Tag Archives: howard guinness project

Part-time Student Life

It’s been a long while since I have reflected on my studies at Moore College. I think can be put down to two overarching reasons.

Firstly I go to class on Tuesday nights. A normal Tuesday for me looks like back to back people time: meetings, training workshops (that I facilitate) and small group discussions (that I facilitate) from 9 to 5. I usually don’t have time to eat anything other than the snack food we share at small group and staff meeting. When the work day is done I head straight to class and by the time I get there I’m usually pretty smashed. And then we get two hours of lecture and an hour of peer discussion. We finish at 9:30 and my brain is fried. So I haven’t really been in a great place to reflect on the things I am learning this semester.

Secondly, the subject I am taking this year (Biblical Theology) has so far felt like a repetition of the Old Testament classes I took a few years back. I LOVED those lectures (see?) and I remember them fondly. Compared to those glorious memories, the present classes don’t really seem very interesting. Serves me right for doing all my subjects out of order.

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Our main lecturer, with a fantastic moustache and a diagram that neatly summarises the entire Old Testament.

Tonight, though, was a great night. I was exhausted (as usual), poorly nourished (as usual) and not really engaging with lecture. But four great things happened this evening, and I’d like to document them. Here they are, in order of increasing greatness:

4. I discovered that the hot-water-machine in the library is switched on again and so I can make endless cups of tea again!

3. The lecturer explored an interesting definition of Christian theology: that it is not about speculation or discovering a hidden god, rather it is about exploring what has been revealed in Jesus. It’s not a new idea for me, but it was articulated well, and an encouraging reminder.

2. I found a kindred spirit in our peer discussion group who is grappling with some of the same kind of practical-theological and pastoral issues as me. This is a big deal, because sometimes I feel like an idiot when I bring up my thoughts in the college community. It’s nice to know there is another person to talk to on the same wavelength.

1. I got to run through the whole library with the lights off and activate all the motion-sensor light switches. It was epic. Probably the high point of the whole day.

Being a student is great, I promise. And not just when I get to activate motion sensor lights. Hopefully next semester life will be a little more balanced and I’ll have some headspace for proper processing!

Belonging and not belonging at the university

After many years of promising to give the university chaplains a proper place to work, the university administrators finally fulfilled their word. Our ramshackle fibro cottage was knocked down to make way for landscaped gardens and we moved into a new building. Desks! Air conditioning! A store room! A fire escape!

In the context of working with university staff it’s given me a surprising sense of security and belonging. Even though I still barely work from the chaplaincy offices, just knowing that there is a desk I can work from makes me feel like I belong here. Legitimately. I belong like all the people I am ministering to. I belong like all the people I am trying to share the gospel with.

I’m scared of what this sense of belonging betrays. It kind of feels like my identity as a Howie (a pastor? a missionary? a harvest worker? whatever I am.) is tied to a room with four desks that I have never actually worked from. That seems a little bit ridiculous! How would I cope if I was doing the work of my peers in France, who aren’t even allowed to be on their university campuses? Surely my sense of belonging should be tied to my identity in Christ. I should sit uneasy knowing that we are given a space to work on a campus where the majority of people hate that we are here. I should stand firm knowing that we are more than conquerors in Christ, and that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8). Upon reflection I remember that Jesus is a more stable and permanent reality than the chaplains’ offices at Sydney University.

Last week I walked past a woman who runs a cafe on campus on my way into work. She smiled and said hi. And today a security guard that I’ve walked past almost every day for the last year finally replied to my greeting with a friendly nod of the head, a smile and a ‘what’s up?’

This is a different kind of belonging again, the kind where people know who I am. They know I am in their buildings every day. They might not know my name yet, and they might not know what I do yet but I hope I get a chance to tell them over the next 10 months! Place is important, but it’s the relationships that should matter most to me at the moment. This year I think my challenge will be to ground my identity and my work on Jesus first, relationships with staff and students second, and the beautiful campus last.

2013 in review: the Bible version

You’d think that with a job in student ministry I should be disciplined enough to get my personal bible reading in order. Sadly, no, it’s still a struggle to spend time alone in God’s word every day. Thankfully, however, God has still been teaching me great things this year through the many other contexts where I’ve spent time considering scripture: at church, with friends, in bible studies, conferences and even (sometimes) in the quiet of my own home. There have been many recurring themes coming out in my learning throughout the year, especially as I read the same book in many contexts (at one point I was being taught from the book of James simultaneously by three different people!). I’d love to end 2013 by remembering the ways that the scriptures have challenged me during the year.

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Read more…

Two articles from two brothers.

