Since our foundation in 1959 as the Southwark Ordination Course, and including our life as the South East Institute for Theological Education, over five decades of alumni have reached Ordination, been accepted as Lay Readers, or graduated with theology degrees.
Our alumni have taken their learning and understanding into their communities, and their working lives, and many have returned to us to continue their studies.
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From “Why me?” to “Why not me?” – a slow discernment procress
My journey to ordination training was one that began with a suggestion from my Rector in 2005, which I rejected immediately mainly because of the stress of my (then) job, because I couldn’t imagine considering anything else and also, if I am honest, because of the question: Why me? Redundancy in 2008 was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it allowed me to step back from ‘life’ and look at what I was, where I was, and most importantly where I felt I was being called to be – which then brought up the question: Why not me? The discernment process for me was a slow and steady one, talking to Vocations Advisors, DDOs and my Spiritual Director, allowing me time to listen to what God wanted me to do and where.My experiences in a busy managerial role in a large office had showed me that what people really need is someone to talk to who understands and relates to what is commonly called Real Life. That is why I believe my calling is to self-supporting ministry, and is at least a twofold calling. On a personal level I believe it will allow me to relate more closely to others, especially those seeking or enquiring, with regard to how daily pressures around job security and money matters etc. affect Christian living and our relationship with God and the Church. I will be meeting people where they are, not only emotionally but also practically, and able to journey with them. The second aspect is in relation to my new job as Assistant Manager of a Christian Bookshop in the centre of Chichester, housed in a Saxon church. I am in the fortunate position of being able, with the support of my employers, to look at using my ministry to offer a resource within the city centre to those who are looking for something, even if it is just 5 minutes in a peaceful place. In doing so I will be building on the pastoral support and teaching already offered to staff and customers alike. A simple request for advice on a bible can, and frequently does, lead to listening to a customer’s story and being there with them on their journey either to, or back to, God, outside of what can feel like the intimidating environment of a Parish Church.
It was 22 years between my initial exploration of vocation to ordained ministry and my coming back to consider it again. With that much time spent discerning my call, you would think I would have had a clear idea about the type of ministry I felt called towards. To be honest, for a large part of this time my ‘call’ had, from my point of view at least, fallen silent. So it was something of a surprise to find myself called to explore my vocation once again.By this time I had trained to be a teacher and was building what appeared a successful career. I was happy in my job so certainly wasn’t looking for a career change. At first I assumed that while I knew I would train part-time – the mortgage would make sure of that – it was stipendiary ministry after that, and valuable as my teaching experience was there would now be a change in my career path.This is one of reasons that I’m glad the discernment process goes at such a gentle pace. Two and a half years was just about enough time for us to work out that teaching was not something that should end, and for me to appreciate that ministry and my employment could indeed complement each other.As formation continues I’m developing a deeper understanding of how they might work together. Ordination or education? Neither describes me completely, but together with other aspects of my person and personality they start to develop into a bigger picture. How exactly education and employment will get along as stable mates and how conflicting tensions will be worked through and resolved, who knows? God knows and I’m willing to trust him.I have no doubt that the way in which I have been formed through 18 years as a teacher will prove useful in my ministry. As I continue on the journey of formation for ordination (and beyond) I can see how ministerial training will impact, in a positive and creative way, on my role as a teacher of children with complex needs.
Finding God in the midst of life
Training part-time is a privilege because my vocation has developed from within the congregation of my home church, which still supports me as I grow into my new role. Training in this way keeps my feet on the ground, because, as well as journeying alongside my fellow ordinands, I keep contact with a supportive network of people who know me well, who can share in my development, but also challenge me along the way.Training to be a self-supporting minister brings the opportunity to build on my existing vocation to work in the health service. For part of the week, I work in the NHS, as a Child Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, whilst at other times in the week, I am training as an ordinand. I have found that the skills and knowledge which I gain from one area can enrich and complement my work in the other area. In many ways, learning how to integrate and deepen both ministries mirrors the dilemma we all have, in finding out how to take what we do on Sundays into our daily lives, for the rest of the week.In a self-supporting role I have to be mindful of the conflicts and pressures which this brings, as well as the creative possibilities which come from considering the working week in a more integrated way. Being a self-supporting minister is about holding sometimes quite disparate elements of life together and finding God in the midst of this.
