I’ve been thinking a lot about the training I am receiving as a curate recently – partly because of the events I have attended, partly because I’ve been working on my portfolio, and partly because of some Twitter conversations.
Curates in my Diocese have a training parish (or benefice) with an assigned Training Incumbent. They are also given a Pastoral Tutor (generally a vicar who is based well away from their training parish). There is a Minster Training Officer who oversees us and the process from a Diocesan perspective, and organises training events.
We are given four years in which nothing we do which goes wrong is our fault (the TI is responsible for our actions good and bad). During those 4 years we are expected to learn all the stuff that college didn’t teach us (my experience is that college mostly told me all it could, and learning since is the result of doing the job, rather than being college based – thank you The Queen’s Foundation), and we are asked to create a portfolio. The portfolio serves as evidence of what we have done, and what we have learned from it. To make it either easier, or more difficult (depending on your preference), there are criteria laid down under the same categories as those that are looked at in discerning vocation, and evidence in your portfolio may meet 1 or several of the 41 criteria. My record for one (major) piece of work is hitting 13 criteria. So far as I can tell, evidence consists of a service sheet or email or statement or flyer or whatever (proof of what I did), together with a few lines of reflection about what I learned as a result.
At the end of four years, we should be fit for posting off to the next step – incumbency for some, team priest for others, and have a portfolio tucked under our arm to show what we did. That’s the end of a long explanation of the what.
So where are the issues?
Relationship with TI is all important. A TI shouldn’t produce a carbon copy of themselves, they should be enable the curate to grow into their calling and gifting. How much training do they need? Enough to understand their role and the process. Training won’t change the carbon-copy kind. In industry I received precisely no training in how to look after a new graduate or a new starter, even as a manager. I just did it, and it mostly worked out. Team building skills were useful, but when push came to shove, people were expected to work together with minimal fuss, and co-operate. In industry, if I really couldn’t get on within a particular team, I found another job (I often worked in teams where the culture didn’t totally suit me, but there was generally enough alignment that I could cope. Anyone who finds a team which is perfect is extremely lucky/fortunate/blessed). Ministry isn’t any different (apart from the work with volunteers). I do fully accept that some people will never ever get along (everyone has a couple of friends they can’t see on the same night because they detest each other!). That’s where the diocesan view, and the Pastoral Tutor can help the Curate – and if the TI is worth their salt, they’ll be seeking support too – not just for having a curate, but for all the task of parish ministry.
The portfolio approach doesn’t suit everybody – but any kind of training requires some sort of evidence that it has been completed, and that it has done what it set out to do. It takes perhaps about three days work a year – I tend to collect things I must reflect on, then have a day of reflecting and categorising about twice a year. If I did it once a week, it would take less than an hour and be a lot less bother, but I’m not that good. If I was completing the training for Membership of an Institution (Eg MIET, MIMechE), I’d have to do something similar, and I assume there is some sort of similar process for teaching, nursing etc.
The training events aren’t always timed to fit in with my learning needs or my particular concerns – but they are run for a cohort of people, not for me, and I generally get something useful from them.
I think what I’m trying to say is that Initial Ministerial Training is just like the Curate’s Egg, but none of it is particularly onerous or unreasonable. Compared with starting a new job as a graduate, and being expected to be competent in a matter of weeks, it’s luxury. We all bitch about bits of it, but these four years bestow a huge amount of freedom.
This is the view of this particular “T” curate. Feel free to shout at me about all the things I’ve missed. I’ll get the coffee, and we can talk it over.