A Life Update: Ordination in the Church of England

Southwell Minster - view from the north west

Southwell Minster – view from the north west (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Russell Mosley

 

30 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

As Lauren and I have told some of you over the last few months, we have been in the process of discerning a call to ordination in the Church of England. It all began several months ago when a friend and new colleague at the university suggested it. She seemed to think I had skills and qualities necessary and needed in the Church of England. I must admit that this sounded crazy to me, at first. However, I could never really forget what she said, it just sat in the back of my mind.

Lauren and I had already made a switch from our previous church in Beeston to St Nicholas’ Church  (an Anglican church) in the City Centre of Nottingham. Being part of this community, plus that nagging voice in the back of my head, brought up again notions of the possibility of ordination in the Church of England. Many other things began happening to seemingly confirm this calling from God. I remembered feelings I had in the past about simply being ordained, a longing I had had as a child for England (and had subsequently gave up when we moved here, thinking staying completely out of the question). So I decided to start seeking advice.

I started emailing friends to seek their advice; I had frequent conversations with Lauren about it. In the end, having spoken both with the Rector at our church and with my supervisor, who is both an ordained Anglican priest and a professor of theology, I went on a retreat to Mucknell Abbey. As I told you in my last letter about that retreat, I was there to discern the Lord’s will for us and came away feeling that we had truly been called to ordination in the Church of England. I came back, told a few friends here, and Lauren of course, and our vicar (Rector, vicar, and priest all, amongst many others, terms I have to become familiar with now).

Today, Lauren and I had a meeting with Steve, the Rector of our church. We talked about ordination and both what it means for Lauren and I separately and together. Having had this meeting, I finally felt able to be open about what we were doing. I didn’t keep this a secret out of shame and only a little out of fear. Instead, I kept it quiet because I didn’t want to say anything until we had made a decision.

What this means for us now is a whole host of new things we’ve never expected or experienced. One of the things I really like about Anglican ordination is that I do not make the final decision. Having told Steve he then refers me to the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, or person provisionally in charge of people who want to be ordained in a given area). She will meet with us and then I go to Diocesan Panel (assuming the DDO approves of me). At the Panel I’ll be asked questions about why ordination and why the C of E, etc. From there, I’ll go on to the Bishop’s Advisory Panel which, as I understand it, is a weekend away where again, I’m asked lots of questions, along with other ordinands. Should everything go well, I will then begin training at a seminary somewhere, hopefully by next September. From there, honestly, who knows.

I want to be very clear, Lauren and I are not joining the Church of England because we’re fed up with the Restoration Movement or anything like that. It is more that I see this as an extension of RM ideals, especially the unity of all believers. The C of E is well placed to dialog with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. It has that blend of liturgy, tradition, and the Scriptures that I particularly appreciate. I feel very firmly that God has called us to this, but if he hasn’t I trust he will tell us in one of the many stops along the way.

This letter is getting over long. I want you all to know how much I desire your love, support, and prayers as Lauren and I begin this journey in our life. We are very excited to see what God has in store for us. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or concerns about this decision we’ve made. In the mean time, I will keep you all updated both about how the ordination process is going and how my thesis is coming, as well as my usual posts of Faerie, books, poetry, theology, and the Church Calendar.

For now I remain,

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Day in the Life of a PhD in Theology Part 2: The Differences between and American and British PhD

Dear Friends and Family,

It dawned on me the other day that my post describing my typical day left out a few important details. You see, a British PhD and an American PhD can be quite different. I have no hopes of explaining all the differences between the two (I can’t really since I’ve never done an American PhD), but I thought I would try and highlight some of the main differences. I’ll also throw-in some other aspects of being a PhD student here at the University of Nottingham that didn’t get mentioned last time.

Classes

In an American PhD you often have several years of classes you have take before you begin working on your thesis, or as they often call it, your dissertation. Typically, these are more broad classes relevant to your field, but not necessarily to the specific thing on which you wish to write. A PhD in theology would probably have to take classes on historical theology, systematic theology, philosophy and more depending on where they are studying.

In the UK, however, it is quite different. A PhD student in the UK shows up with a proposal for what they want to write their thesis on, and then start writing. We, at least here at the University of Nottingham, have no required classes we have to attend. Instead, we’re encouraged to sit in on classes at the Master’s and undergraduate levels that we might find useful. We get no credit for these courses, but we can sit in on them for free. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve sat in on: Elementary Latin I and II; a course on Theological Anthropology; a course called Plato-Hegel studying theology and philosophy; and this term I’ve been attending a course on Christology, a course on Religion and Fantasy, and a course on Theology, Philosophy, and Post-Postmodernism. The way I decide what classes to sit in on is by asking myself if the class will either be directly relevant to my thesis or if it will help me plan courses I hope to teach in the future.

John Milbank in Theology, Philosophy, and Post-Postmodernism

John Milbank in Theology, Philosophy, and Post-Postmodernism

Teaching

In many American PhD programs, PhD students are given the opportunity to teach, sometimes whole courses. This depends entirely on how much funding the University and the department have for such things. Sometimes, also, students will be Teaching Assistants to specific professors for whatever courses they teach.

Here at Nottingham it is a little different. It is rare, though not altogether unheard of, that a PhD student would be the lecturer for a specific class. However, when there is need and funding, we can become assistants for specific classes. This usually entails leading seminar discussions and marking essays and exams. Last semester, I was a teaching assistant for the course History of Christian Thought to 1600. I led discussions on texts the students read dating from the second century the sixteenth. I also had to do a fair bit of marking (grading) of essays. I probably could have done a whole post of funny things undergraduates write, but would have hated it if someone had done that to me. Next term I’m doing a similar job for a class called Great Religious Texts which reads texts from the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Islamic religions.

