On Tuesday next week I will be inducted as vicar of Holy Trinity West Bromwich. I believe I have been very well prepared for the task, though I still have lots to learn. First by three years of residential theological study at Oak Hill College, London. Second, by almost four years of understudy as a curate. For anyone about to enter training or who is part way through the training process, you need to see the two parts as necessary as part of the whole for the following reasons.
Training for ministry is like turning iron ore into a building or car. Theological college does the work of the refinery and rolling mill. Raw ore is smelted, has its impurities removed to make high quality steel and is rolled and straightened into beams, flats and coil. But, this is not the finished product. Residential theological education is essential for refining the mind under scripture, developing tools for study and for getting a big view of God, but the product residential college is not complete.
The curate or assistant pastor’s post is the second stage of training, like the fabrication yard or car plant. Here, steel products are turned into useful, functioning parts for structures or machines. The curacy is as essential as theological education for learning a different set of skills: how to preach to a congregation, how churches really work, what questions people have about life, the world and God and how to take your wealth of biblical knowledge and to make it real for these people. Without a period of on the job training, we remain unfinished products.
I’m sure someone told me this as I went through theological college, but it’s only really after the event that I realise theological college is only part one of a two stage process.
The parts are ready. By God’s will and grace I’ll be used to make other parts to build Christ’s church where I have found myself. And, for those who know I was a structural steelwork engineer and fabricator in my previous career, I hope the illustration was not stretched too far.