Thursday 4 October 2007

Holy Rollers, Batman

Have you ever felt that so much is going on you'll never assimilate all the impressions? It could be an unsettling experience, but it's more a happy daze at this stage!

As the termcard lectures get going, I'm starting to get more of a feel of how my time will be spent. As a mathematician by first degree, the whole business of essay research, planning and writing at University level is new to me, but the whole system is geared to getting us all used to it. The atmosphere is friendly, with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

So let me tell you a little about the course I'm on, the University of Cambridge Bachelor of Theology for Ministry (B.Th). It's a vocational degree - similar for instance to a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) - designed to provide both the academic and practical knowledge a prospective Christian minister needs.

Teaching is delivered by the Theological Federation, which I've mentioned before, as well as by the Divinity Faculty. In the case of Faculty lectures, the resulting work is again within the Federation.

Each of the Federation Houses (Ridley Hall is one of these) has its particular denominational allegiance and distinctive emphases, which result in the specific experience of students (mainly but not exclusively ordinands like me) attending each. So, for instance, there are Ridley-specific activities - some are compulsory, some are optional. Happily there are Directors of Studies making sure that course structures overall and the programme for each individual meet the requisite needs of course and church.

Some of the work is study-based, some is experience and reflection-based. In the latter category is the Pastoral Portfolio, a substantial piece of work resting on actual activities we undertake and our theological reflections on them. Speaking personally, this is the least familiar but probably the most vital area of preparation for ministry, as we have the opportunity now to work in unfamiliar contexts under supervision and with joint reflection and so develop our abilities (not least our lifelong learning abilities) in real-life situations of need.

So now let me give you an idea of the pattern of a typical week and of life between terms. (I may be wrong on all sorts of important details, though!)

Weekdays in the University term, mornings start with a service of morning prayer followed by timetabled lectures and seminars, afternoons are mainly geared to study, then some evenings involve specific commitments. Saturday is generally kept free, and on Sundays we will be involved with the specific church to which we're attached (we've all been visiting prospective attachment churches and this is being finalised over the next couple of weeks).

We get an extra period before and after the University term when there are additional lectures, other short courses and so on, plus several vacations will be punctuated by activities, notably mission, church placement (a block period of weeks to live and work in another place) and in some cases block period Social Context Placement.

Oh, yes, and of course at various times there will be exams. Mustn't forget that particular blessing.

My general impression is that, as we expected, it's demanding in time without destroying the possibility of family life in the process. And Cambridge itself as a backdrop and workplace is a very pleasant bonus.

There. Now you know all I do. And you're perhaps getting a sense of why at this rather early hour I'm now more than ready for bed.

Good night :)

Wednesday 3 October 2007

...coming up for air...

It has not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. I spent a good chunk of the weekend asleep or at least sitting quietly responding to little or nothing.

Tired, but happy at least.

More to follow, but meanwhile here's proof of matriculation - or at least that the three of us first years attached to Sidney made it to chapel!