Rural Retreats and changing attitudes to women priests
My SSM ministry started in fairly conventional fashion as an Assistant Curate. Having hailed from a Church where collaborative ministry had at one time been the norm it has been a challenge coping with the varying opportunities to work collaboratively (or complete lack of ) over the years. Five years after being deaconed in 1990 I moved with Richard to Wales to live and offer from our home a small place of retreat providing what we called ‘Time Apart’. We intended running Rambling Retreats in the hills of Mid-Wales having experienced the slowing down and healing enabled by the open spaces, a kind of physical contemplative meditation. Things rarely turn out as one intends and we had to amend and develop our ideas. By various steps that included us accepting bed and breakfast guests as well as people on retreat, we arrived at a pattern which lasted seventeen years, welcoming people from all over the world. We always treated our B&B guests as much as possible as if they were on retreat and we often ate the evening meal with them and indeed had many long and wonderful conversations and several friendships.We have always regarded whatever number came on our programmed retreats as being the right number. In our early days we scheduled a week’s walking retreat but only had one person book. This was a very busy nun from a large retreat house. I phoned to advise her of the situation and she said she would come anyway. At the end of the week she said the space and the peace had actually been just what she needed. Another time we had three people coming on a programmed retreat plus someone who just wanted time out and who did not want any input or interaction. At the last minute two pulled out. Again the one left said she needed to come but would do her own thing. She particularly wanted to go to the Centre for Alternative Technology. We said “Would you like us to take you?” She said yes. We replied: “We’ll take the theme ‘Journeys’”. The other person, perceiving it to be a rather unconventional form of retreat also said she would like to come. She later told us that that experience with us had changed her life.You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much mention of ‘Church’. When we first came here, the place we bought was in a group of parishes whose vicar was firmly against women priests. I worked initially as a deacon but was told, when women were priested in Wales, that if I accepted the Bishop’s licence he would regard me as a lay person. This happened and in our tiny parish there was much upheaval for a while. I was at the same time licensed to the Deanery for several years, filling in when needed all over the Deanery which is in fact almost the size of Southwark! When we’ve offered our house and ourselves (as members of the church) as resources in the parish, in general the house has been taken up but not us – not until recently when having virtually retired we were asked by a priest who had moved to a relatively nearby parish to lead a PCC Away Day.So the strands of my ministry have run in parallel rather than been interwoven. Things have changed: women priests are now welcomed. I sometimes think that my main church ministry has just been to be here as a woman priest. There are, however, still many fundamental issues to be resolved around SSMs (and the laity) and the art of collaborative ministry.
Class of ’96 – the last of the old SOCs!
