Making Ministry Possible for Mandy

Congratulations are in order to Mandy Rhodes, a final year ministry student at Sarum, who has recently passed her accreditation panel to be ordained as a full-time, accredited, minister in the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Mandy will be ordained on 9 July to serve as Associate Minister at Dorchester Baptist Church, where she has worshipped for 12 years.

“I came to Sarum because it was a family-friendly training course for ministers”, says Mandy, “The Baptist Union does encourage people to go to denominational courses where possible, but with two teenage children it wouldn’t have been possible to spend the required two days per week away from home in Oxford or Bristol, the nearest Baptist Bible Colleges to Dorset.

“I had been at the point of giving up on becoming an accredited minister when the possibility of training at Sarum opened. Sarum offers a lot of flexibility to fit study around both home life and church life.

“I come from a non-church family, my first church was Pentecostal and then I moved to a Baptist context. So I had very little understanding of the full spectrum of Christian belief beyond. Training at Sarum has given me an understanding of both the teaching and the value of other traditions like Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

“I think there’s a tremendous value in understanding other denominations as a minister. I never quite understood that until I came to Sarum. I have found a real richness in some of the things I’ve learned about the Church of England and Anglicans from studying here.

“I also think there has also been a benefit to the College and my fellow students from my dissenting Baptist awkwardness. It means I tend to ask difficult but important questions rather than just going along with the flow for the sake of it.

“My congregation in Dorchester have noticed that richness coming through I think, especially in how I lead worship.

“Dorchester is quite a big church and we are a busy church, and so I work with a Senior Pastor, a full-time Youth Worker, and we’re in the process of recruiting a part-time Children’s Worker. For most Baptist Churches it would be more normal to have a single minister. We have around 300 families on the books in our parents and toddlers groups, and this alone has allowed some wonderful moments of helping people consciously encounter God’s love and the Christian faith for the first time.

“About 12 years ago, we had a £1.2 million rebuild. The church is at ‘the top of the town’, right in the heart of Dorchester, so we let the building out to companies, organisations and charities and it’s busy every day. It means we’re having contact every day between Christians and people who may not have any church contact otherwise. We often get lovely comments about there being something special about the Church building.

“One of the best things about training at Sarum has been studying in small groups with a tutor, which I have found particularly beneficial to learning. You feel able to ask some of the questions you might not feel comfortable asking in a lecture, for example if you really haven’t understood something that everyone else seems to have grasped.

“Some of the tutors have opened up flashes of real, faith-changing, insight. It can be really challenging to the simplistic assumptions of faith – I would compare it to an elastic band. Your faith is challenged and stretched (almost to the point of breaking sometimes) but then it pings back, but somehow bigger than it was before.

“My reflection group has been tremendous, a huge influence on me. We pray for each other, we share, we laugh, we cry together, we have really strong bonds of friendship. The journeying together at an incredibly significant moment in our lives means I have made friends for life, who will be vital supports for my ministry for the rest of my life.

“I simply couldn’t have gone for training as an accredited Baptist minister without the flexibility offered by Sarum, and I will always be grateful to the college for that.”

Window Facelift Courtesy of Author James Patterson

The children’s section of the Sarum College Bookshop has had a facelift thanks to a grant from the best-selling US author James Patterson.

Bookshop window before restoration
Dave Ball and Howard Chivers prepare new window
The lovely new window seat!

Sarum College was among 62 independent bookshops across the UK and Ireland to receive funds following the final phase of the author and philanthropist’s scheme to fund independent bookshops with a dedicated children’s book section.

Patterson said he hopes the grants help to bring attention to the important contributions of independent bookshops especially those which inspire children to become lifelong readers.

Jenny Monds, who manages the bookshop as director of learning resources, says she hopes the more appealing children’s section will encourage young people to stop and browse. She’s especially keen to attract children to Bible stories.

