Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Big changes at my old vicar college

St Johns Nottingham, where I studied in the 1990s, has just announced some radical changes. Basically, they will stop taking in full time residential ordinands from 2016. Here's part of the statement.

The Church of England is currently reviewing its patterns of ministerial education, and St John’s recognises the call of this review to match the needs of the church with available resources. After many months of prayerful consideration, the college Council and Directorate are ready to take the bold step of remodelling the college to meet the future training needs of the church. This plan will see an end to the admission of any new full-time residential students at the Nottingham campus from September 2015, and the development of new models of ministerial formation and training for discipleship. Recruitment of new full and part-time students on all Midlands CYM and Extension Studies programmes will continue as normal. 

Sarum college in Salisbury did something similar a few years back, with the closure of the old Salisbury and Wells theological college, it's still the regional base for part-time training of ordinands, but runs a host of other training courses too.

It's sad to see the 'old' St Johns go fewer residential training centres means fewer choices for potential ordinands, but full-time training is costly, and a lot of training is much more effective when done in context. Probably the best bit of vicar training I did was the Arrow Leadership programme run by CPAS, which is designed for people in full-time Christian leadership already, and is designed to be done whilst 'in context'.

There's also something to be said for many of the trainers to be contextually based themselves. Academic faculties can be good and creative places, but they can also get detached from the realities of church leadership which they were intended to serve.

It's a courageous move, and I imagine there's been a lot of prayer and agonising. Fresh expressions of training?

Ian Paul, former tutor at St. Johns, has written on this in much more depth, and looks at the wider issues of theological training. Well worth a read.

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