The Revd Fiona Gibson was an
ordinand at Oak Hill College, in north London
I WENT to Oak Hill after being challenged to think about
ordination. There was a real richness about my time there: I had
time to reflect, think, pray, be trained, and be challenged.
The thing that has stood me in good stead most from my studies
is that we were taught -and shown -that our own walk with God must
be central to our life, and that our ministry is an overflow from
For me, that has been a guiding principle in parish ministry.
There is always so much to do that it could be easy to neglect your
own relationship with God, but we were taught above all to be
prayerful, faithful, and flexible.
The lectures were amazing, but it was also about living with
people in community: meeting for worship every morning in chapel,
which sets the tone for the day; and praying, eating, and studying
Oak Hill was also good at teaching us to break things down and
to put them together again; to think clearly using a synthesis of
ideas from different disciplines. Whatever conversation I'm having
in parish ministry, very rarely is it a case of "This is a doctrine
question," or "This a biblical-studies question"; so teaching me to
think like that has been really helpful.
The Revd Nat Reuss studied
Theology for Ministry at St John's College, Nottingham
IT WAS while I was on a two-day drive home from university, in
Australia, that I felt the call to ministry. I booked a one-way
ticket to England, and enrolled at St John's. The most important
thing I have taken into curacy came towards the end of my studies:
I learned the great lesson that the Christian faith needs to be
embodied. Are we embodying what Jesus calls us to live?
I discovered a real heart for theology, especially weighing up
the Sermon on the Mount, and trying to take Jesus's teachings
seriously - but not quite seeing that in current church
I had some issues about serving in the Church of England, but
the tutors helped me through these questions, and I also discovered
some of the theologians engaging with these issues. That informs
the work I do now, in my spare time, with the Anglican Pacifist
In academic study, I found that it was easy to fall into the
trap of weighing up my level of achievement. But the most valuable
lesson St John's taught me was the ability to embrace all people,
regardless of ethnicity, background, or view-point.
You're assessed on how you lead services and preach, but the
main thing is what people's experience of meeting you is like.
Whether I'm taking baptisms, or meeting people on the street or in
the pub, the big question is: am I being a faithful witness to
Jesus? That is the most important thing I have taken away from my
studies, and the main thing I'm working on.
Nathan Loxley studied theology
at Cliff College, Derbyshire
I WENT to Cliff College because I
wanted to invest in something that would change my life, and, after
graduation, change other people's. I had a sense of calling, but it
was for a life of ministry, not for Bible college.
It was a big culture shock, living in the middle of nowhere,
constantly examining myself, and experiencing such spiritual
discipline, but the support I got was great.
Now I'm the Central South Divisional Youth Officer for the
Salvation Army. College has prepared me for that, because you get
some challenging questions, and it is nice to be able to give
people some different perspectives - and to admit that you don't
always know conclusively, either. On the other hand, I've found
that people are not as desperate for the kind of theological
debates that we had at col-lege.
While some of the theory is not often referred to, the practices
of growing in my own spiritual faith have been crucial. I am
dealing with people who are often burnt out, and being able to
encourage them has been a real gift.
Jenny and Denham Howard
studied Applied Theology at Moorlands College, Christchurch,
Jenny: I thought
going to Bible college would be like being in heaven, with all
Christians together; but within two weeks I was a wreck. The study
was a shock, but it was the training, the getting out and doing it,
that proved to be challenging.
It has been helpful in what we are doing now, however. Moorlands
taught me to get out of my comfort zones, and push myself.
While we were there, God gave us a vision for theLifeCentre
bridging church and community, with a gym, a coffee shop, a food
bank, and crisis housing. The doors opened for church-planting with
the Vineyard network, and we ran gathering events in Portsmouth
while we were still finishing our dissertations.
I also learned what my theological view was, and what its
biblical basis is. That has been key for the work that we are
doing, because people challenge you, and you need to have some kind
of thought-out re- sponse.
Denham: I studied for my MA part-time while
working and being involved with a number of businesses. Apart from
gaining a deeper theological understanding, at Moorlands we looked
at secular leadership-theories critically, from a Christian
perspective, and that has been really helpful, both for running the
businesses and for work in the Church.
In May this year, as a step towards the LifeCentre vision, we
started to rent premises to operate as a day centre, with a
training kitchen connected to the church, called the LifeHouse. It
is for people who are homeless and in addiction, so that we can
feed them and encourage them to cook.