“The Bible was written before widespread literacy and stories were read aloud and memorised. Children are often read to and read aloud to practise reading so the language in Bible stories is ideal for children. Good retellings of Bible stories offer compelling narrative to engage children as they develop a rounded education about the world and an appreciation for literature.  Some of my favourites are the ‘Young David’ books by Fiona Veitch Smith.  Fiona has written a series of books about King David as a child. These are wonderfully illustrated and appealing because not only do they tell some of the story of David, but also deal with issues such as friendship, facing down bullies and fears such as being scared of the dark. They are ideal to read to groups of children.”

James Patterson has sold over 300 million books worldwide, and holds the Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author. Alongside his ever-popular thrillers, Patterson is also the internationally bestselling author of the highly praised Middle School books, Treasure Hunters, and the I Funny, House of Robots Confessions, Maximum Ride, Witch & Wizard and Daniel X series for kids.

Patterson says bookshops are vital to communities and leave a lasting love of reading in children and adults. To encourage their work, he has donated USD1 million to support independent bookstores in the US, and £500,000 for those in the UK and Ireland.

“I have been completely overwhelmed by just how many independent bookshops have applied for grants again this year, and yet again have been impressed and enthused by the creativity of booksellers.”

Bookshop Bestsellers: April 2017

Below is the list of the top ten bestsellers in Sarum College Bookshop in April.

  1. God with Us by Rowan Williams, SPCK £8.99
  2. Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace by Justin Welby, Bloomsbury £9.99
  3. The Lion Storyteller Bible by Bob Hartman, Lion Hudson £15.99
  4. Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird, Darton, Longman & Todd £10.99
  5. The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor, Canterbury Press Norwich £10.99
  6. The Real Easter Egg, The Meaningful Chocolate Company £3.99
  7. The Splash of Words by Mark Oakley, Canterbury Press Norwich £12.99
  8. The Things He Did by Stephen Cottrell, SPCK £7.99
  9. The Things He Said by Stephen Cottrell, SPCK £6.99
  10. 99 Prayers for Children by Juliet David, Candle Books £5.99

Book of the Month: May 2017

Fierce Imaginings by Rachel Mann

It is rare in my experience that a book lives up to its tantalising title. Rachel Mann begins by inveigling us in by telling us ‘This is a book about ghosts.’ These are not ‘ghouls’ or figures of fantasy but ‘spectres raised by the Great War’ who ‘continue to exercise an influence and power over us.’ These ‘spectres’ are in the first place personal ones for the author; relatives, notably grandparents, parents ,family and herself. But profoundly it is ‘a search of the human’, as Rowan Williams observes in his introduction.

The structure of the book is simple, yet profound. In something of the spirit of Alan Bennet’s The History Boys Rachel Mann warns of ‘How public monuments make it easier to forget.’ More challengingly, she asks: ‘Did the Great War leave God ‘Hanging on the old barbed wire…?’ This chapter courageously faces the behaviour of the Church of England as the State Religion ‘caught up in interests often tangential to serving men.’ ‘Who is God, then, which emerges out of broken myth?’ Mann enquires. It serves as a powerful question now, as then.

The Battle of the Somme deeply impacted upon the author’s family, and she reflects upon it with a question and a unique memorial. The question: ‘What exactly was ‘lost’ in the catastrophe of the Somme?’ The memorial: a street of terraced houses in Trafford Road, Stretford in Manchester. These, constructed after the war bear the sixty names of men from those streets killed at the Somme.

Further questions: ‘Who and What are worthy of remembrance?’ ‘How ‘The Land’ holds the memory of war’, are coupled with reflections on ‘shell shock’ and masculinity, the ‘feminist’ aspect of war – and ‘Poppies, Silence and the Broken Word.’ No review can adequately serve the poetry, imagination, and challenge of this book. For me a reflection on Christian liturgy near the middle of the book, sums up its message. ‘To use God is to kill him’, said Meister Eckhart, and concludes Mann: ‘When we put God to our ends and uses…..what we are left with is not God, but an idol or simulacrum shaped in our own image.’ I’m already reading it again..and again.

Reviewed by Rt Rev Peter B Price

Published by Darton, Longman and Todd, Fierce Imaginings is just £11.50 until 31st May 2017 (RRP £12.99) and POST FREE from the shop, or £9 from our online shop + £2.50 postage.