at various aspects of sermon preparation, such as structure, visual images, the language of the preacher, introductions and conclusions. This is then all brought together and practiced in small preaching groups.
Themed Study Weeks
Twice a year, one week is set aside for specialised, intensive, formational study. These Themed Study Weeks (TSWs) provide ordinands with the opportunity to explore the real world of their pastoral vocations in areas they may be curious about but might not have the opportunity to experience during placements or academic work. We engage speakers and programme leaders for the themed weeks who offer vast experience in the church or community in their areas. Current TSWs include Chaplaincy, Rural Ministry and Death, Dying and Bereavement. For most of these TSWs, students are given free choice of their focus for those weeks from the themes offered but all students must complete the course on Death, Dying and Bereavement during their time with us. There are also two additional whole cohort Weeks. During “Stayers Week” after the Leavers have left, there is an Interfaith Week. Secondly, while new students are in Induction Week, there is a week combining Black Theology and extended Biblical Studies.
Regular spiritual direction is expected throughout your time in college and help is available to find spiritual directors. We also regularly bring in external spiritual directors, male and female, ordained and lay. An introductory course in spirituality in the first term of training gives focussed experience of prayer and begins to provide tools for establishing a sustaining prayer life.
Each term there is a Quiet Day, and there is a six-week 'Retreat in Daily Life' in the Hilary Term which builds on what has been explored in the introductory course. Our chaplaincy team are available to listen, and to help you discover and develop spiritual practices to sustain your ministry.