On Friday morning I head of to my first Church of Scotland Candidates’ Conference. This is the first of five I am required to attend as part of my training for full-time ministry. I’ve heard mixed reports about them but, on the whole the general impression seems to be that, often, they’re just something to be put up with and that I’ll soon learn the tricks of looking interested while doing/thinking other things. Now, I suspect that this is a generalisation and there must surely be parts of it which are genuinely interesting. I think it probably also depends on the attitude one takes to it. I must endeavour not to be cynical or jaded.
One aspect I am wary of though is the ‘fellowship’. Not through any reticence about getting to know people. I already know a fair few candidates anyway. What concerns me are the groups or cliques which inevitably form – including the clique of those who refuse to be part of a clique. Now, it may be surprising that this happens, but it does. I’ve witnessed it at New College where, for some, being a candidate ‘is something’. There’s a ‘status’ attached to it – at least in the eye of the candidate. I doubt that it’s actually deliberate (for most anyway), but there is a tendency to pal around with fellow candidates. That’s only natural. After all, there’s a group of friends at New College I tend to keep company with. But when that starts to introduce ‘exclusiveness’ then it’s quite wrong, even if it’s done unconciously. I’ll be curious to see who wants to talk to me now I’m ‘a candidate’.
The conference is at St. Andrews, but there’ll be no golf (not that I golf anyway). The programme is pretty packed and the theme is ‘Caring and Community’ with lots of stuff from Social Responsibility and workshops on social and pastoral care. There’s also one I’m looking forward to on the “Role of the sermon in the 21st Century”. Which reminds me – I’ve got to do some preparation for that.
I’m guessing that there’ll be good internet access, so I’ll try and blog when I get a chance.
Oh yes, and another thing. I was speaking to one of the New College lecturers today and he was extremely helpful with some ideas for my dissertation. That was on the back of a conversation about course choices for 4th year. I had been trying to duck out of Biblical Interpretation since I did a similar course in 3rd year. However, this particular course is one of the few required courses for a BD so I’m stuck with it. My other courses for this semester are Hebrew Prophecy and Doctrine of Creation. Next semester I have Church, Sacraments and Ministry, another required course. And the dissertation of course. And a placement. And church assesment work. And a family life. And anything else that crops up that I’ll find impossible to say no to.