Candidates’ Conference

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.

6 responses to “Candidates’ Conference”

  1. I understand your reservations, and maybe some people mump about it because full-timers are away from home for 5 days, and it is pretty intensive. But I enjoy conference – being an old timer now! – it is refreshing and we (auxiliaries) get to meet as a group instead if disembodied voices. I like the way my head gets pulled into a different place and the fellowship is very good. I’ve also found the worship to be deeply moving and inspiring. They seem to have changed the reflection groups around a bit this year as well, which is only good (it stops cliques and factions etc from becoming too intrusive). I’m looking forward to it – I wish I could stay the whole time. See you there!

  2. There are bound to be natural gravity points, like colleges, and friends at colleges. It is a chance to see who the other candidates are.
    Don’t hold your breath too much about internet access. From what I remember of the Summer Theology course with Princeton, the access speed of the PCs are pretty limited. The US students were less than complimentary.
    I don’t remember much worship at the selection conference I was at in St.Colms. The real networking was done in the hostelry not far from the college.
    As for the busyness of the next academic year…. welcome to the prescribed world of the candidate for ministry. Interesting topics for your courses, most of which is balanced by the church placement. It’ll be a good tension between academia and the pulpit, between systematic and practical (and you know where I stand on that tension !!)

  3. I intend to make the most of it. I suspect that one’s approach to such things is the primary factor in whether they are perceived as good or bad or just a chore. I’m not so arrogant that I believe I have nothing to learn – quite the opposite. Doesn’t mean I don’t like a good argument though.
    Not sure that there’s much time for hostelry visiting. Friday, Saturday and Tuesday’s finish is 9pm. Sunday we finish at 4pm (are you allowed to visit hostelries on a Sunday?). And on Monday we have a ‘social evening’. That, I suspect, could be the make or break part of the conference.

  4. All the best for your journey through the ministry ‘process’… the conferences are a mixed bag but being sad I really enjoyed them  (mostly) and the probationers conferences are shorter and more focused. The best part is the meeting up with other candidates and getting to know them and the late night conversations over a glass or several of wine… 

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