In this occasional series, we ask church ministers to look back and reflect on their time in training. What has hindsight made them especially grateful for? What tips would they pass on?
I wish that when I was at theological college, I had gained a better sense of self, and a better sense of perspective. I arrived at college, the youngest student, and I was determined to have lots of fun, even though I was somewhat nervous and rather in awe of the huge Cambridge minds that existed around me. I’ve never felt gifted academically, and I was threatened by the very sharp and observant people who seemed to be able to come up with the most wonderful of insights and expressions. Academically, I just plodded along, rather hoping that I might just pass. God was indeed good, and he held my hand throughout.
I needed perspective.
I needed a better grasp that Jesus loved me for who I was,
and that the rest just falls into place.
Of course, I needed perspective. I needed a better grasp that Jesus loved me for who I was, and that the rest just falls into place. Love and prayer are vital in ministry, and learning to love each other as students, laugh at each other as students, and disagree well with each other as students, whilst also praying for each other is all about perspective. How God delights in each of us, and how we fail to delight in each other, and most likely it is our vanity that is the cause, not something rooted in God. Fear and being threatened can be so ugly and destructive.
It is God that we need to take seriously,
rather than ourselves!
I also liked to be a little silly, and play a number of practical jokes within the place. There are many highlights of those years, and they were necessary to flourish in such an intensive environment- especially for those of us who were single and lived in college. Christians can be too earnest, and we can take ourselves too seriously sometimes, when really, it is God that we take seriously and not ourselves. I rather like Nouwen’s suggestion that our calling now for mission is to be powerless and humble. For me, that means not taking ourselves too seriously, but to root ourselves in Jesus. Roots down, walls down, as we heard the principal Graham Cray, state on a large number of occasions. Something that I have tried to live out through nearly 20 years of parish ministry in the inner city of London.