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Curate's Corner - July 2017

Curate’s Corner – July 2017

I’ve never been a huge fan of academic work! At school, I always had to work hard to get half-decent grades, and strings of A’s or A+’s were but a distant dream! Some people just have a natural ability to soak up information, make sense of it, and then (and this is the bit I always found the hardest) express it in answers to exam questions. At Agricultural College back in the early ‘90’s, and more recently at Theological College, studying for and then writing essays was always a big challenge for me.

To be honest, it was one of the most daunting aspects of beginning training at College for ordained ministry back in 2012. I wasn’t alone – a number of us struggled with having to go back to school after 20+ years of working life. And when I started my curacy back in June 2014, the studying didn’t stop. For many years, curates have been required to have ongoing academic training during their training, which today is referred to as IME training (Initial Ministerial Education). It is a huge regret to me that the Diocese renamed this training a few years ago, as it was previously known as ‘Post-Ordination Training’ which the witty curates of the time referred to proudly as POTTY training! How appropriate!

As I write this, I have just arrived back from my final residential weekend of IME training, a significant milestone that marks the end of the formal part of my academic training for ministry. It represents the culmination of six taught modules on a variety of subjects from ‘Mission and Ministry’ to ‘Canon Law’ during the course of my curacy. Most challenging for me, it also represents the submission of 31,000 words in 11 essays.

It is, perhaps, one of the very few things about my curacy that I won’t miss! But despite the struggle of the academic work and the essay writing, one aspect of the last three years of IME training will remain very precious indeed to me, and that is the community of fellow curates with whom I was ordained and with whom I have studied. Last weekend, we met together for the last time in the very same place that we met for the first time, then wide-eyed and apprehensive for what our future curacies held. All of us had changed and grown and developed; all of us had experienced things in our curacies that none of us could have imagined.

But despite the many difficulties and challenges we had each faced, there was a clear sense of God’s grace and faithfulness that had carried us through what were, for some of us, often very challenging times indeed. There was also a real sense of the preciousness of the community and friendships that had formed as we had met together regularly for IME training over the preceding 36 months. We had listened to each other; challenged and (at times) argued with each other; we had supported each other and loved each other as we had shared together the common experience of training for our future ministries. At the end of the weekend, our shared journeys were celebrated in a beautiful act of creative worship in which ribbons were exchanged with one another as we shared the peace, before being tied onto a heart-shaped structure as a symbol of all that had been good in our time together.

As I reflect on this experience, I am acutely aware of the parallels that exist between the ending of this time of IME and the community of fellow curates, and the imminent ending of my time as Curate here in Uckfield. We too, within the Uckfield church family, have journeyed together through much in the last three years. There have been times of challenge as well of times of real blessing, and we have shared much that is very precious indeed. And in just a very few weeks’ time, I will have to say goodbye to you. I am not looking forward to that, but I know I must.

But more of that next month! For now, I leave you with the wise words of Solomon:  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  (Ecclesiastes 3. 1)

Fr Mitch