Exceeding expectations

We are a diverse community, but all of our students share in the experience of exceeding their expectations through the learning and formation to which God has called them.

Theological education changes us. It is meant to: whatever our background, whatever our experience, whatever our Church tradition, whatever our gifts and talents, a programme of theological study or ministerial formation involves us in mind and heart and promotes personal, intellectual, and spiritual change. At St Augustine’s, we support and encourage this change, knowing that your formation will not conform to any fixed and invariable standard and that we’d betray our mission if we aimed at a characteristic ‘product’, a ‘type’.

 

We have learned to expect surprises, to rejoice as you find yourself going beyond your expectations, discovering unanticipated strengths and capacities, and learning that grace exceeds dreams. St Augustine’s will encourage and support you as you develop your spiritual maturity, your courage and your readiness for social and personal change, as you engage in theologically reflective practice, and as you honour your commitment to lifelong formation.

We are becoming a very different sort of Church. And that’s our challenge right now, to become a different sort of Church. A challenge I feel equipped to face because I trained at St Augustine’s, because St Augustine’s encourages its students to find different ways to look at things and different ways to do things. You will get the opportunity not only to explore the length, height, breadth and width of God’s love, but also the opportunity to explore the length, height, breadth and width of the Church of England as well. It will be a roller coaster ride. You will laugh, you will cry, there will be highs, there will be lows, but you will discover so much about yourself. In fact you will probably become a better version of yourself.
Emma Curate (PGDip) Chichester Diocese
My career so far has been in teaching and education, and bringing up my two, now teenage, children. But when I came to a crossroads in life, talking with my priest helped to clarify my calling to ministry. Then the discernment process over the course of a year, involving meeting the DDO and going through the BAP, confirmed my suitability for training.

I had already walked away from a full-time job to become a carer for one of my children, who has a disability. I did look at residential training, but my daughter was preparing for GCSEs so I didn’t want to uproot the family. At St Augustine’s, I found a beautiful place with amazing staff, and felt immediately embraced and welcomed by everyone.

My training and family commitments involve an awful lot of juggling and plate-spinning, but it’s all do-able, especially in such a supportive college family.

I originally started at St Augustine’s as an Independent student, before transferring to the Ordination pathway. For the first time, I worked with a female priest. I realised that female priests bring a different way of engaging with faith, and it was a real eye-opener. It’s been 25 years now since women were first ordained, and with more female bishops now – like Sarah Mullally of London – it’s bringing such positive change.
Delorine Ordinand, Southwark Diocese
Katrina is an ordinand studying full-time at West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked her to tell us a bit about herself, and what being a student here means to her.

I live in the Guildford Diocese and I’m married, with a grown-up daughter.

When a small voice started calling to me about 20 years ago, I asked a vicar friend whether that voice would ever go away. The answer was, “not any time soon.”

At the time I worked in banking, but was made redundant at the same time our daughter was going away to boarding school. My husband and I wondered whether this was the moment to listen to the voice. But our daughter didn’t want to be the ‘vicar’s daughter’ (though she says she doesn’t remember this)!

So I took a job in social housing and then worked at Guildford Cathedral.

In 2017, I was stewarding for ordination services. Usually I’m at the back, welcoming and putting people at their ease. This time, I was at the front, and everything was happening right in front of me. The small voice was suddenly shouting incredibly loudly; “THIS is what I’ve been talking to you about.”

My husband was incredibly supportive about doing something about it, and I spoke to a colleague at the cathedral who turned out to be a lecturer here; the first step that led me towards being accepted as an ordinand.

Why St Augustine’s College of Theology?

I love having the opportunity of two centres – the peace and tranquillity of West Malling Abbey, deep in the Kent countryside, combined with Trinity House in Southwark. My daughter lives in London so it gives me an excuse to see her and visit the city.

The welcome from the staff, and the nuns, is wonderful, and it feels like a family. It’s big enough to have lots of interesting lecturers and connections, but small enough that everyone knows everyone.

My very wise daughter said, “you are about to embark on something challenging and possibly uncomfortable. You need to be somewhere where you feel comfortable and safe.” She was absolutely right. I feel nurtured and cared for in a family environment, but also poked and prodded – challenged.

