Jan 202010

I’ve been struggling with an essay for the last couple of weeks or so. Not that I don’t know what to write or that I’m not interested in the subject, but simply that I am struggling to motivate myself to get on with it. Part of the problem is a busy time on placement. I don’t mean that I’m being over-loaded, it’s just that the placement work has been far more interesting and not merely as a ‘work-avoidance’ scheme, but genuinely interesting and challenging. And so I have probably agreed to do more than I ought and have probably spent more time on placement work than is required.

Ultimately, of course, this is all to my benefit. It’s the ‘real’ part of of ministry preparation. But I still have the academic stuff to do, although, technically speaking, I am as qualified as I need to be. Once again it’s not a lack of interest in the academic that’s a problem. I love studying theology. For me it’s the underpinning of who I am as a ‘minister’. It goes hand-in-hand with Biblical interpretation and it’s the dialogue between the two that defines my faith and its outworkings. For me, pastoral/practical theology is a result of these two things rather than being a more intimate part of the loop. Of course the pastoral and practical have to inform, or at least question, the Bible/theology ‘loop’, but it it those two which define whether our works are specifically Christian or simply philanthropic (although it’s an interesting argument over the distinction, especially if one is a Christian).

Anyway, this placement has, as placements do, brought the pastoral/practical to the fore and I’ve been busier with these than in any of my previous placements. And the encouraging thing is that as I engage more and more in these, I become more and more interested and excited and committed to them. I suppose that if you take a step back and have a more objective view, you could say that the third placement is the time of moving away from the academic and is the preparation for moving into probation and, ultimately, full-time ministry. So I guess it’s no surprise that this should be happening.

In a sense this gives the lie to the blog post title. Progress is being made in a particularly crucial aspect of my preparation for ministry. It’s just not happening in the area that I am obliged to do as well. Maybe in that there is a greater metaphor for ministry. There will be aspects of it that will excite and enthuse and these are the areas we will naturally wish to focus our energy and attention on. However, there will be areas of ‘obligation’, and they may even be areas we are interested in, but that simply don’t hold our attention as they should. Finding the motivation to do them is important to stop them piling up – they will need done sometime.

If anyone has found the answer to this, I (and the rest of the world, I suspect) would love to hear it.

Jan 152009

This is the one and only taught course I’m doing this semester and the only class is on Friday mornings (first one tomorrow). I’ve been looking through the course information to decide on which tutorial to try and nab and which essay to go for. None of the essay titles particularly leapt out at me except one which sparked off a thought.

The topic is short and to the point – “‘The post-modern social context requires new approaches to ministry.’ Discuss.” So, I’ve decided to have a go at this one and, in particular, look at the emerging church movement. The obvious (to me) flow of the essay would be:

  • What issues does post-modernism raise?
  • Is emerging church a response to post-modernism?
  • If so, what are its characteristics?
  • Are these characteristics a genuinely ‘new’ approach to ministry?
  • Is this what is required?

That’s it practically written. It just needs padded out a bit now. But, I do need some good resources on emerging church, why it ‘is’, and what its distinctives are. So, if anyone has any pointers to resources, or can identify a ‘typical’ expression of emerging church that I can use as an example, then that would be much appreciated.

Nov 122007

In a manner of speaking.

Managed to get my Modern Christology essay in this morning after finishing it just before midnight last night. Had a major ‘writer’s block’ by Saturday and what I can only put down to a bit of divine inspiration got it going again on Sunday. If I even hint at doing a systematics course next year, please shoot me and put me out of my misery early. I’ve decided I like practical theology and I can’t be bothered with arguments over minutiae (even though they are fun sometimes).

Now, the irony of this essay was that it was on “the role of Christology in the Christian account of prayer”. I came at it from the perspective of what our understanding of petitionary prayer says about Jesus. Interesting enough, but the really illuminating feature of the study I did was about petitionary prayer itself. In order to determine a link to Christology, I first needed to establish the ‘nature’ of petitionary prayer. The conclusion was ‘interesting’.

When we pray a prayer of petition or intercession, what do we expect to happen? Here’s a joke which, I think, pretty much sums up what I reckon many people think of prayer:

A journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.
So they went to check it out. The journalist went to the Wailing Wall and there he was walking slowly up to the holy site.
After about 45 minutes, he turned to leave, and the journalist approached him for an interview..
“Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wailing Wall and praying?”
“For about 60 years.”
“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”
“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and hatred to stop, I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man.”
“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”
“Like I’m talking to a b****y brick wall.”

Sound familiar? If so, it’s because of what we ‘expect’ of prayer. We expect a ‘fix’, a ‘cure’, an ‘intervention’ of some sort. But in all the reading I did, this was never the expectation of prayer. Our prayers cannot change the mind of God. Rather, our prayers can change the mind of ourselves. Prayer is about knowing God’s will – understanding what it is and coming to terms with it. We can’t bully or pester God into doing something we want done, but we can come to know what He wants us to do.

Now, here’s the biggie – does God ‘pass on’ our requests to those who are in a position to answer prayers?