THE magnetic pull of the south on ordinands and curates can be countered by offering them contextual training in churches committed to growth, the Principal of a new training college, St Hild, said this week.
A service of commissioning for St Hild College, created by the merger of the Yorkshire Ministry Course and St Barnabas Theological Centre, was held at Dewsbury Minster on Saturday.
Anglican ordinands, Baptist ministers, and independent students will train at teaching centres in Mirfield, Sheffield, and York. Alongside the three Yorkshire dioceses and Yorkshire Baptist Association, the governing body includes representatives of St George’s, Leeds; St Thomas Crookes, Sheffield; and St Michael-le-Belfrey, York; as well as the Community of the Resurrection, at whose Mirfield base the new college’s residential weekends take place.
The Principal, the Revd Mark Powley, spoke this week of making the north a “really attractive place to train and be a curate”.
Aware that some who were trained in the north did one posting before leaving, he believed that contextual training could address this, helping ordinands to become “relationally embedded. . .
“If you work somewhere and build up connections, that begins to make a difference.”
Ordinands should not be placed in “St Anywhere’s”, he says, but in churches where “new things are developing”, which were “beacons of good practice”, where they had an opportunity to engage in leadership and church-planting.
Contextual training has been difficult in Yorkshire, he says, because “we have not had the financial resource that London has”. But he believes that things are starting to change. Dioceses seeking to send ordinands for contextual training have been forced to think about where these people will be placed.
An inspiration for St Hild is St Mellitus College, in London, and its impact on the wider Church, including a “growth mentality”.
“We want to see something like the St Mellitus effect in Yorkshire,” Mr Powley said.
“But it has to work with what is here. What works in Yorkshire is not the same as what will work in London.”
He continued: “You can’t just look at St Mellitus, or the Alpha course, and relate that to some of the growth. [You have to] look at the wider infrastructure that is supportive, encouraging. . . The more infrastructure is denuded, including intellectual life and dynamism, the less chance the Church has of growing and taking root there.”
He would like to see “a culture of growth that takes root across the traditions”.
One aim is to ensure that ordinands are placed in churches where children are present. It is “not acceptable” for those who have come from churches with no children to go on placement in churches that have no children, he said. This was because of “profound theological reasons about the place of children in God’s kingdom”, and the fact that “if you train people in a child-free environment, they will replicate churches of that nature, and nobody wants that”.