The first week of the second semester of third year is now underway and I have been to classes for all three of my subjects. Actually, I only have two classes because one of my subjects is a placement with the chaplaincy team at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In some respects that’s a dream course – no weekly reading, no exam, no term-time essay. But, it other respects it’s quite tough. The assessment requirements are: a satisfactory report from my supervisor; a 4000-word essay relating the placement to the theory done last semester; a 2000-word ‘journal’ report; a verbatim. Then, of course, there’s the placement itself. I’ve been assigned to the renal ward and I have to spend a couple of hours each week touring my ward and chatting with any and all (patients, relatives and staff). That’s the bit I find hardest. I’m not a natural conversationalist. Give me a topic and I’ll discuss it for hours but start me from cold and my brain turns to jelly after saying hello and commenting on the weather. But that’s partly why I wanted to do the course. Conversation, and especially pastoral conversation, is a skill, so it can be developed through effort and application. So, if at the end of this course, all I can do is chat more freely and in a relaxed way, then I’ll have benefited immensely.
As for the other two courses – well, a mixed bag so far. One class is Method of Reading the Hebrew Bible. It’s about the different critical methods that have been and can be applied to interpreting scripture. There are only 5 in the class and it looks like it’ll be really good. I volunteered to do the first presentation/group discussion next week. Typically, I was then informed that it was probably the most difficult. I’ve gone through the readings and had to laugh. The one I’ve to do starts off with speaking about approaching scripture as myth/saga/story and then develops the idea of ‘experiencing’ the narrative, not just reading it as words (all in response to ‘literary criticism’ – I’ll do a separate blog entry I think). I was speaking to the lecturer today (I had to borrow a book from him) and he was asking how I found the readings. I sad that I thought they were very clear and straightforward and not at all ‘difficult’ and he explained that the reason they are found difficult is because some people can’t get beyond the idea of myth/saga/story implying ‘falsehood’. Anyway, that course looks to be really enjoyable.
The other academic course is Reformation Theology – looking at the events and arguments surrounding the Reformation and counter-Reformation. It promises to be a good course but it’s a big class – over 25. That’s not so good because, in my opinion, honours level courses need that bit more ‘involvement’ and more opportunity to explore issues in detail. You lose a lot of that in a bigger class I feel. Still, the weekly reading is not too onerous and the essay’s pretty straightforward so all in all I should make the most of a relatively uncomplicated semester.