I was amazed to be recommended for training after a ‘thumbs down’ from my second ACCM selection (after a 10 year gap) but then an overturn from my Bishop, who also said I’d ‘fit in to the Southwark Ordination course’ -and that Martin Baddeley would look after me. My first interview with him was, I remember, short. He knew exactly why I wanted to be ordained – to serve in a school for secondary aged boys rejected from mainstream schooling, where I already was.The training passed in a happy blur-up to London each Tuesday evening, walking back to Waterloo to catch a train in a large gang of us, chatting about what we’d learnt, struggling to keep up with essays, and weekends away…Ordination was in Guildford one sparkling sunny June morning, celebrating with those I loved best, then serving at school, in my home parish, then another parish in the deanery as NSM for 9 years. Then I felt called to apply for a house for duty in the Blackdown hills in Somerset, a county both my husband and I loved. I worked there for two or three days a week whilst completing my teaching years in Surrey (so that I left school at the same time as my tutor group, as I’d previously promised them), involving a weekly round trip of 220 miles, with four days teaching and three days in the parish- but so worth it.Retiring from teaching at 60, after three years commuting, I sought to move to another house for duty on a bus route for my non-driver husband. I was told I was too old to ever have a stipendiary job in the C of E (I wasn’t looking to be paid). A year later, my Archdeacon was pleading with me to take on two little villages near the Polden hills half-time for three years. I’m still here after seven years, not really half-time, but very much part of the tight-knit community. Last year I became Chaplain to the local community hospital (how does one follow a full-timer?), and three mental health units, so am now employed by the NHS one day a week. I’m also County Chaplain to the Guides and Brownies, Trustee of the local foodbank, serving Chaplain at Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey amongst other things, but I’m happy to do them all, and still delighted to serve. It is a privilege to be alongside people not only at the important milestones – the baptisms and confirmations, the weddings and the many funerals, but taking a quiet Communion at an elderly person’s bedside, or leading a joyous service with child and adult.SOC gave me knowledge, yes, but so much more…fellowship, and a quiet confidence that I was doing what the Lord wanted. I will be eternally grateful for the places I have been able to go, and the people I have been able to meet. As Martin Baddeley always said, to be able to exercise not ‘my’ ministry, but the Lord’s ministry through me.I am so grateful to have been one of the last old SOCs!
Memories of SOC
I have happy memories of SOC. The Vote had just gone through as I started the Course in 1993 so they were exciting times. I especially remember Martin Baddeley’s Old Testament lectures; the evening Eucharists at Christ Church Blackfriars; the fellowship of the residential weekends at Wychcroft– the walk to the lovely St. Mark’s Chapel. Our trip to Bovendonk; and two marvellous summer schools at Salisbury . Friendships made and still maintained.
Weekends at Wychcroft
One of the things I enjoyed most about SEITE was weekends at Wychcroft. To me it felt like our home base. Chris Archer and his team produced wonderful food, and ensured that the house was comfortable and well-run, with a minimum of fuss. The surrounding countryside was a tonic after inner London. I hope Malling Abbey might serve the new course in a similar way.
The importance of worker priests
All Christians are called to represent Christ where they live and work. Worker priests both share that vocation and lead their fellow Christians in it. I have served as a worker priest for 35 years, latterly in an especially greedy and ruthless area of financial services. By openly identifying myself as a priest, and by manifestly seeking a Christian approach to finance, I have challenged the self-serving moral assumptions of colleagues and competitors alike – and encouraged other Christians to do likewise. As a result many financial professionals over the years have sought me out, to learn more about my faith. The Church not only needs many more worker priests, but it needs to develop the
right kind of training for them, and the right framework of fellowship and support.
A journey to ministryA most incredible journey to Ordination, first (I thought) as a Deaconess, but then we heard we’d be Deacons. We were a mixed bunch, male and female, different occupations, denominations, ages, non-stipendiary or stipendiary, but all studying with one objective: to follow our vocation. We were constantly challenged, having incredible experiences, and learning opportunities, all this before laptops and internet. We made weekly visits to any library that held a good Theology section; and bought, borrowed and shared books. We all had a lot of support from SOC tutors, especially those of us who had some difficulties with dyslexia.It was the most formative time for me, I learnt so much about myself, and about what has made me the priest I am. Each week new ideas, challenges in Biblical scholarship, theology, ethics, social history and pastoral studies. The worship, led by us all at different times, was a great opportunity to prepare services in a variety of styles, and was a good grounding for ministry.I suppose you could describe SOC as a religious community, we spent so much time together, walking on Saturday nights to the local pub across the fields from Wychcroft. (We were never allowed out on Friday nights!) In the winter we went to Emmaus, but Wychcroft was our real home. Chris and the staff really looked after us well, all the food so lovingly prepared, good and wholesome, aided our studies.I bless the time on SOC, my peers, tutors and those who remember ‘Christopher Robin, Pooh Bear & all the others’. I wear my hood with great pride and thanksgiving for all those who travelled with me and taught me so much. My special thanks to Martin Baddeley (our Principal), Phyllis Bates, Alan Race, Jo King and many others.
