In the US, where I studied for my Masters in Divinity (the professional degree for clergy across most of the churches in North America) it takes at least three years to prepare for ordination. I studied the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the history of Christianity, the philosophy of religion, moral theology, systematics, homiletics and pastoral care and counselling. I have my old ring-bound notebooks stacked in the wardrobe, and it comforts me to know they’re there if I ever forget what was said in that seminar on “Revelation, Faith, and the Nature of Tradition.”
You learn the history of liturgy, and how and why the church’s ceremonies have taken the shapes they have. There’s Field Education, the North American name for the attachments and placements we have here. Finally, before your General Ordination Examination, you go off to a hospital for an intensive programme of chaplaincy training combined with group therapy: the dreaded Clinical Pastoral Education. You learn how to listen to what’s not being said as much as to what is. You learn what your own baggage is, and how to check it. Some people concentrate on one part or another of the curriculum, but everyone has the basics and for everyone—whether they’re 20 or 60—it takes three years.
Over here it’s quite different. Alarmingly so. In the Church of England, the training you get depends, first of all, on your age. Ordinands over 40 tend to be funnelled into a shorter programme. The three-year course is primarily for younger ordinands, and those who have been talent-spotted for preferment. A full-time residential programme is for the lucky few. In a new development, one theological college and at least one diocese are trialling a scheme for ordinands to move in a single year from the selection interviews to the bishop’s laying-on of hands and anointing that makes them priests. This is aimed at what are referred to as “mature Christians.” Apparently, they are people who have been active in their church for a long time, and have retired with a really good final salary pension scheme, or are independently wealthy. The Church of England has decided that the learned clergy that the Elizabethans pushed for are a limiting factor to the survival of the institution.
Great that @churchofengland has fresh ideas but we must ensure priests still get #training they need & deserve -in liturgy, in ‘how & why the church’s ceremonies have taken the shapes they have…how to listen to what’s not being said as much as to what is’https://t.co/4W9563eSKv
— Rebecca Chapman (@bexchapman3boys) June 16, 2022