It’s the right place for me.

How is your course helping to shape your leadership?

It’s making my foundations deeper and broader, as though, instead of walking on a stiletto shoe, I’m developing a snow shoe. I know I feel more confident and my faith is deeper and stronger, despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges that are inevitable when studying theology.

That’s giving me a very firm foothold. From that I understand and appreciate more, and I’m coming to a place of greater peace.

There is a wide variety of people here – different ages, social backgrounds, ethnicity, points of view and churchmanship are represented. I’ve learned a lot about other people, and myself.

At first I thought about school chaplaincy, as I loved leading a church youth group for many years. But now, through more thought and prayer, I feel called towards to being a vicar, possibly in a rural community. I imagined people would flock to choose rural communities, but that’s not the case. There are a number of problems in rural communities that people aren’t aware of, and nowadays you’re responsible for more churches than just one. In a large city you can be anonymous, but in the countryside everybody knows you, so you’re never off duty.

My parish placement is going to be in a different church – local, but very different from my own experience. At the moment, I don’t really know where I’ll go next. I know that God knows, but I don’t have enough experience yet.

That’s what college is for, different experiences that shape you into the leader God wants you to be.
Katrina Ordinand, Guildford Diocese
Tim is an ordinand studying full-time at Trinity House, Southwark, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself, and what being a student here means to him.

I’m originally from Northern Ireland. Most of my jobs since leaving school have been in youth and community work, in a church. I studied community development at university, studying community work and working in housing estates in Belfast. After graduating, I got itchy feet and got a job in youth work in an Anglican church in the Netherlands. At that time I knew I wanted to keep working for the Cof E but without any sense of calling. Later, I got a similar job in youth work in North London.

I never really thought I was cut from vicar cloth – I suppose I had a stereotypical mind view of who a vicar was. But conversations I had with a vicar in North London, and the diversity of the people I came across at vocation information evenings, showed me a different picture.

Why St Augustine’s College of Theology

During the discernment process and conversations with the DDO about the potential pathway for me, I decided I didn’t want to do residential training, and wanted to stay in North London.

I happened to meet one of the lecturers at St Augustine’s College of Theology at a dinner, and got an idea of the open-mindedness and generosity of the college, which inspired confidence. I went along to the open evening and it ticked all the boxes for me.

The full-time pathway has worked really well for me. I didn’t want to remove myself from day to day life in London away from regular church life, and it has the balance right for people who like me who want to throw themselves into full time theological study. It’s allowed me to study four days a week with a broad reading of theology which has been really rewarding, especially as I hadn’t studied theology before.

The size and dynamics of the college work really well, too. The staff are all very professional, but at the same time there’s no feeling of remoteness – they’re all really approachable.

I’ve found the amount of time I have with people in class, together with the regular residential weekends, allows me to get close to other students as well as maintaining my church community feeling.

How is your course helping to shape your leadership?

There’s a good balance between study and real life experience within a parish church.

Probably the most formational experience for me (my background was quite an evangelical tradition, then liberal) has been to realise all the different traditions that exist in the one church.

Study and critical reflection have helped me to bring clarity to what I believe, what’s valuable from various traditions and how that can be applied in the current context.

The placements have been great. Last summer I had an opportunity to work in a hospital and to shadow chaplains. Seeing the skill they use every day with people who are seriously ill and dying was a humbling experience.

I’ll be going to Wakefield Cathedral for my curacy. I’m hugely excited about working in a cathedral, as well as getting experience in the community in the North of England.

I’m pretty open-minded about where I work in future, but I know I’d like to work in parish ministry, probably in a parish that serves people from disadvantaged communities.
Tim Ordinand, London Diocese
Ben is an ordinand studying part-time at Trinity House, Southwark, and West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself, and what being a student here means to him.

In my secular job I work for Serco, running their in-house think tank and philanthropic arm. During the coronavirus pandemic that has involved setting up a support fund for small charities and community groups, which has been inspiring.

My religious background is quite varied. My wife’s family are Roman Catholic and Buddhist, and I was brought up Jewish. I was baptised in my late teens, and quite quickly started to wonder about ordination, but I didn’t feel I had much to offer at that age!

