‘Supportive, prayerful, inclusive, outward-facing, fun’. – Five words used to describe life at SEI.
Supportive: SEI is a small community; there are about 20 students in IME1 at any one time, and four core staff, so everyone gets to know everyone else extremely well. Core staff are available at Residential Weekends for one-to-one conversations, and are, of course, also available through term-time, endeavouring to reply as soon as possible to ‘phone calls and emails. The Associate Tutors are likewise readily contactable for assistance with assignments via email during term-time.
SEI has its own Chaplain, a non-teaching member of staff who is not involved with assessment or appraisal within SEI, and thus is available in a purely pastoral capacity. Every candidate is accompanied over their three years of formation by a Diocesan Advisor with whom they meet monthly, and by a Spiritual Advisor.
In terms of peer support, there is an area in Moodle called ‘Open Space’ which can be used by all students at any time for meeting one another; this room is also available for student-led Compline every Wednesday evening. An informal Support Group for the partners/spouses of candidates also exists.
Students are grouped in Small Groups every year, led by a senior student, and these meet for prayer, discussion and worship-planning on a regular basis. Feedback about the course is gathered through six meetings of Student Chapter a year, chaired by an annually-elected student, and further representation is made through the students reps at SEI’s Management Committee and Institute Council. Staff pay great attention to such feedback and act upon it.
Prayerful: Giving oneself over to a vocation in ministry is giving oneself over to a life of ongoing conversion, being continually conformed more and more to the life and mind of Christ; of allowing one’s character to be shaped continually by the Christian story and the demands of the gospel. The practice of prayer is at the heart of our life together just as it is at the heart of our private devotional lives.
Every time the community is together we weave a rhythm of prayer through the days: formal Offices using the authorised and normative liturgies of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the worship formats of the United Reformed Church, informal prayer times in cell groups, liturgical worship, experimental liturgies. That way people grow in confidence in their use of the authorised formats and in their creativity. Clergy and Lay Readers from across the Province are invited to preside or officiate at the community’s Sunday services, thus acquainting us all with a wide variety of styles and traditions.
Shared prayer is also woven into the weeks-in-between, by means of online Compline organised and led by the student body. The SEI Prayer Diary provides the Church with a way of praying daily for all involved in the SEI Community.
Access the 2022/23 SEI Prayer Diary here.
Careful attention is paid to inclusivity in worship in terms of the language used, lighting, audibility, movement and creation care, mirroring the inclusive ethos of the community.
Inclusive: SEI is committed to ensuring that disability is no bar to students selected for training. All premises used are capable of wheelchair access, and arrangements are tailormade for students with Special Learning Differences. To ensure consistency of support during a candidate’s selection and formation phases with the Scottish Episcopal Church, candidates with accessibility issues have access to an SpLD Ombudsperson, an independent mentor from whom support can be accessed, confidentially and independently. The Director of Studies serves as the Inclusion Officer who seeks to advance equality through inclusive practice and pedagogy.
SEI staff provide dedicated support to students as they enter the cohort, facilitating communication through accessible channels to meet the needs of disadvantaged and hard-to-reach students. Each entrant is interviewed by a member of the core staff to facilitate a discussion regarding the intended programme of study but also to discuss study support needs; the student’s particular support needs are noted, and a personalised student support plan created. Those transitioning to higher education for the first time or entering higher education following a significant break are offered dedicated study skills sessions (particularly for those with difficulties with attention, navigating online resources and managing text), as well as one-to-one induction into the online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), the web-based platform for the digital aspects of SEI’s courses of study.
The Scottish Episcopal Church is committed to making itself a safer place for all people, by promoting a culture of safety in congregations, church organisations and communities by means of education and training to help clergy, other church workers and participants prevent the occurrence of harm and abuse. It therefore implements policies and procedures which assess the suitability of persons for ordination and licensed lay appointment. All students embarking upon training for ministry within SEI must therefore first be background checked to identify any information which indicates that they may pose a risk to the safety of others. Background checking involves a criminal record check under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme operated by Disclosure Scotland.
Outward-looking: In 2019 SEI entered into a partnership with the Centro de Estudos Anglicanos (Centre for Anglican Studies) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This is in keeping with the Anglican Consultative Council’s policy of building companion partnerships across the Communion, enabling college-to-college contact so that students and staff learn about and appreciate differences, support and pray for each other, and strengthen awareness of the Anglican Communion and Anglican identity’. The two colleges share photographs, newsletters and items for prayer, and engage in shared webinars. Every offering at SEI’s Sunday services goes to CEA.
SEI is also in a partnership with Eco Congregation Scotland as part of its thrust it to embed creation care in all aspects of the formational programme and accept the challenge of the Fifth mark of mission. ECS works with churches across Scotland to help congregations understand and collectively address the climate emergency and environmental degradation.
All first year students experience a placement in a work-place, chaplaincy or social care environment, and SEI partners with such agencies as Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland, Glasgow City Mission and Mission to Seafarers in providing these challenging experiences. Those training for the Vocational Diaconate continue to experience placements in non-church contexts throughout their three years.
SEI is also an affiliated member of the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and regularly invites staff from that body to help students grow in their musical ability and confidence.
Students are encouraged to take the opportunities offered by other organisations such as St George’s Jerusalem to go on study pilgrimages and the like; part-funding for these is often available from the St James Fund (ordinands) and McQueen Fund (Lay Reader candidates)
Fun: Adequate downtime is scheduled at all residential events and students organise ceilidhs and the like at these. An early morning run up Kinnoull Hill is offered for those who wish to participate! Families are regularly invited to attend part of a weekend, including Sunday Lunch. A family room is available in St Mary’s should it be helpful on occasion for a student’s family to be present on-site at residentials. SEI staff are very aware that ordination and licensing have consequences for the lives not only of the candidates but of their immediate families also. Time is spent with the candidates themselves in the final year looking at issues of boundaries, expectations, self-care and balance.
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