Speak always about God.
- Thomas Cotterill, S. Stephen’s House, 2019-2022
Departing St Stephen’s House on Pentecost Sunday, having concluded Mass with a hearty rendition of the Regina Caeli and the National Anthem, the Leavers of 2022 were reminded of that period of waiting which for the Apostles and the Mother of God culminated in the “rush of a violent wind” that marked the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. For those of us preparing for Ordination this Petertide, our waiting has a little longer to run. Indeed, unlike the Apostles and Blessed Mary on the Day of Pentecost, we are now no longer in “one place” but scattered far and wide, some already in their new homes, others still waiting to set up home.
The weeks between leaving seminary and being ordained are filled with much activity. This is perhaps an understatement! Many jobs need to be done, many things need to be boxed and packed. Routines that have sustained me for the past three years, at least in between the periods of enforced time spent away from SSH due to the lockdowns of recent years, have had to be adjusted. No longer am I lighting candles in Chapel at 6.55am on a weekday morning, for instance. Only time will tell whether I experience withdrawal symptoms from such a duty. Yet, I have not left behind a life of structured prayer. Gathering together for the recitation of the Offices and the celebration of the Mass whilst at the House has inculcated a recognition that discipline in our Christian discipleship is, whilst not perhaps entirely fashionable these days, fundamentally life-giving if those of us soon to be ordained are to sustain ourselves, let alone those shortly to be entrusted to our care, in communion with Christ who is our life. That being said, I do look forward to resuming corporate recitation of the Offices and a more frequent attendance at Mass than are currently possible for me in this time between leaving seminary and beginning curacy.
For me, the next few weeks involve moving to a whole new diocese. From the West Midlands, I will move to the south coast to serve my title in Brighton, which sits within the Diocese of Chichester. I wait with eager anticipation to meet not just people within my title parishes but those who worship within the Diocese. I look forward immensely to establishing myself in a new place, serving the Lord in the state of life which he has called me, and which his Church has trained me, to lead. Curacy, of course, is a time for continued ministerial education and formation. Yet, the learning and training that curates experience come on the job so to speak, allowing us to grow more fully into the person, the Christian, the deacon (and the priest) God has willed us to be.
I know that I speak for all those preparing for Ordination over the next month in asking that you would pray for us, for our Bishops who will ordain us, and for those to whom we will go. In turn, be assured that I pray that each and every person made in God’s image would have the grace to know and embrace the calling of God on their life, knowing that he wills us to be people who not only hear good news but live and manifest it.
Formation and Daily Routines
- Joshua Pollard, College of the Resurrection, Mirfield
The College of the Resurrection, Mirfield to most, has formed ordinands for the Sacred Priesthood since 1902. Established by the Brethren of the Community of the Resurrection it has a long history of training individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life, through a Christ-centred approach to formation that is rooted in service, prayer and the daily celebration of the Mass to receive from the Lord through Word and Sacrament. Formation and academic preparation coexist and are both held in high regard by the tutors, and are seen as central in preparing ordinands for the rigorous demands of public ministry. The pattern of daily worship is catholic, yet simple and uncluttered, with plainsong sung each day at Evensong and with servers, vestments and incense used at Mass, striking well a balance which ensures that the worship is authentic and offers worthy praise to God.
We are not preparing to be monks, but living alongside a monastic community makes training at Mirfield truly unique. Living alongside a monastic community, conversing and participating in some shared worship with the Brethren, has certain privileges. Inspired by the Brethren, the college lives a common life, that gathers around two tables, the Altar and in the Refectory. Importantly, there remains opportunities alongside the monastic style of daily pattern that we follow, to appreciate new and creative ways of building a praying and serving community.
Let me offer you a glimpse of a typical day:
It is often remarked that students of Mirfield are rarely seen without their cassock and scapular on. Whilst somewhat true, they are only mandatory for our times of worship and formal meals. We begin our day in the college’s lower church at 07:30 with student-led Mattins, followed by Mass. The sung opening responses at Mattins break the silence of the past night, and as our voices ascend, we are centred and unified in prayer. Into the forefront of the mind and in the heart is found and felt the beauty and splendour of God, whose endless grace and mercy is granted to His servants.
A buffet-style breakfast is available in the refectory after morning worship and is held in silence, to enable those who wish, an ample time to reflect. It is then between the hours of 09:30-10:50, or 11:00-12:50, that lectures are usually situated, and a comfort break is always given between two individual blocks of 50 minutes teaching. Students have an incredible array of individual timetables and different subject lectures, depending on their chosen pathway.
Between the two morning lecture slots is a daily time to gather for coffee and cake (baked fresh each day) in the refectory. It is one of those points in the day which grants students and tutors a chance to catch up on news or to impart important information. Building community in a common life takes effort and every opportunity is valuable, and it is therefore strongly encouraged that everyone attends.
Lunch is served in the refectory at 13:00 after a said grace. Meals at Mirfield are provided three times a day, seven days a week, which allows those with less culinary skills to hold no fear (a kitchen is available for those who would trample any MasterChef winner). After lunch, depending on the day, either choir practice, lectures, liturgy rehearsals or free time is given until 6pm. One day a week, we gather in Tutor Groups for an hour which gives a space for mutual fellowship, conversation, support and most importantly, the weekly notices which shape and support our common life.
