Our first session focussed on practical stuff around our need to address issues from our curacies that might lead to excess baggage carried on into our new ministries (once again, I'm envious of the CPE programme that seems to be a standard element in ordination training for most of my transAtlantic friends), and suggestions as to how we might retain the inbuilt reflection and support that regular CME has provided for us over the past 3 years. One suggestion I liked was to diary in a day each month that might be a “reading day” one month, a space for reflection and review the next or simply a quiet day without agenda, if that seemed to be the greatest need.
We were reminded of the importance of creating our own support networks, specially if we find ourselves in splendid isolation after the intrinsic collegiality of curacy (though I missed the session on looking after ourselves in ministry - which means that my present dubious practice on this front might just remain unchallenged).
Then we got the chance to dream.
The core question, designed to help our discernment about what direction we might be called in next, was “What is the church for?”
Brainstorming, we produced a huge variety of answers
church is a process more than an entity
Herbert’s “The reduction of man to the obedience of God”
Robin Greenwood’s “practising community”…
Worship (where this is defined as everything that affirms God's proper place in the created order)
To keep the rumours of God alive
To live the Gospel and enable others to do so (these 2 were my contributions)
Holiness, hope, hospitality and honouring (the 3 point evangelical sermon in a new guise, except that I really like these ideas)
To provide words and rituals to filter and make safe awesome religious experiences
("we needed the priest to tell the words where to go")
We went on to play with our own personal description of the purpose of Church - for me it was something around
"Demonstrating to the community that they are loved and precious to God, and enabling their response to this" (ie. social action and the Eucharist.)
Once again I realised the important influence of St John the Divine Kennington, where I worshipped in my early 20s. My one line description seemed to connect back directly to my experience of church there...clearly you can take girl out of the UPA parish but definitely not vice versa.
We were challenged to develop our dreams as we imagined their practical outworkings, and what and who we would need to engage with to make this vision a priority in our current context. Demanding and exciting.
Such a shame I had to leave at lunchtime...