Since graduating 12 years ago I’ve worked in the civil service and the Houses of Parliament, and in a school and a college. I’ve also been lucky to hold a range of voluntary roles, including running a charity which I founded, and being a school governor. Apart from singing in choirs, I didn’t have any church leadership role in particular.

In 2015 I stood for Parliament, and lost – as I knew I would. What was particularly interesting during that experience was that I hated having to make it all about myself – the social media, the press notices – but loved engaging with all parts of the community – especially those who, historically, hadn’t had much voice. I remember talking to a vicar friend who said, “you’re realising what a lot of us have known for a while – you’re meant to be a priest.”

Other people kept encouraging me, too, but I was waiting to hear it from God! Then a good friend who is a retired clergyman looked me in the eye and told me that sometimes God talks to us through other people. That’s when I contacted the Diocese.

Why St Augustine’s College of Theology

As I went through the formal process of discernment it became clear to me that I didn’t see my priestly calling as a new ‘career’ or something that meant turning my back on my secular life. For me, there was a really powerful call to be part of ‘the church in the world’.

So I wanted to train alongside full-time work and carry on working in the secular world once trained. That’s still quite rare in the Church of England. I visited several other colleges – they were wonderful places but didn’t feel quite right for me. Then I met Alan, and realised he would help make this work.

I felt that St Augustine’s College of Theology is incredibly open to a diversity of ordinands and callings, and this diversity of life experience leads to a greater diversity of ministerial experience.

There are increasing numbers of us who feel that ministry can work alongside employment, and that there are strong theological models and rationales for that.

How is your course helping to shape your leadership?

There’s an incredible reality to studying at St Augustine’s; having the opportunity to combine study and prayer with real-life adds to the formative experience.

It’s hugely enriching to study alongside people who aren’t like me, and whose experience of going to church is wildly different from mine. We will be called to minister to all types of people, so that diversity of worship experience is very valuable, and I’ve formed deep and long-lasting friendships with people I wouldn’t otherwise have met.

I’m trusting that God knows how I will combine a secular career with a ministerial role on the future – because I don’t yet. I certainly don’t know what it’s going to look like in five or ten years’ time.

What I do understand is that my calling is two-fold, with the workplace itself being part of the ministry –ministering alongside people as a worker priest. It means ministry isn’t something we ‘do to people’. We walk with them.

That’s one of the reasons why being able to study part-time and non-residential is important to me. We study the same modules as those at residential colleges, with exceptional staff and plenty of academic rigour. But to me, being able to combine my secular work and life with formation is incredibly important. After all, if ministry is about people, why wouldn’t we be where many of them spend 5/7 of their life?
Ben Ordinand, Southwark Diocese
Esther is a first-year ordinand based in Surrey and studying full-time at West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked her to tell us a bit about herself, and what being a student here means to her.

I’m originally from Barry in South Wales, and grew up with a Pentecostal Baptist church background. I spent some time doing missionary work in Nicaragua, and when I returned to the UK, God gave me the opportunity to move to Surrey to work with young people in an Anglican church.

Having never worshipped in the Anglican style it was very new, but I loved working with children and young people and wanted to learn more about scripture and the Bible through Bible training. So I talked to my curate and vicar about study opportunities. It took me completely by surprise when they said they recognised in me a calling to Ordination, as I’d never even considered it at that stage!

After much thought, I began the discernment journey with the Diocese, learning a lot about myself and my faith and leading to my BAP two years later.

Why St Augustine’s College of Theology?

Choosing the right college was really important. I got married a few months after my BAP, and knew I’d be leaving my role as a youth worker to study full-time, so a lot was going to change. I needed a College where I knew I’d be supported.

Residential study wasn’t an option, so initially I expected my only option would be mixed-mode, context-based training. But I saw this three years study as a great gift and wanted to make the most of it, and was unsure how mixed-mode would work for me.

When my bishop mentioned St Augustine’s I thought that full-time student, non-residential sounded ideal. I explored the London and West Malling campuses and they are both amazing options. Trinity House in Southwark was great, and I loved the idea of being in London. But West Malling Abbey is so special; it’s like being on retreat. What a privilege being able to study in such a prayer-saturated place.