Luke Maxted studied theology
at the London School of Theology, and is currently doing a
I HAD no clear goal when I started at LST, except that I didn't
want to work for a Church, because of some bad experiences I'd had.
I looked into corporate social responsibility, and I also
considered teaching: I was looking for a way of furthering the
Kingdom without working for the Church.
As it turns out, I have just had my induction service as
associate pastor for Willesden Baptist Church.
Of course, it was a great preparation for that ministry, to
study the Bible alongside people who know it, and it opened my eyes
in ways I could never have imagined. Spending time in depth with
the text has really helped with preaching and teaching.
What has really made the difference to what I am doing, from my
time at LST, was the experience of community. Nothing has prepared
me for being a pastor like functioning in a community where people
needed pastoral support, and were showing love for one another.
I wouldn't be able to count the hours the faculty gave me to
talk through how things were going. And the student body took care
of one another. People who were struggling were never left to feel
helpless, and it has really helped me with my drive to help
The Revd Andy Grant was an
ordinand at Cranmer Hall, Durham
I HAD been in the army for 11 years
when I experienced a calling to the priesthood in the Anglican
Church, in 1999. It was a long process, and involved finishing my
career in the army. I went to Cranmer in 2009.
Cranmer would class itself as an Evangelical college, but we had
a broad spectrum of students: Anglo-Catholic, Charismatic,
Evangelical, and liberal. Subsequently, I have been able to draw on
goodness from various streams.
There were anxious moments, doing funerals and weddings for the
first time, but the grounding from Cranmer had given me the
confidence to put on a dog collar and get on with the job, grounded
The preparation on death and dying - particularly in terms of
being there, listening, and empathising through the Christian lens
- has helped enormously in conducting funerals in the parish,
particularly in ways of doing things differently at times, and in
bringing some semblance of God's hope into a dark time for
The preaching modules, which promoted a variety of ways of
preaching, and catered for the different ways of learning and
listening styles that people have, have also had a big impact. So
has experiencing the variety of worship styles and traditions that
we were given the freedom to experiment with. It gave us the
confidence to be creative.
This parish is traditionally Catholic, but there seems to be a
greater Evangelical presence in the church now; so we're looking at
that. There are certain things that I can pull from Cranmer -
things we tried, and principles - that we can apply in this
Amanda Maurer studied at
Capernwray Bible School, in Lancashire
WHEN I came from South Dakota for the
course at Capernwray, I wasn't looking to go into ministry: I just
wanted to deepen my relationship with God, and grow in my knowledge
of the Bible.
The first term focused on the Bible; the second was more about
how it applied to your life and your personal growth. It stretched
me and grew me. And it was eye-opening being with believers from
all over the world.
After I finished, I went home, and was planning to get a job,
but I was asked to come back and be on the staff for a year as
assistant to the housekeeper - a behind-the-scenes, do-everything
kind of job.
I learned things about myself at the school which I'm taking
with me into whatever I do next, about what I'm good at, and not so
good at. For example, I got many opportunities to lead worship, and
that has become a passion. I'm still doing it now, and I'll
continue when I go home.
Being here, living in a community of Christians, isn't real
life, though. Following God is normal here, but, when you go home,
it's different. It's hard enough to apply what I learnt while I'm
working at the school; it's going to be even harder when I'm
finished. It will be a big adjustment.
Andy and Andrea Warner studied
Professionals in Mission at Redcliffe College, in
Andrea: We spent a
year at Redcliffe before going to Spain with European Christian
Mission. Not having a theology background, I picked some of the
modules that the degree students were doing. Other parts were very
We had lectures on how to help your children, and what to expect
of those growing up in two cultures. That has been particularly
helpful, for our two children, Jacob and Alicia, who sometimes look
back on England with rose-coloured spectacles.
Andy: The most challenging thing for me wasn't
the academic studies, but the small-team activities, such as making
a paper bridge together. There were 80 students from 25, maybe 30
countries, so language was a barrier.
We've been in Spain for a year, learning the language and
assimilating the culture, and our college experience has proved
useful for our team meetings: they involve families from different
countries, so there can be mis-communications.
Our studies also prepared us for being in a foreign culture: the
honeymoon period, then the reality that you can't go home and can't
communicate, and then the curve changes as you get used to it.