At 18:00 we gather for Evensong with the Brethren in upper church. Some choose to be present in the church a little earlier, to pray before the Sacrament in silence. In Evensong, psalms are sung by both student and Brethren cantors. The rhythm of the prayer and the times of silence for contemplation are important in any liturgy and it is for many students the highlight of their day to participate as the Body of Christ with the Brethren in this daily act of praise.
After Evensong, dinner is served in the refectory after a said grace. The meals at dinner are served by students, feeding into the common life of service and care for one another. Once dinner has ended, students are able to use evenings for their own purposes – some choose to study, and some choose to relax and wind down in the student Common Room over music or a movie. Of course, it is always essential to have time for fun and recreation. A wise Bishop on retreat reminded us of the importance for the Church to house ‘more prayer and more parties’. A range of socials are organised throughout the year, some at the college bar or in the grounds, on visits or pilgrimages.
Compline happens with the Brethren each day at 21:15 which students are warmly welcomed to attend, whilst some prefer to pray alone in their rooms or in the college oratory before the reserved Sacrament. Compline also completes the day, and as the lights grow dim and silence falls upon the grounds of the hillside Community and college of the Resurrection, the students ask for the aid of Mary’s prayers to God, for the granting of protection, peace and rest before the dawn of the new day.
The College of the Resurrection - Surrexit Alleluia!
A day in the life of an ordinand
- Tim Davies, S. Stephen's House, Oxford
The chapel bell tolls as the sun rises over the chimneys which pepper the sky of east Oxford. It rings to call the community gathered in St Stephen’s House to Morning Prayer. Staff and students flow into the House Chapel and join together to begin the day. Beginning in this way provides tutors and ordinands a firm foundation to for the day, week, and term ahead. This sense of community is one which underpins the life of the seminary. We meet together twice a day for the Offices, three times a day for meals, and socialise in the Common Room in the evening. The strong links formed by this communal life shapes the character of the college, whilst also shaping us.
Following Morning Prayer comes the source and summit of our Christian life, the Mass. An ordinand serves whilst the priest invites those present to draw near in faith and receive our Lord in the most holy Sacrament. It is a real joy to have the daily Mass and it is so crucial for the day’s prayer life, work life, and social life to find their home in this holy sacrifice.
Breakfast soon follows and once more the conviviality of the communal life is found in St Stephen’s House. We all sit, eat, talk, and laugh before the work of the day commences. The work which occupies us is varied, and no two days are the same. For some they will have a morning of lectures and reading, others will may have meetings with tutors, and for some the morning can be occupied with a range of tasks.
Whilst we care deeply for our spiritual well-being, we also care for our physical well-being. Many students can find opportunities to get out and stroll around the beautiful city centre, taking in all of the architectural masterpieces and the city’s history. For the more sporty amongst us, the College has formed a 7-a-side football team and organise games against Theological Colleges and Chaplaincies. There is no pre-requisite for immense skill, instead what is required is a keen spirit and a sense of trying your best; as the saying goes, ‘God loves a trier’.
The kitchen bell at 1pm once again calls us back together as we share the stories of the morning whilst enjoying lunch. Having been fortified, the afternoon is more easily tackled. Ordinands may find time to get back to the work they had been engaged with in the morning, catch up on admin and other tasks on their to do lists, or to go to their term-time placement. The term-time placement is a great opportunity to engage with a context which will help form and prepare us for our time when we leave St Stephen’s House. Some find themselves with a parish, some with College chaplains, and some with charity schemes which help those in need.
To revivify the busy ordinands, tea and coffee is served in the Common Room at 4pm. This is seen to by the ordinand who is on ‘Chapel Duty’, and amongst this job they also read the readings at the Offices, serve at Mass, and at the end of the day do ‘lock up’ duty. This all helps foster a sense of serving those whom you are living alongside; a skill which will be put to much use in future ministerial lives.
As the day draws to an end, the chapel bell once more tolls and calls the community to chapel for Evensong. We bring all the joys and struggles of the day and, as the late great Michael Ramsey once said, ‘be with God with the people on your heart’. Unlike Morning Prayer, which is said, we offer up our praise and thanksgiving in the evening in a sung manner. The Officiant leads those present in the hymn, psalms, canticle, and concludes the Office with the Marian Anthem. As part of Evensong, the Officiant also prepares a short homily to give on Monday evening, and on Thursday evening a ‘Third Reading’, which consists of a short snippet from the writings of a favourite Church Father, spiritual writer, or theologian, is read. Additionally, the Principal gives a short address on Tuesday evening and the Rosary is prayed on Wednesday evenings. A highlight to end of the week is Benediction which immediately follows Evensong on a Friday. Through its beauty it strengthens the efforts of the ordinands and tutors and leaves the corridors surrounding the chapel with the lovely smell of incense.
Dinner is the final timed event in the life of the college day, and after that ordinands are then free to explore Oxford’s social hubs, attend various musical events, or for some head to bed for an early night. A quiet hush falls on the College as the Greater Silence begins at 11pm, giving all those who live here chance to rest and recuperate before the arrival of the next day and all of what it holds for us.