Director of Studies 1984-94
Pushing the boundaries
SOC rejoiced in pushing at the boundaries – of theological thought, of future ministerial practice and of training methods. Classes, workplace audits and placements, group work, interactions with different faiths, training in self-awareness, these were all demanding. I was always full of admiration for the dedication and commitment of students whose lives were already busy at the best of times. There was fun and laughter and tears, the enjoyment of diverse personalities, as well as the seriousness of academic and ministerial formation. I learned to paint and act as well as devise courses on weighty theological matters. It was a great way to learn – and to grow, for staff as well as students.
Finding something of God in all placesI was an Oxford ordinand and admitted Reader whom ACCM reckoned should not take up either of the places that I had been offered at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford or Ridley Hall, Cambridge but rather go somewhere where I would hear views expressed that I did not already hold. Gerald Hudson and SOC offered that opportunity and the new Bishop of Oxford, Kenneth Woolcombe, believed that I should earn my living in secular employment.In 1974, as a Reader and as an ordinand, I joined the congregation of St Michael and All Angels, Blackheath Park, where I have remained for nigh on forty years, sometimes accepted and sometimes rejected, but always having other strands to ministry, strands that have gone beyond the diocese and indeed beyond the city and country. Bishop Mervyn was ready to ordain me at that point but I believed that the fellowship at St Michael’s should confirm my call; he agreed to defer my being made a deacon. Once they had confirmed my call, Bishop Mervyn came to St Michael’s with the then new Bishop of Woolwich, Michael Marshall, who told the whole congregation what a great ordination baptism is – for we are ambassadors for Christ, Christ making His appeal through us. That concept of being a type of ambassador is one that I have found helpful in terms of space for God to operate. There are times when others, usually not regular church goers, find it helpful to have a ‘priest’ around – all sorts of people and circumstances. Of course I am also conscious of my shortcomings as an ambassador.My secular life has been multidisciplinary – with academic and professional strands in engineering, economics and other behavioural sciences, theology and law – and I have worked both nationally and multi-nationally, latterly with a strong emphasis on Europe in its EU and wider contexts. I have worked with all sorts of people and valued the devout of whatever explicit or implicit faith. It has been a delight to find something of God in all sorts of places. Life has been more difficult with the dogmatic and it has been sad to know my own failures and those of churches around the world. There have been opportunities on trains and on aeroplanes, in offices and in universities; there have been those with whom it has been a joy to walk in faith and those, usually those who have seen themselves as church leaders but who have not seemed like shepherds, with whom it has been uncomfortable for both of us.One major change between the first half of the past four decades and the second half has been whether or not I, or my wife and I, have been seen as parts of a worship and preaching team on the one hand, and of a pastoral team on the other. In the first 19 years the emphasis was on teamwork, an emphasis that I sought to sustain in my secular employment and academic work. Latterly my wife and I have missed that side of parochial life. Happily there have been compensations: it has been a joy to work with a Church of Scotland colleague in the University of St Andrews and with a Macedonian Orthodox colleague in the context of the House and Chapel of St Barnabas in Soho.
