News from Andrew and Claire

posted Aug 20, 2012, 12:19 AM by Julian Garner   [ updated Aug 20, 2012, 12:20 AM by Simon Talbot ]
20 Aug 2012

Hello from the Down Family.

We have been at college for almost a year - it has flown by. You are all often in our thoughts and prayers and it is great keeping an eye on the website and seeing what is going on at St Mary's. So what of our family news and life at college? Our family is growing with Charlotte starting to talk and a new baby due in October. We have recently moved house to a bungalow on the college site in preparation for the new baby. This will allow me to be more readily available during the day and Claire can gain fully from the support that the community offers. We are enjoying Oxford and the beautiful countryside around.

College wise over the last year Claire has been involved in a regular group for partners which as well as doing some bible study looks at issues relevant to spouses as they also make the transition to life in a vicarage including a course exploring their gifting. There has also been weekly socials for this group as well as the more informal meeting up for coffee with other mums with small children. Charlotte has been attending local toddler groups and also is a regular at the children's church organised by college on a Wednesday. She has made some pretty close friends with children of a similar age in the community. We have also made some great friends with our neighbours at the house we have just left and plan to keep up these contacts.

For me my first year of training has been incredibly rich and full. I have particularly benefited from developing my prayer life through the discipline of morning and evening prayer. I have enjoyed leading these and being involved in regularly playing in the band for the Friday night service of the word. Another highlight for me has been a quiet reflective service which is held on Sunday evenings which as well as wonderful music has a focus on waiting together in silence on God and then sharing anything we feel God may be prompting us to. The wide and diverse worship styles present at college is excellent from plain chant sung compline (night prayer) to creative Eucharists in the bar, with blindfolds and in silence - not all at the same time!! I have recently taken on the role of music director and so look forward to working with the team of assistant music directors to continue to explore and develop the diverse musical traditions present at college.

On the academic side I have slotted back into studying pretty well. My course has had a large focus on biblical study with exams in Old and New Testament back in May. There has also been courses in theological reflection, pastoral studies, mission, church history, prayer and spirituality to name but a few. I have attended some more intensive themed study weeks over the year on leadership, marriage & family relationships and death, dying & bereavement. The teaching has been excellent and I'm really enjoying the work. I have to pinch myself sometimes, its such a privilege to be here.

The teaching runs alongside a placement programme which includes a Sunday placement in a church setting and a mid week placement usually in a non church setting. My placement was combined so I spent Sundays in a great church in South Oxford called St Luke's and mainly did my mid week placement helping out with a youth club run by the church for local community. I have recently been on a 4 week full time placement in Cornwall at the Truro Benefice churches. This was an extremely rich and diverse experience - daily mass, school assemblies, helping lead a fresh expression as well as spending time learning about the nuts and bolts of the daily life of a vicar. I learnt a great deal and it has given me much to reflect on.

Over the summer I also secured funding for a third year at college to complete the Oxford Bachelor of Theology (BTh). I was due to be at college for just two years. This will open the door for me to explore becoming a theological educator in the future. The plan is to use this third year to complete modules of the BTh that link with my past work experience taking modules in the psychology of religion and philosophy of religion or social sciences as well as doing deeper biblical study. I also plan to use the placement option of this year to explore new monasticism. These are communities of faith and commitment based around a rule/ rythm of prayer and that have a focus on mission that are popping up in various forms across the country. We will see how it all pans out. I need to get through the second year first.

We will keep you in our prayers and look forward to worshipping with you again when we are next in Devon.

Love to you all

Andrew, Claire and Charlotte