My early memories, living in NE Scotland are of sandy beaches and fishing boats, carefree summer holidays, walking to school, playing outside with friends and singing at Sunday school. The song ‘I will make you fishers of men’ always springs to mind and I recently listened to it again on You Tube.
I sought the song out as I sat contemplating the pile of crafting equipment supplied for our ‘at home residential’ – the final part of the Bishop’s Certificate we were unable to attend in June because of lockdown rules. Tasked with making something creative was just one of the many challenges I shared on my spiritual journey with a group of strangers who were to become friends during the ten months from September 2020 – our Saturday morning Bishop’s certificate group.
Fellow travellers, signed up for the Bishop’s certificate, would normally meet in person every week to listen and learn, be inspired, expand our horizons and enter into healthy debate on topics from the new and old testaments, learn about the history of the church and move forward in our own spiritual journeys.
Covid 19 made our journey in 2020 a very different one. Instead of travelling from across the diocese to attend our classes we never moved from our computer screens as learning started in earnest. Through Zoom we glimpsed each other lives, met each other’s pets and shared our life experiences as we studied our way through each module, developing our biblical knowledge month after month.
For our tutors it was a brand new experience too – teaching and inspiring others, not in person but through technology. But it worked and we were inspired to learn, to question, to expand our reading, re-kindle old essay writing skills, listen to others views, consider the hard questions for which we may never find an answer – all in the love of Christ.
When we meet as a group (in person!) on 25th September at Southwark Cathedral we will have gained so much more than just a certificate. We have opened our hearts to new learning and started to develop our own theological reflections. Most importantly we have shared part of our spiritual journey with like minded Christians during a very difficult year which most of us will never forget.
For anyone thinking about doing the Bishop’s certificate I wholeheartedly recommend it as a very worthwhile experience in which you will feel very supported.
I wish my fellow travellers every every bit of luck in their own journeys forward and I will keep you always in my prayers.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path.
PS. With special thanks to my own vicar, Rev Roger Hagon at St Mildred’s church for his ongoing support. To Peter and Zoe for making our virtual course work so well. For all our wonderful tutors especially Ariadne van den Hof and Brian Griffiths who have inspired me beyond measure. For my fellow students – Jonathan for making us all think hard with his super difficult questions, Marion for inspiring me with her peace garden in Lewisham, Daniel for reminding me of the importance of youth work in the church, Deborah for always being passionate and never letting us forget that God is Love and Neil for entertaining us with his tales of ‘Little Dibley’. For all of you for sharing my lockdown journey with me. Thank you and may God bless you always.
To find out more about the Bishop’s Certificate visit southwark.anglican.org/bishopscertificate.