A sharing and supporting ministry
I have always been impressed by the fact that St. Paul included ‘helps’ in his list of ministries in the Church. I have been inspired to see my ministry in the light of this, understanding ‘helps’ (antilepseis) as meaning: sharing, supporting, enabling, empowering, encouraging, venturing… a wide range of activities helping to bring God’s love and grace to others. As Christians, we are called to be the salt, the yeast and the light, but in a humble sense, because “What do we have that we did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4.7). St. Paul reminds us that Christian life follows the “logos of giving and receiving” (Phil. 4. 15).After serving my title elsewhere, I was licensed to be NSM Assistant Curate in the Parish of St. James, Kidbrooke in January 1978. This was a vibrant parish with three church centres: St. James (Liberal), St. Nicholas (Liberal Catholic) and Holy Spirit (Charismatic Catholic). I felt at ease with these traditions and I served in all three churches, celebrating and preaching on most Sundays of the year, as well as supporting neighbouring churches. I also took part in the full range of weekly activities in the parish, most notably in the charismatic Eucharists on a Thursday evening in Holy Spirit Church. More recently, our parish has moved in a more evangelical direction. I believe that the different traditions in the church are a strength rather than a weakness, and as a Self-Supporting Minister I have felt able to move easily across the different traditions, valuing and emphasising the strengths of each. Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia.I have regularly taken an active part in all aspects of priestly and pastoral ministry and all aspects of parish life. Being a pastoral presence living in the community is important, and there are some advantages in “not being the Rector”. It makes possible an invitation culture and a reconciling ministry when problems arise. On one occasion two prominent families were upset by developments in the parish. The Rector and I discussed the situation, and we decided that I should visit. Together we planned a Lent Home Group in one of the homes with me leading, and we encouraged other members of the parish to join. Strong feelings gradually subsided and friendly relationships were restored. Another advantage of “not being the Rector” is the testing of the waters. I pioneered the use of the alb in St. James and I preached a sermon on women’s ministry and sensitively recommended the ordination of women to the priesthood. The sermon was well received and it was clear that the parish was happy to accept this exciting new form of ministry.One evening, I received a phone call. An elderly lady had been discharged from hospital and had been returned to her flat on the Ferrier Estate. She was fragile and anxious, and no one was available to visit her. I said that I would go. I was feeling very tired at the time, and as I walked down the road I wondered what possible use I could be. I went up in the lift and knocked on her door. She greeted me with a huge smile, sat me down and insisted on making me a cup of tea. We had a long talk about old times and she showed me her very large family bible, inscribed with all the names of her family in their generations. I said a prayer and pronounced a blessing and she thanked me warmly for coming. She now seemed settled. As I walked home I felt strangely restored, and I asked myself who had ministered to whom? It is clear that we had ministered to each other. This is a clear example of St. Paul’s ‘logos of giving and receiving’.
Priesthood and the Civil Service
I was ordained in 1978 in the non-stipendiary ministry and served in this capacity for over 20 years until, following my retirement from secular employment, I was appointed to a stipendiary post in which I served for a further 10 years, acting also as Bishop’s Officer for non-stipendiary ministry, until I reached the maximum age for stipendiary ministry in 2009. Since then I have continued to support the parish in which I now reside and have developed a ministry around spirituality and spiritual direction. While an NSM I combined a ministry as an Honorary Curate in a large suburban parish with a ministry in secular employment as a senior civil servant in the Department of Health and tried to give equal emphasis to both.Although I never wore clerical dress in the office (at least not during working hours) I made no secret of my vocation and it was widely known throughout the department that I was a priest, and I was generally respected for that. I did not have much opportunity for pastoral work among my colleagues, as the hierarchical environment of the civil service made that difficult. But my conviction was that the substance of my employment, the work I actually did, was my ministry. Of course this had to be a deeply incarnational ministry as an overt reference to the faith would have been inappropriate. Two incidents from my time in the Civil Service spring to mind: first, while responsible for alcohol services I succeeded in getting the policy that hostel users had to be sober and abstinent as a condition of admission modified, which led to introduction of ‘wet’ (ie for intoxicated people) and later detoxification facilities into the cold weather shelters which were in operation at that time, when street homelessness was rife. Later on I worked on spongiform encephalopathy, which combined the challenge of working at the frontier of medical science in that particular area, which carried a huge, but fortunately unrealised, risk to the human population, with my understanding of bereavement, which was most useful in meetings with families of the victims.The other activity in which I was engaged was the establishment of an organisation for MSEs. We realised early on that if anything was to be done in that direction we would have to do it ourselves. Gerald Hudson was instrumental in getting a group set up and bringing Bishop Kenneth Woollcombe on side to provide liaison with the hierarchy and act as the first bishop for NSMs. The result was the setting up in 1994 of Christians in Secular Ministry (CHRISM), of which I was the first Secretary and third Moderator.
