Monday, March 31, 2008

Reflections on Easter School

Well, I survived my first Easter School. And it was a blast!!

Not only was it an opportunity for spiritual growth and development, and for the aquisition of more skills for the priestly role, it was also a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship. Relationships within my own year group have always been excellent: we are a very supportive and grounded group with a great dynamic. What was a bonus was working with those in the second and third years on common tasks and therefore growing closer to those we did not know so well.

In addition there was, of course, the bar where many friendships were cemented. I seem to have developed a taste for a bourbon called Wild Turkey, which for you Brits out there, I concluded wasn't a Bernard Matthews product. I was certainly able to entice the usual suspects up to my en-suite room on the fifth floor for fellowship and whiskey. (Oh sorry, Richard, Stuart, Danny and Barry, you didn't have en-suites on the fourth floor, did you? Fancy me being so tactless and insensitive as to mention that!)

We were a group of seventy, staying for eight days as residents (and increasingly institutionalise as the days passed), at the Wakefield Police College, along with a large group of police in various stages of training.

Between us we were certainly in a position to take the moral high ground and lay on the guilt!

The theme of the week was Christian Mission in a Plural World. This took us out to Bradford for visits to a very Muslim area and visits to a Mosque and a Gurdwara. With the strange synchrenicity which I take to be the working of the Holy Spirit, this fitted in well with things I have posted and commented on elsewhere recently on witness and evangelism. More of this in later posts.

As a first year it was a source of some relief to me to be well within my comfort zone on this. As a teacher of Religious Studies, and living in a major and significant urban area, multiculturalsim isn't something I give much overt thought to because it is my daily life, at work, at church and as I walk around the City of Leeds and its environs. I think some of my friends from the white heartlands and the rural areas of the Yorkshire Dales might have struggled with this a little more, but I was just happy that I was aware of the issues and challenges and that I also had a sound academic and experiential base for exploring this theologically: indeed, that I actually had something to offer others because of that.

The first years were largely responsible for leading worship for the whole course during the week and we were broken up into groups of four or five. My cell led worship on three occasions during the residential, and it was an immense privilege and something the four of us enjoyed. There is, though, something a little scary about leading worship among your peers, two thirds of whom are ahead of you in the process and also in front of your tutors, who are assessing you, and in front of the chaplains. Never the less we coped well and received positive feedback.

During the week, we experienced a wide variety of worship from the formal prayer-book Matins and Evensong (both Anglican and Methodist) and Solemn Eucharist to a Taize service and an experimental liturgy. (I managed to get significant chunks of the Lutheran worship book into the services I led, so felt happy about that.)

My Bishop came to visit on Friday. This was our prior phone conversation:

"I thought I'd come and see how you were doing."


"Just a pastoral visit and a chat with your tutors."

"That's really kind, but you don't need to bother. I'm fine, really. Thanks."

"I'll see you on Friday."

Anyway, enough for now: you have the background. The theology is to follow.

Many thanks to Grandmere Mimi and Reverend boy, for their great contributions in my absence. I shall be away again during late July and August when I go on my parish placement to Tallinn, Estonia so I will be approaching a number of friends to hold the fort in similar fashion.