So the sabbatical is over. No more for another seven years.
OK, that last sentence is mean, especially for the vast majority of people who don’t receive sabbaticals. What have I gained from this one? Some spiritual encouragement from the week at Cliff College. A sense from the time at Trinity College, Bristol that I’m not insane to feel out on a limb as a minister with my personality type. And the sheer pleasure of using my long-dormant hobby of photography in Christian fellowship at Lee Abbey. From both Cliff and Trinity has come the desire to explore PhD research, although there are obstacles. Right now would not be a tactful time, ministry-wise. There would also be the small question of the finance.
What do I bring back from it into ministry? Actually, I’m not sure right now. I’m aware that some people in my churches are already talking about the things I shall be bringing back from the sabbatical for them, as if it has been a three-month trip to some extended version of the Christian Resources Exhibition. Sorry, that’s still for me just one day of the four next week.
What will I bring back for my churches? I don’t think it will be (or ever could have been) specific resources and ideas. I hope it brings a revitalised me, even if – quite honestly – I still don’t have the answers to the questions about why I feel so frustrated in ministry a lot of the time. I only have, as I said above, the sense that I am not mad, after all.
But I hope they’ll see something in me. What that is, I don’t know. I had some comments today. Given the assumption that no sooner shall I be back than I shall be off for a fortnight recovering from the upcoming nasal surgery, we did some things with my churches today. One church was holding a fund-raiser for Chelmsford Street Pastors. A couple at another church were celebrating their golden wedding. People made some strange comments. One person thought I had gained a suntan.
“Must have been all that snow at Cliff College in February,” I joked.
Another thought I looked relaxed. With small children? Rarely possible!
So I’ll see what tomorrow brings. I have a communion service in the morning at St Augustine’s. In the evening, I have café church at Broomfield, where I am going to show some DVD clips from Lee Abbey. One is ‘Words Are Not Enough‘, some mimes to biblical passages by Dave Hopwood, their creative arts director. The other is ‘Lee Abbey Reflections‘, which contains meditations and music that can be used worshipfully.
Oh, well. Once more into the breach …
First of all, a bit of techie stuff: late last night I finally succeeded in installing Ubuntu Linux in a separate partition on the hard drive of my laptop. Previously, I’ve managed to install it within Windows using ‘wubi’ on our desktop, but that PC always protested regarding a separate installation. Anyway, I saw a suitable hand-holding article in Computeractive magazine in a newsagent last week. I bought it and it came in handy yesterday evening. So now I can have some fun.
Or so I thought. Ubuntu doesn’t recognise the wireless receiver in the laptop, so I can’t connect to the Internet through it while I’m here. Windows Vista only for that task. I’ll be able to use it when connected via an Ethernet cable to our router at home. Not exactly the flexibility you hope for with a laptop, but at least there is an operating system that will to some extent substitute should Windows ever fall over or crawl in RAM.
Anyway, to change the words of Olivia Newton-John, let’s get spiritual. The lectures have been extraordinary today, right from the get-go. Phil Meadows could hardly read a quote from Samuel Chadwick at the beginning of our first session this morning without weeping. A lecture that began in prayer ended in prayer, with some overcome by the power of the Spirit. A constant theme today has been pain at people in church not receiving Gospel basics. It hasn’t been the judgmentalism of such people that can be found in some evangelical circles: it has more been an agony. And the recurring response has been that we are just as free to proclaim the Gospel as we always have been, but with it we are free to be persecuted. There is a constant historical thread that people who have initiated reform or renewal in the church have done so from the margins (how postmodern is that? If you’ve followed my Starfish and the Spider posts, you’ll have seen it recurring there) and have suffered for doing so.
