Introduction to Education for Parish Service
EPS is a registered Charity, and the Chair of Trustees is Bishop Patrick Lynch ss.cc. EPS works closely with the Christian Education Centre team at Tooting Bec., though it is not strictly speaking part of the CEC team. It is not funded by the diocese and relies on charitable donations for its work.
The St. Mary’s University College Foundation Degree in Pastoral Ministry, taught at Education for Parish Service, Tooting Bec
First of all this is a vocational degree, which means that those undertaking it must already be involved in some form of related work (paid or unpaid, for example as a catechist). As such it is skills-based, and assessment is highly practical. Of the 12 modules that are taught, 10 have three different assessment requirements: as well as a 1,500 word essay, there is a presentation and the keeping of a weekly reflective log-book.
The presentation gives the students the skills they will need in order, for example, to address parents of children preparing for the sacraments, or in order to address engaged couples preparing for marriage, or in order to address a group of catechists.
In the log-book the student is expected to record how they have integrated into their overall understanding new learning and new insights. They are then expected to record how their learning has affected their developing approach to ministry, and also how it has influenced the development of their individual spiritual journey. The log-book thus ensures that academic knowledge is not seen as an end in itself, but rather as an integral part of the student’s own pilgrimage and mission. The log-book articulates how the student’s ministry and spiritual journey are enhanced by the deepening faith knowledge that comes from academic learning.
The twelve modules taught over two years are as follows:
As a Foundation Degree it earns 240 CATS points within the UK university system, which may be credited towards a Bachelor’s Degree or even serve as an entrance qualification for a Master’s Degree.
Discussion in class is seen as vital to the way in which the FD is taught. Students learn from each other and their differing cultures. We currently have students from Ireland, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, S. Korea, Togo and the UK. We have both ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘hotheads’: Those who find it difficult to move away from a model of Church seen exclusively in terms of a hierarchical institution, and those whose model of Church is a ‘communion of people’ and who find it difficult to appreciate the values of a pre-Vatican II Church. Through open dialogue with each other they ( we) come to a proper appreciation of the values that underlie each different perspective - an appreciation that will be essential in the pastoral setting.
What specifically does EPS offer to FD students?
The learning environment at EPS is particularly supportive. Many of our students, when they begin, doubt their ability to write a successful essay or to stand in front of a class for a presentation - they do not see themselves as ‘university material’. To help them through this initial stage they receive a great deal of encouragement from tutors. Individual tutorials are available for all students. Perhaps more importantly, EPS provides a learning environment calculated to build up a sense of community, where students affirm and encourage each other, in such a way that all are able to flourish. The result has been that since the FD began at EPS in September 2008, not a single student has so far dropped out of failed.
Who are the beneficiaries of the FD at EPS?
There can be no doubt that both tutors and students gain hugely from being party to the FD. However the aim of EPS is to provide education for parish service. EPS is for the service and the benefit of the parish or the pastoral setting where the student undertakes his or her ministry. If the benefits are not experienced in the parish or the local Church, then EPS has no future. On the other hand if the parish and the local Church benefit from and value what is happening at EPS, then they will need to make some contribution towards its financing. Much of what is achieved is funded by St. Mary’s University College. However there is a shortfall of between £10,000 and £15,000. In terms of what is gained by way of lay formation, the amount is minimal, but it will have to be forthcoming.
Rich parish, poor parish
Most EPS students serve in the archdiocese of Southwark. Southwark comprises inner-city London parishes and rural Kent parishes, and a range of parishes in between. Some parishes are extremely poor, while some are wealthy. EPS would like to offer places on the Foundation Degree to parishes who are not able to pay the student’s fees. For that to happen we are hoping to set up a scheme whereby a parish which can afford to pay fees does so for a parish which cannot. We are already grateful for one parish which has paid the fees for a student from another.
Many of our students are women religious. Religious orders, like parishes, vary hugely in type and wealth. We have been actively seeking financial sponsorship for two religious sisters. The money is now being donated, but the same situation will arise again. EPS places a very high priority on good education for those sisters who work in our parishes, prisons, hospitals and such places. We hope to encourage religious orders who have adequate financial resources to pay for their own formation to ‘adopt’ a sister from an order without such resources.
What else do we do at EPS?
Earlier in the year we had a series of six seminars on ‘Jesus Christ’ in the thought of Karl Rahner. This was mainly geared towards the on-going formation of EPS staff, but was open to outsiders. In all we had fourteen people poring over Rahner on a Wednesday morning. For the final session Philip Endean, SJ, from Oxford gave an excellent guest lecture. We hope to continue the series in the forthcoming academic year, and we are delighted to say that Philip has expressed his willingness to return.
Our other event for this year is yet to happen: A Conference Day on Asylum and Immigration on 20 May, with speakers: Dr. Anna Rowlands (Cambridge) Rev. Dr. Robert Kaggwa (Roehampton) and Dr. Anthony Towey ( St Mary’s). Interest has been considerable and this promises to be an excellent day.
What else might we do at EPS?
Thoughts are turning to the academic year 2010 – 2011, and the idea of holding a week’s non-residential summer school towards the end of July has been mooted.
EPS has a range of tutors qualified to teach in virtually any area of Christian doctrine, spirituality or catechesis. All are well-grounded in pastoral practice. We would welcome suggestions regarding what else we might offer.
(Dr.) Anne Inman
Director, Education for Parish Service