Sometimes there is an opportunity to lecture as well. I’ve only had that opportunity once, but hope to have more. The one time I did lecture, I prepared too much material and had to skip over some interesting bits to make sure we covered everything.

Seminars

The last thing I want to mention is to make clear what I meant in my previous post on this subject when I said, ‘By the late afternoon, if I don’t have a seminar to attend or a class I’m sitting in on, I pack up my things and head home.’ You see, our department occasionally puts on seminars where either visiting professors from other universities, or our own, give hour long talks on something their researching. These can range from formal paper presentations to more informal presentations on the general ideas being worked on. We don’t have these every week or even every month, though that is supposed to change once the Easter Holiday is over. I don’t always attend these because we usually have home group on Wednesday evenings (the usual afternoons on which we have these seminars) and it can make for a cramped day where supper is hard to come by if I attend the seminar and then walk home and then have to walk to home group (all total would be about 3 miles). Nevertheless, I make the effort to go as often as I can. Past presenters have included: Lewis Ayres, Helen Hunt, John Milbank, and many others.

Well, that’s about everything I can think of that can provide augments during my usual routine. Well, there is one other thing, but perhaps I’ll save that for another post.

Yours,
David

 

A Day in the Life of PhD in Theology

Dear Friends and Family,

It had been on my mind for a while to do a post on what a day usually looks like for me and then just yesterday a gentleman named Nic told me he would be interested in hearing about my daily schedule. Well, here it is:

05:00

My alarm goes off, I role out of bed, wash my face and hair, shave, wax my moustache, and get dressed.

I always lay out my clothes the night before.

I always lay out my clothes the night before.

Beard and Moustache Station

Beard and Moustache Station

Getting Dressed Part 1

Getting Dressed Part 1

05:30

I then head into the Study to do my morning reading. I begin by reading Scripture and Praying (using the Church of England’s Website to help guide my prayers). After I’ve read and prayed, I move from my desk to my armchair and do the rest of my morning reading and journaling. Sometimes, I start with a selection from a spiritual master. Right now, I’m reading through Augustine’s Sermons for Liturgical Seasons. Then I write in my journal, usually a prayer or just some thoughts I have. After journaling, I pull out one of my research books and my research journal and read a chapter or so out of it. Then, if there’s time, I read a little something for fun. Lately that has been a Father Brown Story from G. K. Chesterton and a chapter or two from the Lord of the Rings.

Books and Journals from Last Friday

Books and Journals from Last Friday

07:00

Once I’ve finished my reading, Lauren usually gets up and starts making breakfast while I finish getting dressed. Then we sit down, eat, and usually watch part of a show together.

Getting Dressed Part 2

Getting Dressed Part 2

Breakfast

Breakfast

07:30-07:45

After breakfast, I finish packing up my things and head out to the office.

Heading to the Office

Heading to the Office

08:00

Once I get to the office I set up my desk and begin working. Usually, I read and take notes for a few hours until lunchtime. My reading during this time is more of what I was reading in the morning and then, sometimes, chapters out of books I’m not going to read in full or journal articles.

Work Station

Work Station

Reading
Reading

Writing

Writing

12:00

Then I eat lunch and usually watch a video from the department’s Why Study Series: (which usually ends up leading to a post on here).

12:30 or 13:00

After lunch I do a bit more reading. Right now, I’ve been reading some poetry from Pope John Paul II before getting back into my research. I try to read as broadly as I can, I find that it really helps when I write that I’ve read such a diversity of genre. Also, sometimes, after lunch I go for a walk around the lake.

Contemplation and Pipe Smoking Go Well Together

Contemplation and Pipe Smoking Go Well Together

After my walk, I come back, do more reading, and sometimes some heavy writing. I try to write something most days. Sometimes, like today, it’s a blog post, other times it’s a couple hundred words on the chapter I’m writing.

15:00

By the late afternoon, if I don’t have a seminar to attend or a class I’m sitting in on, I pack up my things and head home. Once I get home, I usually change into some workout clothes and do my afternoon exercises. (Sorry, I’ve not got any pictures of me in workout clothes, you’ll just have to imagine it.) After I work out, I grab and shower and then go back into the study to read some more fiction before dinner.

18:00

Once dinner’s ready Lauren and I either sit down at the dinner table and eat and chat or we sit down at the coffee table and eat, chat, and watch a show/movie. Lately, we’ve been watching the Vampire Diaries, an interesting, albeit girl-oriented, show about vampires (we were both suckers for Buffy and Angel back in the day).

20:30-21:00

As we wind down our day, Lauren and I get ready for bed. Since Lauren’s never read the Chronicles of Narnia before, we’re currently reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together. After we’ve read a chapter or two of it, Lauren roles over and goes to sleep. If I have any energy left, I usually grab whatever fiction book I’m reading (The Two Towers at the moment) and read until I’m too tired to carry on.

22:00

By no later to ten, it’s lights out for me and to sleep before another day of reading and writing.

Well, that’s a pretty general day in my life. Perhaps not overly exciting, but it suits me well enough. Hopefully, in the near future, things like gardening and more walks will make their way into my routine. For now, we’re still stuck with snow and ice.

I hope you’re all well.

Yours,
David