Remembering the remarkable Canon Stanley Evans
One Friday evening in May 1965, I was at Wychcroft, the Southwark Diocesan Training Centre, sitting at supper on the right of the formidable Canon Stanley Evans, the first Principal of the Southwark Ordination Course. Years 1 and 2 were there for their Summer School. Every now and then he would fire a question at me: “Do you read?” when I answered, “Yes”, he talked, just as briefly, to men in front of him or to his left. Then he would come back to me, “Do you read the Bible?”…“What papers do you read?” So it went on as the meal progressed. Until the dishes were being cleared away. I didn’t think it unusual that the student-waiters were stacking the dishes in their hands before they took them out. Until, that is, a roar came from my left, “STOP THAT! THIS ISN’T JOE LYONS!”My interview with Stanley followed. It was as idiosyncratic as the meal and ended with him saying, “We’ll probably take you. You’ll hear by the end of next week”. That was the last time I saw him. Just before the autumn term was due to start, Stanley was being driven by a friend to a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meeting. The car crashed and they were both killed.The 1965-66 SOC year began, as usual, with a Retreat. All of us arrived feeling shell-shocked and very uncertain about our academic future. Stanley’s successor, Canon Frank Colquhoun who was a completely different personality, made it clear to us that doubt and uncertainty were ‘not the Christian way’. The work would go on. It did, and it will.Canon Stanley George Evans was a Catholic Anglican and a Christian Socialist. I knew him for little more than an hour, if that. I’m now well into my 9th decade and he was the most remarkable man I’ve ever met.
Priesthood at work
My pattern of priesthood has always been to be someone firmly committed to a priestly lifestyle but with a normal career as a Chartered accountant. I was ordained priest in 1970, just two months after becoming a partner in Arthur Young, now part of Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four international accounting firms. I had a thirty year career as a partner and was subsequently Chief Executive, then Chairman of the firm’s pension scheme on a part time basis for 12 years. At the same time I have always been committed to contributing to parish life in a reasonably active way. That has been important to me not least because it has given me a support group with whom to share experiences.I saw my priesthood as permeating the whole of my life. Virtually all my partners, staff and clients were aware of my priesthood. This gave significant opportunities for discussion about faith with a wide variety of people, from the boardroom to the shop floor. I saw my priesthood at work both as a sacramental sign of God’s involvement in ordinary life – a ministry of “presence” – and as a catalyst for discussion.In 1970 I took on responsibility for our services as auditors and tax advisers to the Beatles. I handled this for 13 years and got to know the individual members very well. I brought integrity to that relationship, both as a professional accountant with a major firm and as a priest, and was trusted by them where other firms had not been. After their partnership dispute was resolved in 1974, each one of them came to me separately and asked me to act for them personally as well as for the group as a whole. They were interested in faith and were exploring Hinduism. We often discussed faith in breaks during meetings. Was God at work in these meetings? Yes, I think so. With the benefit of hindsight I now feel that I should, at that time, have been less involved in a parish (perhaps in those days trying to prove that self-supporting ministry was not a second class ministry) and spent more time studying comparative religion so as to be better equipped for those conversations!An unexpected consequence of my dual professions has been that my experience as an accountant has caused me to be invited to serve the Church by contributing my financial expertise at a Church of England and Anglican Communion level. I was asked to become a member and then Vice-Chair of what is now the Finance Panel of the Ministry Division. Contacts made on the Finance Panel then resulted in me being invited to become a Governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome responsible for overseeing its finances. This brought together my enthusiasm for ecumenism, my priest hood and my financial expertise. I have also been invited to carry out financial and management reviews of two cathedrals and a convent! My financial skills have been well used by the Church. I suspect that other self-supporting clergy have skills which could also be used within the Church but that this resource has not been harnessed.