I've just got back from Easter School. Remarkably, this is my second of three and it seems that my Ordination date edges ever closer, despite being over a year away. There were a number of elements that make Easter School a very special place to be; Theology, Spirituality and Sociality (is there such a word?). It is clear that the STETS staff spend a lot of time and thought in preparing each and every school and therefore I feel a duty to make the most of it from a learning perspective.
I stand in awe of academics and always have. My tough time at school and departure at 16 for the working life did nothing to aid my academic ability. I'm not a 'high performer' from an academic standpoint and at the moment, whilst juggling work and study, am happy for marks anywhere above the 50% mark. I would love to be able to aim higher, but there has to be a time, work, life, family balance - and I do remind myself that study doesn't come easily or naturally to me. However, I often find the subject matter fascinating and I've learnt so much in my time on STETS. I am also proving to myself that I'm no thicky!
There are, however, still lectures where I sit back and listen and the content appears to come toward me and pass over like a vapour; what on earth did that mean, or was about? Then there are the questions asked of the lecturer at the end from students - where did they get questions like those, clearly grasping the contents of the lecture, they can dissect the pieces and then ask a suitably academic question. I feel very humble and at times unworthy in those situations.
Spiritually, Easter School is a bit of a funny place to be. On site, being held at a school, there is not a separate chapel - it's in the main hall where one end is a stage and the other, in a recess, an altar and chapel area. The seats are hard and uncomfortable and the floor's certainly one that you wouldn't want to kneel on. We grab worship within the programme in 15/20 minute moments, put together lovingly by the second-year group. Each says something about the small group that put it together. This is then followed by a bible study.....I'm not sure how I felt spiritually after the week, although the final act of worship, presided over by the wonderful Philip Seddon was a moment of emotional high but also sadness as we all then went our separate ways.
Finally, the social side of Easter School for me was an immense high. The weekends at Sarum are great in themselves for the social element but somewhat limited. This Easter School, though, we have had 18 months getting to know each other already and so the friendships developed further. I think we are getting to the stage now where we are developing circles of friends who we see as being there in our future ministries - certainly it is that way for me. I'm not deliberately missing people out, but STETS is a wonderfully diverse group of individuals and as a result I won't get on with everyone and there will be those who don't get on with me; that has to be an accepted part of my three years study. However, there are those who I have come to know and I feel now know me well. It's not a great number, but those are the people I will turn to to share my inner most thoughts and feelings both now and in the future; and I am sure I will need it. The week was a wonderful experience socially. Yes, I drank too much and yes, I was in bed far too late (every night), but throughout the week I laughed more than I have done in the past 18months and was able to fully relax and be myself and found new friendships being shaped.
The difficulty coming home from the week is bonding once again with the family. They’ve not experienced the week and all its ups and downs. Nikki, my wife, has been away with the children to my parents but has not had the same experience as me. How do I convey the week to the family without boring them to tears? I think that is a process that doesn't actually take place in the immediacy of returning but over the course of the next few weeks.......
But of course, I haven't returned to normality, I have my placement to think about and viewing first hand the work of the church in community. More to follow.