As they launch a new booklet showing the different local training options for those being called to licensed ministry we talk to the principals of All Saints Centre for Mission and Ministry and St Mellitus North West.
This week we chat to the Venerable John Applegate, Principal at All Saints
Explain a bit about All Saints
All Saints was set up to serve the three northwest dioceses of Liverpool, Chester and Manchester by providing training for the full range of ordained ministries and Reader ministry. Since then, three other dioceses have come on board and we now train Readers and ordinands from six dioceses. We are rooted in the distinctive cultures of the northwest and the challenges this presents for mission and ministry. No other region has the same blend of strong local identities, urban regional centres, extensive urban deprivation and regeneration, rural and suburban communities.
What is your purpose and aims as a college?
Our aim is simple; it is to train those people God is calling into ministry regardless of their background or educational achievement. We want to develop their God-given gifts and skills and equip them for mission in a society that is changing rapidly to serve a Church that is changing too. Part of our mission is to find a way to train everyone sponsored for training - flexibility is one of our key values.
What is your history?
All Saints started life as the Southern North-West Training Partnership – an ecumenical response to the need to co-ordinate ministerial training in the northwest. That was eight years ago. It required a massive amount of work across the dioceses, the Free Churches and their colleges and the north west Universities. Eight years on, we retain good working relationships with Free Church colleagues at Luther King House, but it soon became clear that we had many more Anglican students than Free Church. Hence, though we welcome ecumenical and independent students, All Saints was born as a distinctively Anglican training course.
Since then, three other dioceses have approached All Saints to provide training for their ordinands and Readers. That is a real accolade for us, and means that we have a growing experience of working in different contexts from the Isle of Man to the former mining communities of Nottingham.
What do you offer students?
All Saints offers three things: practical, experiential ministerial training in the real world; theological education that is recognised by two leading universities; personal and spiritual formation for all that ministry might throw at you.
We do that with a major focus on mission in a changing world and a commitment to resourcing people for a life-time of ministry. The Bishops’ inspectors described All Saints’ teaching as excellent, innovative, passionate.
We offer a wide range of academic qualifications, from a Foundation Degree in Mission and Ministry to studies at Masters level. We provide a flexible menu of formational learning which is worked out with each student by their Director of Studies.
What challenges do you/have you faced?
Providing such a flexible menu of approaches to training brings its own challenges.
Alongside that, making sure that tutors are well-resourced and teaching is top-notch across five regional centres is an on-going challenge. The core staff and local tutors support each other really well, but there are always new challenges to meet together and new demands from the Church!
Funding was an issue early on. The three founding dioceses and the United Reformed Church were incredibly generous with start-up loans; a grant from the Methodist Church really helped pull things together. Sorting out the finances was a big early challenge for me as Principal, but All Saints has been financially secure for several years.
Who are you particularly suited to?
All Saints is designed for people who cannot uproot from the northwest and those who may not have the resources to leave a job while they train. That includes a range of people – those already in a vocational job, families with children at school, single parents, households with a disabled dependant; those called to mission or ministry in their own locality. We have a lot of experience in meeting the Church’s requirements and individual training needs with flexibility.
We train people for all kinds of ministry - stipendiary ministers and pioneers, self-supporting ministers, including NSMs, ministers in secular employment and the locally ordained, as well as Readers.
What is the student experience like
Student feedback shows that satisfaction is high. We listen to students’ views regularly and frequently as well as doing our own evaluations, so we are constantly improving what we do. Most find All Saints supportive and challenging – as any course of ministry training must be. We ask people to work beyond their comfort zones and across a range of boundaries. Weeknight sessions are shared with Readers and residentials are shared with ordinands from the whole breadth of Church tradition. We want each student to thrive in their own tradition while learning to work with and respect others. Tutors reflect the whole breadth of the Church of England.
What makes you distinctive?
We place a high value on practical skills and experiential learning - ordinands are on placement for the whole of their time with All Saints. We encourage the conversation between the classroom and practical placement learning. We are preparing ministers for a changing church in a rapidly changing society; giving people the tools reflect theologically and helping them develop a sustainable prayer life together with a thirst for mission and life-long learning is at the heart of what we do.
Why is it important to have high quality local routes into ordination?
First, if we are going to encourage mission and ministry in our own region, people need to train here. It’s about knowing your own context thoroughly and learning how to mission it effectively.
Second, if we are going to have local training, it has to be the best. I don’t see the point of aiming to be mediocre!
Third, not everyone called to ordained ministry can uproot to train in another part of the country. Many of us have to balance vocations to marriage, family-life or other vocational work. As a Church we have to honour those vocations as well as the call to ordained ministry.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
All Saints’ vocation is to serve the local dioceses. We plan to respond to their changing needs for as long as we are useful. We long to see the local churches growing in mission and we are committed to playing our part in resourcing and encouraging that.
On a personal level
What attracted you into theological education?
It was at theological college. I saw a lot of overseas students who came to the UK to train. Some returned to take on senior roles … and some never returned to their own countries. I started a higher degree as part of a calling to teach overseas so that people could learn and apply their learning in their own contexts. That never worked out (too long a story for this interview!) but I have been involved in teaching, training and supporting learning for ministry for over thirty years.
What drives you as an educator?
I love seeing people “get it” – whether it’s what the Bible says, or how to get involved in mission, and especially encountering God through the new experiences the Course provides and the Holy Spirit uses.
What are you passionate about in education?
Well, for me, it’s the Bible – especially the Old Testament with its very real characters. Warts and all, God works through them over a thousand years of history. My doctorate is on Jeremiah – an amazing book about an incredible time for God’s people. How we use the Bible in ethics – what we do as disciples of Jesus – is increasingly important to me.