Confessions of a Trainee Vicar

The Five Circles Of Community

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GUEST POST:// Laura Collingridge is a first-year ordinand at Wycliffe Hall studying for the Durham BA. Sent from Soul Survivor Watford in St Alban’s Diocese, she was formerly a university administrator and a non-resident member of the Community of St Anselm, and she blogs at https://lollingridge.wordpress.com/.

I LOVE community. I also find it hard, because not everyone loves community quite as much. Being at theological college has been great for my inner Labrador puppy that just wants to be with people ALL THE TIME and play and chat and then when some people get bored of that, there are other people to go and distract! It could all be quite surface level, though, but I’ve found it helpful to consider the following five circles of community, because as we were reminded at the beginning of the academic year, people flourish when they are committed to, and I want to fully commit to my community. This list is not intended to be exclusive, there are many other little pockets too, but I’ll save some of those for another day.

Me and God

This has been an interesting one. When I arrived at college, there was so much anticipation, so much sense of purpose and so much nervous energy that it felt easy to cling onto God at the beginning. But all too quickly the daily chapel routine can feel just like that – routine – so it’s still as much of a choice to have that quality time with God as it was BC (BC = before college). I don’t think I’ve ever read the Bible so much (is it possible to read the Bible too much?! Asking for a friend…!) But it really has fuelled my prayer life in a way I haven’t known since my early 20s.

Prayer Triplet

This has been one of the highlights of my week- every Thursday I gather with two amazing women and we share our ‘personal weather;’ things that have happened in the last week or things coming up that we want prayer for. As someone who has struggled  with my emotional health over the last year, in particular lacking the discipline of checking how I feel about things, I have found this extremely helpful. We’ve seen some answered prayer for a whole range of things (essays, mouth pain, relationships to name but a few), and there are others that will remain on our list into next term.

Fellowship Group

Made up of ordinands and independent students, fellowship groups gives me another insight into Wycliffe life, which partially helps escape the bubble (especially the ordinand bubble). Not only do I get a second breakfast each Tuesday, but I get to learn from a group of truly inspiring individuals. Leading chapel together in the last week of term swiftly propelled us into having to communicate better together and it was a joy to celebrate together at the end of that week having survived that experience!

First Year Ordinands

I feel that I spent surprisingly little time with the first year ordinands, in fact the only thing we have all together in the week is our preaching class. But as we listen to each others’ sermons and rate them in a plethora of categories (I like to give everyone a 7/7 for appearance, who doesn’t like a little morale boost in the middle of the week?!), we share a little more of ourselves, and that creates more of a sense of community. And where would we be without a WhatsApp group?! I dread to think. (I feel a whole separate post about the WhatsApp groups coming on, but that’s for another day).

Whole Wycliffe Community

People talk a lot about formation, and I know that certainly in my experience that being part of this community is where I recognise that formation process the strongest. I’ve had moments where I’ve contemplated if I’d wished the Reformation had never happened (but before any of my dear brothers and sisters panic, I have concluded that I am extremely grateful for the Reformation!). I’ve been exceedingly frustrated by the black-market trading of meals on Facebook, before remembering that not everyone gets all their meals paid for by the church and a free meal can go a long way for an independent student. I’ve had to tune into a whole new language (I’ve just about grasped what referring to ‘this side of the eschaton’ means, but I still wouldn’t use it in a sentence!). But mostly, it’s a joy to choose to live more generously, to have the boldness to ask “what does that actually mean”, and to discern whether I’m being an avoidant turtle or just letting something go because it doesn’t really matter that much.

So there we have it. Five concentric circles of community. There is a saying that “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”. Whilst the source of the proverb may be questionable, I agree with the sentiment. On this crazy journey, it seems to me that the best way to survive is to be rooted in God at the centre, and travel with others along the way.

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