I had a great day yesterday visiting our curate-to-be Donna at her theological training college of Westcott in Cambridge. My training college was Ridley (the other Anglican college in the Cambridge Theological Federation). Each theological college has a different outlook and theological emphasis. There are eleven theological training colleges in England (Wales, Scotland and Ireland are separate provinces of the Anglican church and have their own training arrangements) of which six are loosely evangelical.
The strange thing is that when you are at one of these colleges even when you go to lectures with people from other colleges there is a tendency for tribalism. There certainly was in my day. Its usually not particularly bad and often good humoured. But most people have chosen a college and therefore not chosen another one for reasons.
In Anglican parlance Westcott has tended to contain people from the liberal Catholic wing of the church and Ridley from the evangelical wing of the church. At which point you quickly get to start thing of the Monty Python Life of Brian and the People’s Front (language warning):
So I turned up yesterday with a load of other vicars who were mostly wearing their black clerical shirts etc. to share our expectations and hopes and fears with one another.
And when you get on to that level then there is a large human similarity in reaction.
Instead of focussing on our differences we ended up focussing on the need for change to meet the challenges ahead.
I have to admit I was surprised by some of those there.
One vicar there in his cufflinks, black suit, black clerical shirt and handkerchief poking neatly out of his jacket pocket talked about his hope that his new curate would help his churches in engaging with society and help with creative ways in their liturgical expression.
There was a recognition that they needed to engage and that business as normal wasn’t a real option.
It was also interesting in that it was obvious that there had been more preparation for us and for Donna in terms of some of the pitfalls and understandings than for many there. Donna was saying that for one of the curates they had only met their incumbent once!
There was also one delightful anglo-catholic vicar there who was leading a growing church in the north of England who was sad that he felt that he wasn’t necessarily welcome in the CofE anymore as his church was not able to embrace women clergy. That, of course, is another debate I know. I am very much in favour of women being ordained but I would like us to be able to still contain within the church those who find it difficult to accept from a theological point of view. Of course, its not logical. Its not necessarily consistent. But I don’t see why we should always follow the worlds point of view. If the church is a family then it must surely contain people that we don’t necessarily agree with.
It was a good day and it was great to see how clergy from very different theological positions were grappling with issues of church and how it relates to society.
I should also say that I met Donna’s tutor who is very nice – Andrew Davison – who has written a book with another called For the Parish which is an attack on Fresh Expressions and therefore churches like Springfield. When I indicated I was half way through reading his book he expressed surprise that I was talking to him!
I am hoping to do a review of his book in the next few days. I think that although there are some interesting points in it that there are also some major flaws with his analysis.
He is hoping to come and visit us at sometime in the future which I look forward to and hopefully it might help with some of his views!