New Year updates from Jem

Happy New Year from the Way2Community! We hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas time and wish all good things for the start of 2020. For us in the house, 2020 brings a change to the community as one of our community members, Scott, who joined us in September, has now moved back home. This felt like the right choice for him as he continues to discern God’s guidance, but we were sad to say goodbye to him. That means it’s now myself (Jem) and Sam in the house, readjusting to patterns in the house as we’ve dropped from three to two. We’ve also recently lost from the community our deputy warden, Melissa. Again, this felt like the right decision for her at this time, and we are grateful for all she has added to the community over the many years she has been part of it.

Life in the community has been carrying on amidst these changes. From settling in to new parish placements, to experiencing new contextual placements, and from new areas of study, to already looking towards plans after leaving the community in August. I am placed in Mawnan parish this year, and we, along with the rest of the deanery, are in the middle of exploring how we can change and grow to be sustainable for the future. This has already proven to be a really interesting way of reflecting on strengths and weaknesses in our parish, why things are the way they are, and how the people of the congregation and the wider parish shape the way we minister in our particular context. It’s also felt a particularly welcoming and friendly place, and I have been able to get involved in a variety of ways. We alternate services between organ music and guitar music, so I have been playing my violin along with our guitarist on weeks he’s playing, and also a few services over Christmas. I’ve also preached at Mawnan twice so far – once in October, and more recently at midnight mass. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to preach at midnight mass – it felt like quite a privilege, particularly as we get a lot of visitors to church for the midnight mass service, but it seemed to go really well, even with my bright green hair!

Another great opportunity I had last month was playing violin down at Falmouth docks. A statue of Joseph Emidy, slave turned classical violinist, was being dedicated at the mission to seafarers’ cabin, and I was asked to play a few pieces during it. It was fascinating getting to know a little bit about the work the mission to seafarers does, and to see a bit of the docks, which is usually restricted access.

Across the end of November and beginning of December, I was absent from Mawnan, as I was instead doing my cathedral placement. Unlike most of our other contextual placements which we go to on a Monday, for the cathedral placement we go in as many days a week as we can across a shorter length of time. So about 3 to 4 days a week, I got to know the cathedral, how it works, how they minister, and the whole myriad of things that they do. Having come from an open evangelical home church, I’ve never been very familiar with cathedral worship, so one of the main things I took from my placement was simply getting familiar with cathedral worship, and getting involved in ways such as doing readings or being part of the procession – from main Sunday services, to morning and evening prayer, and from evensong to special services. My time at the cathedral was over Remembrance Sunday and the first couple of Sundays of advent, which gave me a sense of the variety of liturgy across the seasons. A couple of times, I gave a short reflection during morning prayer, and a few times I led evening prayer – an experience which though in a new context and space, felt nicely familiar, as we take turns leading morning and evening prayer in our house every day. Another highlight of my time there was getting involved with the school visits that the cathedral does. I was involved with a primary school group visit, who were learning about the cathedral and the history of Truro diocese (I learnt a lot that day too!), and a home school group visit, who did a Christmas themed trip, making various crafts as they heard the Christmas story. Lastly, I also got the opportunity to join in the cathedral’s Windows course – a theological course on various topics they run for anyone interested – and a variety of meetings, where I got a bit of the background on how the cathedral runs, what different roles there are involved in keeping everything running smoothly, and some of the day to day problems that arise and need dealing with. Overall, I came at this cathedral placement knowing almost nothing of how cathedrals function, and it has been fascinating learning more about both the up-at-the-front and the behind-the-scenes of cathedral life.

The cathedral Windows course (Windows into St Matthew) is just one aspect of the study I have been involved with over the last few months. Our main mode of study is through our local ministry training course, SWMTC. Unlike last year where we had weekly evening classes, this year, there have been residential weekends, roughly every month, where people across the south west study together, instead of just those from Truro diocese. As independent students, we just attend the Saturdays, and apart from the early start required to get to Plymouth for 9am, we have been enjoying the challenge of these weekends. The very first lecture we had (having missed the first weekend as we had not begun the community year yet) was I think my favourite so far, as we explored God as I AM, and the symbolism of the burning bush. This was the first time I was studying theology since I decided to apply to study theology at university in September, and it was an excellent reminder of how excited I am to start studying theology full time. Somewhat in preparation for studying theology full time, I have begun independently learning New Testament Greek. Originally, this was because I know I can choose to study New Testament Greek or other biblical languages at university, but have no idea if I would be interested, so wanted to try it out. Now it is safe to say I will be interested, and am carrying on learning it just for fun!

Since that first study weekend, I have received offers back from the universities I applied to and am planning to accept my offer from Durham once I have visited on the offer holders’ day. Unlike Natalie, one of our previous interns who is studying as an ordinand at Cranmer Hall, which is part of Durham university, I will be at Durham as an independent (or ‘normal’) student. However, while I am there, I am planning to follow my own personal rule of life, which I am in the process of putting together. I want to ensure that while I am at university, I have the space and intent to carry on discerning my vocation and to carry on exploring the monastic life, alongside my study of theology, which will, no doubt, both encourage and challenge my discernment. One aspect I want to put into my rule of life to help this is following some pattern of daily prayer – which is simultaneously manageable alongside my study, and enriching. Another aspect is simply ordering my life well – keeping on top of the things I need to keep on top of, and thereby ensuring I have the time and space to carry on discerning.

So, this new year is bringing lots of new changes in the community and for me personally as I carry on exploring my vocation and experiencing a whole range of ministry and study in the process. Whether your year ahead brings many changes, or none at all, I hope that it will be for all of us a year of growth and happiness.

Jem playing violin at Falmouth docks

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