I had my first ‘face-to-face’ experience of Ridley College this weekend at their (our?) 24hr Bootcamp, to start the academic year, and welcome new students (like me).
It was just under 3hr drive to the campsite at Upper Plenty. I was one of maybe one or two others that had come to the Bootcamp as online students. I met one guy who had traveled all the way from Perth. Still, it didn’t stop every single person I met from commenting on how good it was that I had travelled down for the event.
I’m really glad I went. I think it will prove invaluable over the next few years to have real faces, personalities and stories behind the names and written words that I interact with online.
It was rewarding for me to connect with a number of people on a personal level, to get a better feel for what Ridley College is all about, both formally and the vibe of the place, and to have my heart stirred more broadly and bigg-ly to consider Christian ministry in general – the call to it, different expressions and experiences of it, different pathways etc.
I picked up on a few elements of what I think are aspects of Ridley college culture:
- An emphasis on community – based on shared life experience of studying at College, a common faith, but also community as a way to account for what appears to be a fairly diverse collection of Christian denominations. (I had a few conversations where people commented how Ridley is keen to train anyone to equip them for Christian ministry, whether they are Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist (pentecostal?) etc).
- I enjoyed the singing. I don’t know whether it’s particular to Ridley, or this particular group of people we had, or whether I could expect it generally at any Christian college, but everyone sang with so much enthusiasm and volume (regardless of singing ability). Sure, some of the voices weren’t great, but it was the combination of all the enthusiastic voices that actually created it’s own unique musical feel – even the off notes and the droning voices combined in a weird kind of mix with the pitch perfect voices to create a rich and intriguing harmony
- Almost all the Faculty were there, and I bumped into a few of them assuming they were students. They seemed to all enjoy being part of the experience alongside the students. They all knew each other by name and had an obvious affection for each other.
- There were a lot more females than I expected. There was at least as many female students there as males.
- There was a lot of talk about ‘discernment’ – or rather, that word kept popping up – the year of discernment before one becomes a candidate within Melbourne Diocese, discerning the things that are disputable matters when Christian disagree, discerning what is best from amongst all the good choices for ministry etc.
I’m really not sure how I feel about on-campus college study now. I had some good conversations with people who encouraged me to consider it. Clearly it’s preferable in most ways for people going into full-time paid Christian ministry. But I don’t think it’s always the best way for everybody.
I think my two main reservations are; leaving currently life and ministry in Albury to pursue it (and all the drastic implications of that), and that I feel like I’m not done with my current professional career yet – there’s a few aspects I haven’t quite resolved, one of which is how to be an effective Christian in a secular workplace.