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?
Things I’m grateful for…
I am grateful for the time I had available for study and access to the college and university libraries. In full time ministry, I have less time to read and less access to books. It would be easy to stop growing in this regard – after all there is plenty of else to focus on and no one is demanding that I read. Whilst at college, I chafed at the cloistered environment, wanting to get out into the world in ministry. Now, I realise that those two short years were very precious.
I am grateful for the community. I studied full time and lived with other ordinands. Some of those were people I immediately warmed to, others weren’t, but they stretched me and we developed a deeper bond than simply friendship. I don’t see most of my college cohort any more, and may never see them this side of eternity, but I know we will far more easily settle into being one on that day when Jesus returns. This blessing on being in community has followed me into ordained ministry as I seek with my church to discover how “New Monasticism” might speak into the parish context.
Things I wish I’d known…
There’s a trick to getting good marks for essays. Having previously studied science, where an answer is simply right or wrong, I found this hard. After a while, I started seeking out what it is you’re supposed to do to get the marks (I wanted a first and usually got a second). In retrospect, I think I know the trick: you have to have a conversation with the “secondary sources” regarding the “primary sources” and, preferably, find an area where you feel the secondary sources haven’t done complete justice to the material.
However, there is a far more important trick than this, and this is the one I eventually settled on, which is that the most important thing is to learn something and to grow. If there’s a choice between this and getting a first, pick learning and growth.