After lunch we had the coffee and cakes I mentioned yesterday. I ended up sitting again with Stephen Skuce, talking about all sorts of things from family to church life to – yes, the question of a PhD again. I shared a particular misgiving I have about the idea. Not the money: we’ll pray about that if it’s right. But I’ve been deeply concerned about motivation. I don’t want to explore this if it’s just an ego trip to get more alphabet soup after my name. Stephen encouraged me that there might be a number of worthy reasons for pursuing one. I really wasn’t ready for these conversations. Suddenly these ideas are accelerating and I’m thinking ‘Oo-er’. Clearly, I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth on Monday!
Well, I’m going to draw this to a close in a moment. I’m typing this whilst taking part in a chat with three other students about children’s openness to God and other aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Also, someone wants to find the Lego Gospel on the web and have a look. There are a few possible sites she might mean: The Brick Testament, this YouTube clip
or maybe this site.
See you tomorrow.
They must have designed the beds here for monks. Certainly my bed kept me awake enough last night to observe night prayer at all hours. I reckon I got about three hours max. I’m typing this before an early (by my standards) night.
Three different lectures today. An Old Testament lecture that was very lively and fun, which sang from the same hymn sheet as Chris Wright. A New Testament lecture that rehearsed all the standard evangelical points about the Holy Spirit. (I spent some time looking at pictures of the children on my Facebook profile.) And a lecture on discipleship in postmodern culture that didn’t for once start from the cultural context but from a spiritual theology based on the Fathers, especially Irenaeus.
Good conversation with one of the postgrad tutors, too. We got onto my occasional desires to do a doctorate. He suggested a Doctor of Ministry course would probably not stretch me, since the dissertation would be MA level, and that’s below the MPhil I already have. He was steering me towards a PhD. Just a few problems: a research area, and wrong time ministry-wise and for our children to contemplate it right now. And money. But maybe one day.
Tonight a ‘student sharing time’, praying for one another, followed – by popular request (but from whom?) – bythe return of the ever-popular ‘fun evening’. That proved to mean a quiz night. My team came second out of four. Given that we only had three on the team and the others all had four, we think we won a moral victory! It was a bit of an effort, though, with a headache from last night’s monastic sleep.
Anyway, I’m going to lend my laptop to another student in a minute so she can check her emails, then it’s supper and bed. Night night.
CODEC, St John’s College, University of Durham, PhD Research Project: Communicating the Gospel in a Digital Age or Biblical Literacy in a Digital Age
£11,000 bursary per annum (plus academic fees paid)
CODEC has been awarded funding from The Methodist Church of Great Britain to establish a research project exploring either the impact of the digital age on the communication of the Gospel or the use of the Bible in the Church and in an increasingly digital society.
We are seeking a student with outstanding potential to pursue research in the above areas based at St John’s College at the University of Durham and within the newly established CODEC research centre in collaboration with the Director of Research, Revd Dr Peter Phillips.
St John’s offers a wealth of research collaboration opportunities including the Wesley Studies Centre, Cranmer Hall and the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. The research supervisory panel will bring together support from each of these centres, while the PhD will be undertaken through the normal University of Durham graduate processes.
While pursuing this research you will be expected to work together with other researchers, academic members of staff and ordinands at the various associated centres. You are expected to have a good Masters degree or at least a high 2.1 BA (Hons) (or equivalent) in Theology or a related subject. Candidates with a high 2.1 in Media or Computing Studies or related subjects as well as a postgraduate qualification in Theology will also be considered. Ideally you will have an active interest and/or experience in more than one of the following areas: communication, media, postmodernism, biblical literacy, missiology/evangelism. You should have good computer skills. Good written- and verbal-communication skills are essential as are the ability to work as part of a developing research community, be self-motivated and pro-active.
The successful candidate will be expected to complete the PhD programme including the publication of relevant research papers and academic articles, as well as contributions to academic conferences and the dissemination of the conclusions reached during the research.
Candidates will provide a formal research proposal as part of the application process. Interviews will involve the presentation of this research proposal to a panel.
For an informal discussion or an application form and further particulars please contact Dr Peter Phillips, Centre for Biblical Literacy, Tel: 0191 334 3896, Mobile: 0787 633 7157 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Closing date: 14 November 2008