Last month marked the launch of our new centre, St Mellitus College, South West. Below, Director of SMC South West Revd Dr Donna Lazenby answers some questions.
Tell us a bit about St Mellitus College, South West
It is a delight to be able to celebrate the birth of St Mellitus College, South West! Responding to the invitation of the Bishops of Truro and Exeter, the centre launched on September 5th 2017 with a Local Induction Day, receiving 9 Ordinands into training for Anglican Orders and 5 Undergraduates into theological study. It has been particularly lovely to welcome 3 Ordinands from the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The centre is based at St Matthias Church in Plymouth, where we worship together, engage with academic theological teaching, and learn from local and national expert practitioners about key aspects of ministry and mission. Our Ordinands are engaged in placement contexts across the 3 Dioceses, and our recent and first Supervisors’ Day was a true celebration of the hospitality of these placement contexts and the wisdom of their ministers.
As ever, God has provided beautifully as we have stepped-out in faith. We will always be thankful for the grace and welcome of the St Matthias Church family. We began our first academic year with a full staff-team, including a centre Coordinator, Tutor in Theology, Chaplain, and Teacher of New Testament Greek. We have a good and growing library on-location, alongside our centre offices. It’s a joy to see God’s action as the ideal becomes material, the labourers are equipped to share Christ with the world, and the dreamt-of Kingdom is realised…this is a time of promise.
Why the South West?
We have begun the centre at the invitation of the Bishops of Truro and Exeter. And this invitation has stimulated all kinds of opportunities. Personally, I have been called back to the place where I grew up - a piece of God-shaped poetry - which is allowing me to offer the life of the College I love to that cherished part of the world which formed my early years: indeed, it is on these lands and shores that I was first aware of encountering God. Equally, as the daughter of Irish parents who settled in Cornwall and Devon, I have long-resonated with the Celtic inheritance of the South West, and find the sense of spiritual-buried-treasure here tangible. Rest days invariably involve accidentally stumbling across the remains of an Abbey, Chapel or Monastery. I believe that the Spirit of God has a special and ancient welcome in this region, and it is an honour to equip the saints here for the work of making Christ known again in our nation.
Why context-based training?
Context-based training is as vital as it was in the days when Jesus walked about with his disciples, calling them to witness his healing work, and drawing them aside for times of theological reflection, worship and rest. This rhythm of experience, theological reflection, and retreat, allows our Ordinands – as it did the disciples – to learn from the wise and experienced about the heart of ministry within models of sustainable leadership. The formational fruits are evident: our Ordinands grow swiftly and strongly in their skills of theological and reflective practice from being in the classroom one day and ‘on the ground’ of the Parish the next, where they are soon making key connections. They learn earlier, while held by a supportive network of supervisors and tutors, the art of balancing ministry, rest and friend-and-family-life which will be so crucial for their future ministry. Their formation, therefore, is constant and lively, as is their contribution to the life of their local Parishes – a gift in distinctly missional times. And I am struck afresh, in leading a new centre, by how richly context-based training keeps Ordinands in contact with their Diocesan networks throughout their training, and how their love for their homeland grows even as their nationally-deployable skills flourish. In placement contexts across rural, seaside and urban communities, vocations are stimulated as congregants notice the Ordinand visible in their midst and wonder, ‘Could that be me?’ And the privilege of hearing first-hand from wise and faithful incumbents about the challenges and hopefulness of ministry, and God’s in-breaking, is an inspiration. There is something about the way this form of training keeps the parts of the Church praying together, and talking together, that I find utterly compelling.
What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about watching the work of the Spirit unfold the life of the centre. I may be called the ‘Director’: but, of course, we know who truly holds that role. In these early days, God’s delight in weaving relationship is already evident in the pilgrimages that have brought the Ordinands and Students to this place and this particular community, at this time, and in their pioneering willingness to make something new and to offer it as a gift to the future. Being involved in the creation of a new centre is itself, of course, a priceless formational training in the faith, imagination and courage needed to begin a new thing in the life of the Church. Alongside all that God is already doing in the South West, and in prayerful company with local fellow theological trainers, we look forward to being a place where the arriving purposes of God are made true ‘to the ends of the earth’.
Visit our events page for information about upcoming Open Days at our South West centre.