THERE was a time when all you needed to be ordained
was to have an MA and a bishop who was willing to lay hands on you.
But with the rise of the professional classes in the 19th century,
the practice of equipping ordination candidates with a theological
and pastoral education began. Then, for a long time, the prevailing
model of training was residential. Students lived where they
studied, like undergraduates at university.
More recently, non-residential part-time courses,
comprising evening and weekend classes, have become an important
route to ordained ministry. And both full- and part-time study
routes provide practical experience through placements in parish
Lately, a new training model, "mixed-mode", has
emerged. The term has several different definitions - at Ripon
College, Cuddesdon, for example, mixed-mode refers to a flexible
style of training for part-time, non-residential students. But, at
most colleges, it refers to full-time courses that require
ordinands to spend at least half the week in a ministerial context
throughout their entire course, not just gaining work experience
through short-term placements.
The model attempts to shift the focus from the
classroom back to the real world, blending tuition with on-the-job
training. The aim, the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Revd Dr
Michael Lloyd, says, "is for the two 'modes' to be mutually
nutritious, academic theology and practical expertise each
enriching the other".
The Vice-Principal of St John's College, Nottingham,
the Revd Dr Andrew Angel, says: "Many felt there was a need for a
practical focus for ministry right from day one. In some ways,
mixed mode is like doing the academic training and curacy at the
A SIMILAR reason why mixed-mode was introduced is
given by the Assistant Dean at St Mellitus College, the Revd Dr
Andrew Emerton: "I liken it to the way doctors and teachers are
trained: you wouldn't dream of letting them qualify without having
been exposed to the realities of their profession during
Context-based training is now so popular,
particularly among the under-35s, that eight out of the 12
residential colleges offer mixed mode: Cranmer Hall, The Queen's
Foundation, Ridley Hall, Ripon College, St John's College, St
Stephen's House, Trinity College, and Wycliffe Hall.
There are at least three courses provided by
non-residential institutions: St Mellitus College, the South East
Institute of Theological Education, and the Yorkshire Ministry
Course. Several mixed-mode courses are not yet formally validated
by the Ministry Division, however, and candidates on these
need approval on a case-by-case basis.
Interest in mixed-mode training led to the
establishment of St Mellitus College in 2007, by the Bishops of
London and Chelmsford and St Paul's Theological Centre, which the
Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge University, Dr David
Ford, called at the time: "One of the most important experiments
in church theological education for a long time."
St Mellitus, which is now based in Earls Court,
London, has experienced rapid growth since it began, and, as well
as now training more ordinands than any other college (currently
142), also has the largest number of mixed-mode ordinands in
training (82), who travel in from different parts of the UK to
attend one day of lectures per week; supplemented by a day of
personal study per week, seven weekends, and one residential week
of further tutoring per year.
Many other mixed-mode training courses require
students to be present two or three days a week to participate in
study and community activities, and most provide ordinands with a
room throughout their course. The Queen's Foundation, Birmingham,
is an exception, as students start the course living mainly in
college, and end it spending most days in their context placements,
concentrating on the learning which they then go on to apply.
But, usually, there is no stipulation to live in
college, and therefore no need to relocate, a fact that has added
to the popularity of mixed mode. St Mellitus College conducted some
research which showed that 75 per cent of their ordinands would not
have considered training, or would certainly not have considered
it at the time when questioned, had it not been for such
The approach also benefits congregations in several
ways, Dr Emerton says. "Not only does it enable ordinands to stay
rooted in their parish communities, where they may already be
involved and depended upon: it also encourages awareness of
vocation within the entire Christian body, as the rest of the
church witnesses the training and may be encouraged to think about
God's calling in their own lives."
Since all mixed-mode ordinands must be selected as
potential incumbents rather than for non-stipendiary associate
ministries, the "contexts" tend to be parish churches that have
agreed to serve in a mentoring capacity. Placements can also be in
youth work or chaplaincy, however, as long as the ordinand obtains
sufficient ministerial practice and guidance.Some colleges allow
students to propose their own ministry contexts, although help is
available if required - these include St Mellitus, and the
mixed-mode course at the Evangelical Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, which
also has teaching input from the Anglo-Catholic St Stephen's
Other colleges tend to get more involved in placement
selection, often basing ordinands at designated training
THE Queen's Foundation, Birmingham, is one such
college. Trinity College, Bristol, places all their mixed-mode
students together in teams, in one of three area placements that
students can choose between. Placements are supervised by the
parish priest, and each ordinand is also visited for a morning a
week by a member of the college staff.
"The tutor facilitates the integration of theory and
practice through regular corporate reflection," Trinity's director
of practical training, the Revd Sue Gent, says. "This encourages a
collaborative mindset, and it is also a missional and incarnational
model, because the students live together as part of their local
A similar approach is starting at St John's,
Nottingham. The college already offers a mixed-mode course that
prioritises group reflective practice, with ordinands' coming
together during their time in college to share and pray about their
experiences. But a brand-new course, the Community Mission Pathway,
which the college hopes will start next year, will take this a step
further, "to establish missional communities, not just individuals"
Dr Angel says.
IN SEPTEMBER 2014, Cranmer Hall, Durham, will also
launch a new mixed-mode course with a similar approach, basing
groups of up to six ordinands in an impoverished area of
Middlesbrough, with a view to establishing further hubs in other
needy areas in due course.
