After a break from most church-related activities for all of four months, I found myself making a surprisingly big commitment given I’d just moved to Manchester to start a career in community cohesion and work in the crime and disorder field. I walked away from all that to return to SCM, but this time as a member of staff rather than student or trustee. As previously mentioned, the organisation has symbolised for me the space to find, well, anything and everything. To come into this organisation as a member of staff presented me with a daunting yet inspiring task as I was in awe of my predecessor.
In this baptism of fire, I quickly found myself meeting and greeting chaplains as equal and discussing complex theological issues more often than I could imagine. I was regularly writing, and commissioning resources to encourage students to engage more deeply and passionately about their faith. As the demographic to whom we were appealing were academic, highly intelligent adults, the level to which the resources had to be aimed was sufficiently high. As such, I had to ensure that my understanding of any given subject was good enough to do justice to the topic. This has equipped me to expect and relish highly discursive, well researched and presented theological discussions and services where appropriate.
It was also in this setting that I became more experienced and competent in producing alternative worship and liturgical resources. I was commissioning and writing prayers for all sorts of situations including a World Aids Day resource, a book introducing different methods for biblical study, and on themes such as being prophetic, life in all its fullness and global links. It was within the context of alternative worship stations that I felt I had particularly found my niche. It gave me the opportunity to consider what could be drawn from the passages in different ways. There was always something to make/create, something to listen to, something physical, something to hold, something to see, something passive/reflective. There was also always a challenging and confessional act, an intercessory act, an act of commission, an act of sharing, a meditative and responsive act and an act of thanksgiving and/or adoration. These activities were then drawn back into the worship later on.
As I became increasingly able to see the options for responding to the biblical passages in such a way, there were increasingly times where I felt I had something to say, as well as do, in response. SCM wasn’t the best setting for doing that but it also felt that I was in the time of stability that my chaplain had suggested and as such I spoke to my superintendent minister about a call to preach.
As these two strands came together I found SCM benefitted from my local preacher training, and my training most certainly benefitted from SCM. The approaches I’d gained and the commitment to look deeply into any given topic empowered me to engage considerately with the text, and take on board the nature of the worshiping congregation when preparing services for them.
The job was something I very much felt called to go to, and felt an awareness that it was time to move on. For me, the opportunity to engage in leading worship, encouraging others in their faith, offering pastoral support, growing communities and empowering volunteers to action was the appropriate ministry for me at that time.
SCM continues to be an organisation I feel privileged to have served, and I am frequently reminded what a great tool-kit for life I have gained from it. A familiar phrase to many SCMers is to have a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. That commitment to engaging with faith and society is essential to my own theology, and how I aim to live out my faith.