Live and Learn
Learning is for the whole Church, not just for ministers. Stephen Tomkins gets up to speed on some opportunities for lay ministry training
There was a time when theological learning was for ministers, and the rest of us were expected to get it secondhand via the pulpit. Today, the Church is a different kind of community. A vast range of people take part – leading prayers, preaching, taking Bible studies, facilitating discussions, leading worship. That’s a lot of different gifts and skills we bring, a lot of different ideas and insights, wisdoms and understandings. This is why Reform likes to keep up to date with opportunities for growing and learning in all these areas. Here are just some of the opportunities offered by centres for learning in the United Reformed Church. For more, refer to “Theology to suit you” in the April 2014 edition of Reform
Northern College, Manchester
All the modules of the degree courses offered by Northern College are open to anyone, so you could try a bitesized bit of study from “Transforming Communities” to biblical Hebrew, from working with young people to reflective practice. There are also one-day workshops on themes including interfaith engagement and creating alternative rites of passage.
For those who prefer a more individual approach, there is the Explorations programme of guided reading, giving you access to the library, and two tutorials tailored to your requirements. This is a chance to update your studies in biblical interpretation or explore new ideas in worship. Northern College also arranges visit to churches and synods, so they can bring learning and training to your community.
The principal says…
“Students at Northern College mix with a huge variety of denominations from across the world Church, so it’s a rich experience. Lay training enriches the local church, giving students a chance to share their experiences and grow in confidence. It helps people to feel more connected with the wider Church; their experiences here give them models for use locally.”
– Rosalind Selby
Westminster College, Cambridge
Westminster College offers three-day residential teaching and training courses for lay preachers and worship leaders in the United Reformed Church – which thanks to their popularity – have increased from one a year to four. The college also hosts annual three-day events for URC elders.
The facilities of the college are available for individuals and groups to use throughout the year, and special courses can be created to meet particular needs, such as responding to a ministerial vacancy or being in a team of churches. Westminster College is also a venue for church retreats, with its all-weather prayer labyrinth.
The principal says…
“It’s part of the DNA of the URC that we are a community of followers, so the college does not just exist to train ministers but to help the whole Church to flourish. The Church is all its members. Training helps members discover their gifts and strengthens and enhances those gifts. It’s also a two-way process that challenges us as a college and helps us to grow as teachers.”
– Neil Thorogood
Scottish College, Glasgow
At Scottish College, lay learners, ministerial trainees and ministers learn together. As well as training people to become lay preachers, the college offers five-yearly residential refresher courses, covering issues such as creative approaches to Communion. The college works with churches to develop its programme, changing each year depending on the needs of learners. Key elements of the present programme include: Ministry with older people and those with dementia, storytelling and inclusivity.
The principal says…
“The way that people often talk of the ‘education’ of ministers and the ‘training’ of lay people reflects an assumption that lay people’s learning is about skilling them for roles rather than equipping them for the whole of their discipleship. At Scottish College we are long way from that hierarchy: All learn together and value each other’s contributions.”
– Jack Dyce
For further information, visit www.scottishcollege.org.uk, or call 0141 248 5382.
This is an extract from the April 2015 edition of Reform.