To suggest that I was on a quick learning curve at college is perhaps to point out the obvious. I had not been a Christian long, and my experience in church had been limited to little more than being a pew-sitter. Nevertheless with the start of college I accepted the new learning with relish. Yes, I had difficulty in feeling comfortable in the churches I attended, but in regards to theological learning, I could not have been happier.

But perhaps, in that regard, that should not have come as any surprise. After all, one of the things that had engaged me as an insurance broker was what seemed to be the infinite number of solutions to the needs of my clients—and I was allowed to be creative. So pulling apart the bible, and trying to make sense of it, was something which engaged my imagination.

Now it is difficult to remember exactly what units I did in which year. And as I was primarily doing a two year course over three years, with extra practical subjects mixed in, that part of my story has become a little muddied. However I do remember that my first full year of college was engaged in mainly doing “Part 2’s” of subjects, rather than “Part 1’s.” So that meant in the first year I completed the “Part 2’s” of Old Testament, New Testament, and Church History, whilst leaving any study of Greek New Testament or Theology for another year.

Now the effect of starting full-time college, having already completed the first year of Old Testament, I believe, made a significant mark on my Christian journey. Indeed, in a world (and to some extent the church) which has largely dismissed the importance of the Old Testament, I learnt very early to have great regard for the books of the Old Testament. As a consequence, over the years I have increasingly grown to recognise its importance, particularly regarding teaching on the nature of God, the value of God’s rules for living, and the necessity of a good understanding of the Old Testament in order to understand the New.

At the end of the first year, then, I was hooked. As far as I was concerned I didn’t want to leave; I could have spent the rest of my life in college, learning about myself and about God. I’d learnt a lot about the faith. I’d also learnt that in order to pass the obligatory exams a lot of extra reading was required. And that was particularly true in Church History. After all, it wasn’t just me who was enthralled about something—the lecturer was. Indeed, the lecturer was so enthralled about Martin Luther that he spent more than half the academic year just on that subject alone. As a consequence there needed to be quite a bit more extra study on the other topics that made up the period from the Reformation up until the current day.

Having completed my first year successfully, the second and third years of academia sailed past. I had completed Communications, the first of my practical topics, in my first year, but as the second and third years passed more practical subjects kicked in. The problem was that some of the subjects required being attached to a particular church, but the opportunities given very much depended on the whim of the Rector. Now this didn’t bode well for me for either the topics of Preaching or for Parish and Pastoral Work. Indeed I struggled to get to either a minimum of sermons preached, or the total number of hours required to be worked.

Now in one sense that was probably good training for me for the future, particularly as I would later have to work with others, doing two two-year curacies. However, at the time, it was a bit of a struggle. Needless to say I was mighty relieved when I was finally told that I had met the criteria to pass both subjects.

At the end of the three years, then, I had not only learnt a lot more about my faith, but I had some of the practical experience that I had hoped for to prepare me for life in a parish. I was not naïve enough to think that I knew it all, but at least I was prepared to some extent for the next stage in my spiritual journey.

To be continued …

Posted: 2nd October 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis

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