End of term. End of year. End of probably the most packed year of my life. Half way through my theological training. The ‘leavers’ have left, and will be ordained very shortly, and I have been promoted to a ‘returner’ – next up. Very odd feeling. Liminal doesn’t even begin to cover it. Big sense of looking back and forwards simultaneously, and time pressing the accelerator pedal.
What a year. I have been trying to think of an analogy that gives a picture of what residential ‘vicar training’ is like, but have struggled to find one that fits.
9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ Zechariah 13:9
I have watched gold being smelted in the fire. Heated up til it becomes pliable and liquid. The impurities bubble to the surface and are skimmed off before the gold is poured out into new moulds. The analogy is not a perfect one, by any means, especially as gold generally needs purifying only once, whereas it doesn’t quite work like that with people, more’s the pity. Glass blowing might be a similar one. Both involve heat and change in an intensive, creative process.
Theological training is certainly that. A creative re-shaping process with plenty of heat and intensity. The rigours of study and deadlines, and long hours that are a normal part of university life, together with the pressures of living and working in small community 24/7 . The re- shaping process involves one’s whole self- intellectually, spiritually and emotionally, and is referred to officially, as the formational side of training. In describing it this way, I can only speak for me, of course. No two journeys/training processes are alike, and people react in a multitude of different ways. Perhaps glass blowing is therefore a more accurate analogy, as glass can be all shapes and colours.
It has been a year of learning, laughter and not a few tears. A year of new friendships, the unique bonds forged by going through this process together. A year of immense time pressures – to meet deadlines, fit everything in, and keep life in balance, somehow. The latter has required a great deal of ‘swimming against the tide’.
New church relationships. Starting over in a new attachment parish, and getting to know 2 new congregations, and them to know me. New experiences- the joy of working as a volunteer at Jimmy’s, a night shelter for the homeless. Placements; several wonderful, brimful weeks in a cathedral, and a rural placement in Dorset, still to come.
A year of being constantly on the move. Weekly commuting adds its own particular pressures, to the mix. Daily Skype conversations being a necessary and invaluable part of keeping my marriage in good shape.
It has been all I expected it to be, and more. I have embraced it all, whole-heartedley, as is my way of approaching life. I have been turned inside out and upside down at times, and stretched in all directions, but hopefully, have grown as a result.
Next year? More of the same, I guess. Meanwhile a trip to Kenya, to visit some link parishes out there, followed by a college trip to Taize, in France, later in the summer. Not sure what re-shaping God has in mind for me in the coming year, but that there will be some, I don’t doubt!
I have never attempted to run a marathon, (and I think I can safely say, I am never likely to!) so I don’t know what the runners feel like when they pass the 13 mile point, but I am guessing it feels a little like I do right now..?