I am blessed by every single person in this picture – the 2019 MCYM undergraduates, some newbies, some back for their second or third year. We have just had our community week, named that for a reason. It is easier to learn together and we learn so much feom one another. I am full of admiration for our students and the stories behind this picture. God has blessed us with a passsionate, diverse and wonderful group of people.
At MCYM we started a new academic year on Monday, each one starts with a community week. Today we finish with Communion. At that service we like to present achievement awards to two of our graduating student and we value the two different awards equally. Choosing one is easy – it is the person with the highest average grade. Choosing the other one is much tougher, it is for personal achievement and that can mean all different sorts of things. That it is tough to decide reflects the challenges many of our students go through to get to graduation. We have a very diverse group of students from 18-50 something, some career changers, others who have felt they have always failed in education and some who choose to do a second undergraduate degree because they appreciate the course structures and learning styles. On the first day we have a session on ethos where we talk about our seven strands and they are all important: community, ministerial, spiritual, academic, personal, theological, professional. It reminds me of Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ and his discussion of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. We are a community of learners, staff included and we bring different gifts but together we are stronger. As one graduating student emailed me, I didn’t do this on my own!
Yesterday we said goodbye to our third year Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission students. I am always proud of each group that leave, the journeys of growth and development they have been on but this group have overcome more adversity than most. Some from way before they ever started on the course, others from things that happened while they were on the course and some in between those things! It is the personal achievements I am proud of, there is some amazing academic work accomplished (which is not all about grades) but there are many lives changed because of the work these students have done.
I am so grateful to God for allowing me to be a little part of their journey and for the wonderful staff team I work with who offer so much support and encouragement to enable students to fulfil their potential.
Love the picture with the empty front row – some things never change!
Yesterday in our morning worship session Nigel Roberts helped us to reflect on covenant. The picture shows us taking off our shoes and placing them around the cross to signify our commitment to God talking about the verse how lovely are the feet of him who brings good news and how in the story of the prodigal gave his returning son sandals, he was no longer a servant. We recited the Methodist covenant prayer before we took bread always an immensely challenging and powerful prayer which can be quite difficult to say fully:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you
or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it
And the covenant now made on earth may it be ratified in heaven.
A lovely friend has edited a book on teaching – one I read with eager anticipation, this is one of the passages that stood out for me and I think resonated because this is what we try to do at MCYM:
If’ we as Christian leaders do not allow for space to be made for new voices and new ways of thinking and believing, then education can become merely the transfer of raw data, or, even worse the silencing of new insights from the students by which the teacher and other students can grow p16.
Yesterday I was able to sit in on part of one of our professional and ministerial development days. Len Kageler from Nyack College did two sessions, one on mistakes youth workers make and the other on soul care. He was really clear that while he hoped we would learn from his input it was equally important that we learn from one another. I heard new voices and new insights today and have come away with much to think about. One of the greatest privileges in my job is to be part of a community of practice and to learn from others with fresh perspectives and other experiences.
From Jeff Keuss Developing a Theology of Education in Terry Linhart ed Teaching the Next Generations Grand Rapids Baker Academic 2016 14-21
As Sally wrote on Wednesday, our year three MCYM students spent a day last week drawing together the key values, principles, practices for their leadership and ministerial formation. They produced some inspiring ideas and commitments. I have chosen this picture as it reminds me of much of what I do at the hospital which is making connections to things that are important to those I am working with – theologically reflecting on the everyday.
This was a prayer in my daily notes last week that drew together much of what we sought to express:
Prayer of Claude de la Colombiere SJ
Jesus grant that I may die pursuing you, that I may die loving you, that I may die for the love of you.
A prayer for those of us who pursue an honest and aspirational Christianity.
I am always blessed and inspired by the final day of the MCYM Year 3 Leadership and Ministry Module. Our students get to present their vision and foundations for ministry and all of us get to engage with what others have created. There were so many profound insights, creative connections, and so much of who the students were in what they did. We were later encouraged to summarize our vision in a sentence – they did this too. I came away with a great sense of hope and pride in those God is calling into work with children and young people and am so privileged that my calling is to support them in exploring theirs.
I get a little tear in my eye when I look at our graduation pictures – this is from yesterday when the class of 2016 came together for one last time to graduate. I know from personal experience that it is never just the achievement of the individual in the robes that is being celebrated, so many other people support them to get to this place. I got to welcome and thank everyone and was looking out over so many proud faces.
I got to chat to each person here one to one at the end of the course as their tutor for their final year. The back stories of many students make their achievements even more remarkable. There are those who had been told that they would never get a degree, that found school hard. Others faced difficult personal circumstances which challenged their capacity to keep on studying. At least one student told me that on another course they probably would not have carried on.
One of the things we get to do at our graduation ceremonies that doesn’t happen at big universities is that we say where people have been on placement and where they are going to next. Each of these students is carrying on developing their calling to children, young people, mission or ministry in some form. I look forward over the years to seeing their updates on social media or catching up with them at different events and hearing what God has been doing in this next phase of their lives.
For most of my life my year has started in September rather than January and this year is no exception. This is Community Week, when all the Midlands Institute of Children, Youth and Mission undergraduates gather together at St John’s to build community, learn, have fun, set goals, dream and so many other things.
I always feel immensely blessed during this week both being a part of a wonderful staff team who are so passionate and committed about supporting students to fulfil who and what God has called them to be and by the students themselves. Looking at the picture fills me with pride, knowing some of the back stories, understanding some of the sacrifices people have made to be here and seeing such a diverse and gifted group of people together who want to make a difference in the world. I am grateful that God called me to play my part in this.
This is my 18th Community Week. I don’t tire of being here.
Yesterday I had a stimulating day exploring human development with MCYM first years. We explored identity, what imago dei means, models of personhood and holistic development. Then I came home and had a look at my new Teresa of Avila prayer book and found this which offers a fresh perspective on some of the things that we discussed…
We actually have something within us that is incomparably more precious than anything we see outside. Don’t think that the interior of the soul is empty. If we were careful always to remember what a Guest we have within us, I think it would be impossible for us to abandon ourselves to vanities and things of the world. We would see how worthless they are compared with those what we have inside us… But, until I closed my eyes to the vanities of this world, I did not see or understand who lived within my soul or what my soul deserved. If I had understood then, as I now do, how this great King lives within the palace of my soul, I would not have left him alone so much. I would have stayed with him and not let his house get so dirty. It is wonderful that he whose greatness could fill a thousand worlds should confine himself to so small a space, just as he was pleased to inhabit his most holy Mother’s womb. As our Lord, he has perfect freedom, and because he loves us, he fashions himself to our measure.
May the voice of our Lord Jesus whisper in our minds the glory of love and mercy, the miracle of acceptance into God’s presence, the song of thanksgiving for our breath and being.
St Teresa of Avila Prayer Book, Vinita Hampton Wright, Paraclete Press 2015, p70.