GUEST POST:// Jayne Manfredi lives in the North-West in Chester Diocese and is a first year ordinand training part-time at The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham. She’s also raising four children aged between five and fourteen and you can follow her on Twitter @TheWomanfredi.
Finding a mode of study that was going to work for me and my family took far too long; I went to BAP in June 2017 and was recommended, but I was forced to defer for a year because I couldn’t find a training solution that would still enable me to care for my children. My husband’s job isn’t very flexible and so finding a training pathway that suited us all wasn’t easy.
After much deliberation and a year “off” to try and work through some family issues, I finally settled on Queen’s. It’s an ecumenical training college – we train alongside Methodists – and it embraces a diverse and liberal theology that really interested me. I knew I’d be comfortable there but that they would also stretch me. I train part-time and am classed as a daytime student, though I also have an evening class alongside the people doing the regional mode of training. I travel down to Birmingham very early on a Tuesday morning, and I’m on the go all day. We don’t finish until 9:30 in the evening! I have a class on Wednesday morning, then chapel and cell group, and finally home and back to my “day job.” It’s an exhausting two days but I get by on exhilaration and loads of prayer!
As soon as I got the date for my BAP, I started browsing theology colleges online, and I found the thought of residential training hugely appealing. The chance to be in community alongside other people who were also journeying on the same path; I imagined it would be deeply formational and spiritually enriching, not to mention more convenient than having to travel. However, with four children in school and a husband with a career that couldn’t be easily moved, residential training wasn’t an option for us. For me, my study pathway at Queen’s is the best option. I get to learn, worship, and share meals and fellowship with the Queen’s community, including de-stressing and off-loading of a Tuesday evening in the “refreshment centre,” which is often the best part of my day.
I get to experience a sense of being in community, but I also get to enjoy leaving on a Wednesday afternoon; skipping out of there with my wheelie case, bound for my train home which, my residential classmates tell me, is often something to be thankful for. I’m told that residential training; living, working and studying in the same place, day after day, with the same people, can sometimes be suffocating.
On the other hand, being part time is also a strange place to inhabit. We are ostensibly part of the community, but then things happen that make it clear that we’re not fully part of things. The burden of part time study is that sometimes events will be organised on days you’re not scheduled to be there, and this is something that you must make peace with. It’s frustrating if you want to go to the Ancient Greek classes, or the preaching course; both held on a Monday, if you can only be there on Tuesday and Wednesday. Likewise, if your classmates organise an evening of worship or a trip to the pub and you’re 75 miles away. Frustrating, but it’s the nature of the beast.
I try to keep in mind that I was called to this vocation when I was a mum of four kids under nine; feeling overwhelmed with sleepless nights, whilst breast-feeding one child, potty training another, teaching one to ride a bike, and another their times tables. I was called out of that, and so that is the context within which I will learn how to be a Priest. Now I must grapple with essay deadlines that fall during the half-term holidays; with children who cry when I put them to bed on a Monday night, because they won’t see me until Wednesday evening; and with an increasingly large workload whilst still managing the demands of a big family, who struggle to see me as anything other than mum. It’s been a steep learning curve, and we’re not quite there yet. I wonder if we ever will be.
We all have our particular challenges to deal with during training and these are some of mine. I get to leave my real life behind for two days a week and just be Jayne again. I’ve been raising kids pretty much non-stop since I was 24, so this by itself is a massive gift. I am granted the space to worship just for its own sake; to have conversations about faith and Jesus – my two favourite topics! I even have my dinner made for me and I don’t need to wash anything up. At the end of the two days I return home and take up the reigns of motherhood again, which inevitably means picking up someone’s dirty washing off the floor and – probably – sorting out a fight. Theology college with its peaceful, calming aura, sure does feel a long way away after a few days back at home. Lest I forget that my calling is emphatically a servant one, my lovely family are always there to remind me of my actual standing. They will help make me a better priest one day, of that I’m certain.
Are you an ordinand? Would you like to write for ‘Confessions of a Trainee Vicar?’ Use the ‘Contact’ page to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you – and I know others would to!