Confessions of a Trainee Vicar

I’m About To Be Ordained, Here’s What I Learned At Theological College

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Photo Dan Cottle

GUEST POST:// Sophie Cowan has just finished three years at Wycliffe Hall reading for the Oxford BA and now the MTh. Passionate about estate ministry, she is to serve her curacy in Peterborough Diocese. She is the pioneer of Equipping The Called.

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During my three years at Wycliffe one of the key things I’ve learned is something that Sue Hope taught last year.

She said something like, whatever it is that you are passionate about within the Church, don’t keep it to yourself – speak up for it – be the spokesperson for that cause – whether it’s BCP, or common worship, whether it is tackling loneliness or taking responsibility for the environment – let God use those passions to bless and equip the church.

Now I could have entirely missed the development of this idea – so forgive me if I have – but I’d like to take it a little further because I have practised this notion, and I think there is an important next step.

Whatever it is that God has put on your heart – explore it – discuss it – find others who have that same vision – in doing this you will find your tribe – and a tribe is important – they love you, want you to flourish, help you to grow. But you must not stop there. Once in your tribe – and don’t imagine you don’t have one because in the church of England ‘middle of the road’ is also a tribe…. but once you know your tribe – work out how you are going to bless the other tribes in our college, who too are in Christ’s Church. Do not let the differences become a shoving contest. Out-bless each other – out-grace each other – out-love each other.

It can be painful at college…and no doubt in curacy, but there are glistening God moments in the pain, and, when that pain is healed it is a glimpse of the Kingdom. The relief, the joy, the sudden peace.

I’ve learned that my brothers and sisters in Christ are not always generous, gracious, or even kind, and neither am I.

Which leads me to the skill of saying sorry. I don’t know about you but Trinity term has offered it’s own special kind of torture. I’ve had to say sorry to Michael two and a half times in as many weeks. I’ve been on the receiving end of ill-considered words that have hurt and have had to be forgiven. And we all know that sorry is a start, but it’s no way to finish.

Reconciliation is needed – God has taught me afresh what it means to see Christ in others, to watch for that flicker of the Flame that lights up the universe in the eyes of those who know the Lord. And it has brought so much Joy, even if bedded upon pain. It is in reconciliation that broken bonds can be restored and we can put back together our relationships before the Lord.

To finish, I’ve learned that if we believe the story that we tell ourselves to be truth, that Jesus Christ was born into our world, a baby, hold-able, kissable, vulnerable, lived, taught, died on the cross, was resurrected by the power of the Spirit, and ascended to the right hand of the Father – ruling all to this day, this hour, this very moment. Then in all that we say and do, we should live that truth, speak that truth, love that truth – and by the power of the Spirit we will.

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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!

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