Saturday, June 21, 2008

A new chapter

Sorry it's been a bit quiet around here this week. I seem to have lots of things going on in the last few days, and I was also slightly unwell on Thursday, no doubt thanks to my immune system being battered due to a very late night watching the Celtics clinch their 17th championship against the Lakers.

Anyway, I just thought I'll let my readers know a bit more about what's been happening, since it would have an impact on my blogging. Of course, if you know and see me regularly, you would know all about this already! Basically, I will be moving back to Oxford in mid-August to start life as an apprentice at St. Ebbes. I certainly did not forsee this a year, or maybe even 6 months ago, but God, in his timing, has brought it all about and I'm pretty excited and daunted all at once.

Some of you might know what apprentices or apprenticeship schemes (or if you're from Australia, Ministry Training Schemes) are, particularly if you move in particular church circles or networks here in the UK, but for the rest of you who are scratching your heads, here's a brief rundown. "Apprentice schemes are 1-2 year placements with evangelical churches, normally incorporating practical service, Word ministry and some formal training" (9:38 website), meant to help people think through whether 'full-time paid gospel ministry' (although let us be clear, all Christians are 'full-time'!) is right for them in the context of serving the local church and being under the watchful eye of those who are already in the ministry. I've seen an apprentice defined as "someone who has committed themselves to learning about gospel ministry as part of a local congregation" and that's not at all a bad way of putting it. In other words, it is both a 'testing ground', to see whether it is right for someone to pursue such a path, and a 'stepping stone', in that such experience and training would no doubt prove invaluable. It's a great model, I think, because it gets you involved in the life of a local church and to be looking to build God's people up, and also in watching those more mature than you at work, because discipleship isn't just taught but caught. Christopher Ash puts it this way: "The gifts of Christ are discerned by the body of Christ as they are used by the servants of Christ".

For more, have a browse of the 9:38 website and their articles section, especially those by David Jackman, Vaughan Roberts, and Chris Green.

I will be working primarily amongst international students, possibly with an eye on the postgrads in particular. One of the blessings is that although I'm on the move again for the 4th time in 6 years, this time I'm moving back to familiar surroundings. I spent 3 years at Ebbes as an undergraduate and it's fair to say that I grew a lot as a Christian during my time there. Some of you might recognise the name of the rector (Anglican jargon for senior pastor), Vaughan Roberts, perhaps best known for his book God's Big Picture. One of the most amusing anecdotes I've read about Ebbes actually comes from Alister McGrath's biography of J.I Packer. Apparently, when Packer was in Oxford as a student in the 1940s, he initially went along to Ebbes but left because he found the place "cold and unwelcoming"! Over half a century later, Packer attended an Ebbes service when yours truly was there so I'm guessing Dr. Packer has since revised his opinion. Although I think I found settling in hardgoing at times, I don't think I could ever accuse Ebbes of the same thing and hope that it would continue to be a welcoming place for internationals.

At the same time, it would also be a new experience, since I'll be at Oxford as a non-student, and of course, many of my friends are no longer there. Even many on the staff team will be new as well. There are some little niggly things still to sort out, like visas and funding, so prayer's always welcome. So expect things to be busy after August, with blogging likely to rank lower on the list of priorities!

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