Now that I’ve been a Howie for close to a year and I’m definitely out of the honeymoon phase I feel more comfortable comparing my old job with my new one. I am 100% convinced that it was the right time to finish at Anglicare and work at something other than research. However I realised recently that the change in work has meant that I don’t write very much anymore. This has made me really happy on one hand, and really sad on the other. I don’t miss writing research papers, reports and briefings. But all that writing put me in a good and reflective headspace, a place where I would think, and read, and reflect, and then write. I don’t get many opportunities to write now. Mainly I think, and read, and reflect, and then speak. It’s different. I miss writing. I wonder whether my relative silence on livejournal this year is connected?

Of course student ministry shouldn’t necessarily stop me from writing. Lots of fellow Howies have blogs, and lots of fellow Howies have made time to read, reflect and write. Praise God for them. Here are two great articles my colleagues have written recently:

Richard wrote this article on humility and power in the context of university ministry. I found it pretty confronting. It’s a huge challenge to the way I think about my own work.

“The desire for power is at the heart of sin: Adam and Eve’s temptation was to take hold of the power to define good and evil (Genesis 3). The temptation facing students at the University of Sydney is one and the same: it is the temptation to think we can remake the world in our own image. It is easy to be blind to this temptation for many university students on my campus because they often come from the upper echelons of Sydney society, have significant family wealth, or have graduated from a highly respected school. In addition, many come from churches that are almost exclusively populated by upper-middle class Anglo-Saxon professionals, thus completing the illusion that there is no real tension between the humility of Christian witness and the way we wealthy Westerners lead our lives.”

Brian wrote this article about the impact of student ministry on an introvert. It’s one of the most uplifting pieces on personality and ministry that I’ve ever read.

“Do I get drained by all the social interaction?
Yes. But not as much as I used to be.
Do I sometimes withdraw and act like a hermit?
Yes. But not as much as I used to.
Am I socially awkward and shy?
I AM SO AWKWARD. But I think I’m better than I used to be.
Am I still an introvert?
By golly, yes!”

I feel like I’ve been learning so much this year, and thinking deeply about many things. I have read and thought more about the doctrine of the Trinity than ever before. I’ve dived deep into the book of James through multiple sermon series and bible studies. I’ve been thinking hard about ethics, public Christianity, popular culture, presentation of the self and how university ministry intersects with it all. I’ve been dreaming about leadership models and pastoral skills. I feel like all these ideas are too complex and interconnected for to easily spin into blog posts. But they’re not, really. I think I just have to keep working at my writing.

Skin

After a summer of non-office job I am excited that my skin has gone a little brown, and strangely it’s doing wonders for my self esteem.

I know, I know. There’s no such thing as a safe tan.

But my pallid office skin was foreign and strange. It wasn’t really me.
It was a sickly version of me, not actually sick but definitely deficient.
Now my skin is the colour of childhood. The colour of outdoors, of being active, of meeting people.
The colour of t-shirt tans and lines on my feet, alternately marking out thongs one week and mary janes the next.
New job is wonderful.

First day on campus… with undergrad students.

It’s Monday! It’s week one! The lawns were covered with undergrad students, sprawling in sundresses. First years sat timidly on the benches around building where normal people never sit.

The first day with (undergrad) students is definitely worth documenting. Here are some things that happened:

One I went to my first even Staff Equip time, getting some training in evangelism and listening to a paper on the Holy Spirit. Nice. We get to be trained with the apprentices at the University of Technology up the road; it was lovely to meet them. Especially because one of them is my friend Clare from church, and it is great to get bonus hang out time with her. Despite all these positive things I still struggled to pay attention – there are so many things to do and I struggled to keep my brain from drifting into admin mode. Next week I need some more mind discipline.

Two Admin win! I am a admin star! All my first year small group times are now locked in, and I even have the beginnings of a timetable sorted for myself. Whoop! All done in a very pleasant hour or two in the Manning Building with a pot of tea, sitting with the other education Howies.

Three Surprise impromptu coffee catch up with one of my Secondary Ed committee members. So lovely!

Four Home at the computer and on the phone, contacting some of the people who have signed up to the Evangelical Union. Also doing some database cleaning. I think that maintaining databases is going to be an important part of my life no matter where I work. Oh well.

Five Work is technically over, but the evening continues. Matt is sick in bed so I will cook him something nice that he would like to eat. Also I am going to give some fruit and vegetables from our co-op box to Saz. And also I will do some housework. And read Thomas Torrence. It’s going to be a restful night 🙂

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Finally – the beginnings of a timetable!