At the end of April I was sucked up in a spaceship and dropped in St John’s College Nottingham.
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but moving from parish to college is a very weird experience. One week my diary is full of assemblies and meetings and my head is full of people and ideas. Then, whoosh, suddenly I’m writing assignments, wading through reading lists and lecture timetables. The space ship analogy is also valid in one other way: being at theological college is like being on another planet. Shh! Don’t tell the inhabitants…
I come here for two five week blocks a year. Although it’s only an hour’s drive from home I stay away Monday to Friday mostly because getting here for chapel at 8am every morning would finish me off.
It’s been a struggle. I hate being away from home. I don’t think that will ever improve: I miss my beloved husband, I miss Bob my dog, I miss my en suite bathroom. The first five week block last year was grim: new place, new people, new challenges, very poor internet access, and the short dark days of November which meant too much time indoors. I was in huge amounts of pain with my foot condition which had only just started and on top of that I was on a restricted diet due to gallstones so no comfort eating. ‘Grim’ doesn’t quite cover it.
This time: I can eat what I like (yippee), there are heaps more hours of daylight to enjoy being outside whenever I can, I have hardly any pain in my foot (so I can walk/cycle and ‘escape’), there is much better internet access and no scary new people. I am a much happier person. I am even beginning to pick up the lingo.
Mastering long obscure words seems to be the key to life on this planet. I suppose it does help that I love words anyway so I’ve been ‘eating’ at least my five-a-day: soteriology, theism, theodicy, compatibilist, epistemological. I am pleased to say I could tell you what all these mean… if you were interested.
The problem of evil and suffering has been particularly interesting (just how powerful is God? what does God know and when does he know it?) Also the issue of free will and God’s sovereignty (did I choose God or did God choose me? And did I have a choice in the matter?) Am I a Calvinist or an open theist? I haven’t decided. I need to read up a bit more on this one. Using the sleep test I’m an open theist i.e. I can read 5 pages of one of them before I fall asleep whereas it usually only takes one page of Calvinism to send me off!
Anyway, it’s all good fun. Will I use any of this back in parish? Oh yes, the pastoral implications are huge and even if they weren’t it still feels great to stretch your brain. But maybe I need to find some simpler words. Try putting one of those words into my next sermon and my congregation really would believe I’d been on another planet.
Use the long words when applicable but then explain what they mean in simple language that I can understand. This helps the congregation appreciate that theology, the study of God, is relevant to their everyday lives.
P.S. My brother graduated from St John’s last year at the age of 60!