Through informal meetings with tutors, and discussing what training looked like, I recognised straightaway that all the staff at St Augustine’s are committed to each student’s individual formation – taking their own pathway. They really look at what works best for you, which was unique compared with other colleges I’d seen. I also thought that their partnerships around the world, including Jerusalem, Estonia and Tanzania might offer some interesting opportunities.

The opportunity to discuss with senior staff what sort of training would be best for me was really valuable – they knew how my personal training would look and could answer all my questions. I really valued the opportunity to learn and explore St Augustine’s richness of worship.

There are so many study options that it can seem a little confusing at first, but it falls into place when you talk to them. Those choices allow them to create the perfect pathway for you. They really want you to flourish, and offer you study support if you need it.

How is your course helping to shape your leadership?

The academic content of the training – like modules in church history, and biblical studies – is incredible, challenging and feeding my formation and my understanding of Christian faith and doctrine. This understanding is affecting and deepening my own relationship with God and leading me to experience God in new ways.

We’re all from very different backgrounds and traditions here, which is great as when you’re going to be a priest you need that broad experience of people and church traditions.

I love that the Church of England offers so many options in modern ministry. St Augustine’s looks at you that way – it’s your formation, and there’s no one size fits all.

There’s so much to explore and, in time, God will reveal where I’ll go next. I’d love to think that partnering with people overseas is still in my future, and I’m passionate about innovative ministry; but I’ve discovered that I also love the traditions. If there were a place for all those things in my future, that would be wonderful.
Esther Ordinand, Guildford Diocese
Mark is an ordinand based in Chelmsford Diocese and studying part-time at West Malling Abbey, St Augustine’s College of Theology. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself, and what being a student here means to him.

I felt called to ministry from a young age, even though I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I have a Pentecostal background, and I’ve always been passionate about sharing my faith and going to church. I was part of the youth leadership team for my church for many years, with 130 young people coming to meetings.

About three and a half years ago I was at a cathedral while a friend was being made a deacon. As the Bishop of Chelmsford was handing him the Bible, I had a vision of a Bishop handing me a Bible at my own ordination. I told my wife, who said, “I hope you’re joking.”

My wife and I have three children, and I and a friend have been running a website business for eighteen years and together have grown it to a team of eight people. The implications of this pathway will have a huge impact on our family, and we are excited for the challenges and opportunities to come.

You have to remember that, when you’re being called, the whole family is being called. My wife and I had many discussions about how it would impact the family. During the process, we really appreciated the support of our DDO, who enabled us to ask the right questions, and facilitated the beginnings of our journey.

Why St Augustine’s College of Theology

I first heard about St. Augustine’s from the Chelmsford diocese website. When I contacted them, Becky was incredibly quick to respond and was genuinely keen to show me around and give meaningful answers to my questions. The college felt very warm and welcoming.

I explored a couple of colleges and felt that St Augustine’s, being smaller, enabled more personal interaction between students and staff, which suited me.

The part-time study pattern also worked well for me. I prefer the option to have a full day each week, rather than trying to learn in the evenings after a full day’s work.

Everyone supports one another and accepts each other’s differences. The tutors are there to support your growth, and it feels as though they, and your fellow students, are all willing you to succeed. They have different personalities and approaches of course, but they’re all aiming to get you to the right place.

West Malling is also surprisingly easy to get to from the Chelmsford area, so it works really well. Because of my family and business commitments, I aim to continue to work part-time and enter ordained ministry as a self-supporting minister in my local community.

How is your course helping to shape your leadership?

I never really connected with the more traditional Anglican services before; it’s been really beneficial to me to understand how the liturgy supports faith.

Some of my academic studies have been very challenging. Biblical studies, for example, blew apart my understanding of the Bible, but the course and the tutors gave me space to re-form my view. Studying Church History has also been formative; developing my understanding of how and why the Church is what is it today.

The support you get here is an essential part of your formation, I think. There have been some challenging personal times during my studies, and the support I’ve had here has helped me to grow through those experiences.

When I first thought about going to college I thought it was about education, and didn’t understand what was meant by formation. Now I understand that they’re not trying to shape you – they are guiding you to shape yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to shape you from within.

All this has helped me to strengthen and deepen my faith and my relationship with God.
Mark Ordinand, Chelmsford Diocese