"The choice of this area in Middlesbrough is entirely
deliberate, because it's somewhere the students can make a real
difference. It's about being fully present and establishing a
long-term commitment to a place," the director of mission at the
college, the Revd Dr Michael Volland, says.
Cuddesdon has no context-based training for
mainstream ordinands, but does offer a mixed-mode course for those
selected for Ordained Pioneer Ministry.
At Cuddesdon, Pioneers spend a day a week in teaching
sessions provided by a partnership of the Oxford Ministry Course
and the Church Mission Society (CMS). Jonny Baker, who co-ordinates
the CMS side of the training, says: "This is not a compression
chamber where they're just thinking about leading: they're actually
Most other colleges also offer training for Pioneer
ordinands. Some offer a bespoke course, while other colleges absorb
Pioneers into their normal mixed-mode course, but place Pioneers in
ministry contexts outside of mainstream church.
THE outward focus of many mixed-mode courses means
that they tend to attract candidates with a strong focus on church
growth. "These are people who are passionate about seeing the
church grow," Dr Emerson says. The Yorkshire Ministry Course, for
example, has just implemented a new pathway, working in alliance
with St Thomas's, Crookes, in Sheffield, which has a special
emphasis on church-planting.Miss Gent, at Trinity, acknowledges
that one drawback of a mixed-mode course is that students remain in
the same context for their entire course rather than gaining
insight into different Anglican traditions through different
short-term placements, as happens in residential
"We are seeking to overcome this by providing
placements within placements: short assignments outside of
ordinands' usual contexts, in order to gain a broader experience of
Anglicanism," she says.
But a student at St Mellitus, Jude Greenfield, says
that ordinands gain a wider understanding of the Church of England
through contact with other students: "Everyone at college is in a
different placement; it's so helpful to be able to discuss our
experiences and learn from each other."
The Dean of the Oxford Ministry Course, the Revd Dr
Tim Naish, believes that it is important not to see mixed mode as
the only future for ordination training. "There's a question about
maintaining the 'mixed economy' that Rowan Williams talked about.
We don't want to lose the benefits of traditional training
patterns, particularly the rigorous academic dimension of
residential training, which is really important.
"There is also the question about whether mixed-mode
students are able to relate equally well to two communities - both
college and context - at the same time. This is a real challenge,
and yet it can become an advantage, as learning how to bridge
these gaps, as well as [to] juggle demands from different places,
can be useful for future ministry."
Dr Angel agrees that mixed-mode training does not
suit every potential ordinand. "It all depends on the nature of
the learner, and the ministry for which that candidate is being set
"If you're training theological teachers, even
potential bishops, they may need greater opportunity for immersion
in the complexities of theology offered by residential study. But
there are others who, quite appropriately, want their theology to
hit the road of the realities of ministry much earlier. Either way,
it has to happen eventually."
Jemima Thackray asks Jonathan Lawson about
the process of discernment for ordination training.
What is the job of a C of E
We are part of the team working with
the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), who is, essentially,
the gatekeeper for the ordination selection process. We are
usually the first port of call before the DDO, and we tend to do
long-term work with candidates, exploring whether they have a
sense of calling to priestly ministry. It's very much a
collaborative discernment process.
Typically, what kind of
person comes to see you?
I am based at Durham University; so
the people I see are generally in their late teens and early
twenties. I've seen a total of 70 students in nine years in the
Other vocations advisers see all
types of people, although, unfortunately, there is currently a
shortage of young women coming through, and not many people from
ethnic minorities, either - facts which the Church is not happy
about, and is trying to address.
What kind of advice do you
I'll usually meet people in a café,
so it's less formal. I make it clear that they are not on a
conveyer belt to ordination, and I'm not on
I often ask them to reflect on how
it feels to say they may be called to ordination. I find the
Ignatian understanding of spiritual consolation and desolation
useful; of things feeling right or wrong in our spirits; so it can
be telling to find out how articulating a sense of vocation has
For some people, it's the first time
they've said it out loud. It's a very fragile, hugely personal
thing, and very humbling for me to be part of it.
I also advise that they organise a
week's placement in a church. Some candidates come back feeling
certain, others completely put off; and I also observe their
energy as they communicate this experience. And I tend to
recommend that they see a spiritual director, as this can often
help people find a language to articulate any sense of
What do you do if you're not
sure about a candidate?
These things tend to reveal
themselves naturally, without the need for me to say "Yes" or
"No". And, ultimately, I don't see it as my
role to say whether someone has a calling, but to journey with
as they come to an understanding
of themselves. For some people,
it's just not the right moment; they may need to go away and come
That said, we don't want to send
people on who we don't think will get through: I don't believe in
using "process" to tell people something I'm afraid to say myself.
So if, on the rare occasion, I really think it's not right, I'll
say that I'm not sure they'd be recommended for training, and,
therefore, my advice would be not to progress. But they're still
allowed to carry on if they want to.
But, again, I stress that it's not a
"no" in this scenario, because that would be saying someone doesn't
have a vocation. My job is to encourage everyone to become what God
has made them to be; for some, this might not be ordained ministry,
but they still have a God-given vocation.
The Revd Jonathan Lawson is the
Chaplain of the College of St Hild and St Bede in the University of
Durham, and the university's vocations adviser. His book on
vocations Hearing the Call: Stories of
young formation, written with Gordon
Mursell, will be published by SPCK in