The first account in this series of posts detailed the kinds of placement that those preparing to serve as distinctive Deacons undertake. Lay Reader candidates likewise do placements that are shaped for the calling for which they are being formed – that of lay theologians, teachers, preachers, catechists, worship leaders and liturgists. Here we hear of two such, second year Edinburgh candidate Camayo Hyde and third year Moray, Ross and Caithness candidate Patricia Ellison.
Pat was placed in the Speyside/Badenoch charges of St John, Rothiemurchus and St Columba, Grantown, engaged in a project of gleaning the underlying attitudes of people of faith in relation to creation issues. Recognising that we can often feel numbed by the enormity of the climate crisis, and that there can be a dislocation between such a recognition and a coherent response, she set about listening to people’s stories. For this she used the distributed ethnographic collection tool SenseMaker® offered by the Cynefin Academy. She describes the approach thus: ‘The thrust of the approach is that it addresses complexity by wondering whether, if there were to be some kind of 3D representation of the issues, we could see with a seagull’s eye, appreciating how the pieces interlock. This would help us to find meaning in the now and better understand what the picture looks like rather than projecting a grand plan for the future. The system itself might reveal where hope lies, making it possible to identify the small actions that could be nudged by faith; the direction of travel rather than a goal.‘
One of the highlights of the six months was working on the project with the many Ukrainian families worshipping in the charges. Pat became very involved in the congregations’ welcome and offering of hospitality to these refugees. Here she describes a highlight of that experience of mutual learning, a ‘Ukrainian nativity in the Highlands’:
Rothiemurchus church on the weekend of Advent 4 was host to a very special St Nicholas celebration, organised for their children by the Ukrainian mothers who had become congregation members. This is the time of the year when children leave their shoes at the door and St Nicholas calls with gifts – and chocolate.
So the children came to church to explain to us about ‘the birth of our Saviour’ and to share with us the customs and costumes, made for the event, which they would have had at home, and how they would have gone door to door with their songs and recitations.
There were angels in profusion, shepherds, kings, crusaders; even the devil and the angel of death had parts to play. As the snow fell outside, so the church was filled with colour and love. God alone knows what these families had been through. But they shared this gift with us.
And afterwards there was chocolate.
My placement this year has been with the Diocese of Chester, over Zoom, helping to facilitate a course on Bereavement for their Pastoral Workers and Lay Readers. I had requested that my placement help me with the teaching aspects of the Formation Outcomes for Lay Readers, and this fulfilled that request – and so much more. Not only was I able to learn about how a course is put together and was given the opportunity to facilitate quite a few parts of it myself, I was also able to learn from the course content and other Lay Readers’ experiences.
I am used to technology through my work, and Zoom did not hinder my learning at all; in fact in this instance it gave me opportunities I would not have otherwise been able to have. Technology can be a great thing! At the end of the course I was able to put all I had learned into a ‘Gravetalk’ session for my congregation in Falkirk.
‘Gravetalk’, put together by the Church of England to get the conversation started about death, reminds us that there are no right answers; we just need some time to start talking about that taboo subject of death to enable us to live. I hope to facilitate either more of these ‘Gravetalk’ sessions or another subject now that I have the confidence to share my enthusiasm for learning and know how to deliver it.
Photos courtesy of Pat Ellison and Camayo Hyde