Formational travel: Vancouver experience
By Sharon Ejinkonye, Ridley ordinand
Sharon Ejinkonye is in her final year of ordination training, and recently returned from a term spent in Canada at Vancouver School of Theology. She shares some of her thoughts and experiences from a trip that gave her new insights and frameworks for her future ministry.
Spending a term at Vancouver School of Theology (VST) was such a joyful albeit brief adventure. I got to study two modules – Homiletics and Synoptics – met such friendly people, learnt more about Canada’s history, and heard deeply personal stories.
VST is a multi-denominational theological college which is one of the reasons I was drawn to it; I had the challenge of questioning myself, “Why do I believe what I believe?”.
People seemed to be deeply connected to nature but not the Creator of nature itself; the term “spiritual but not religious” definitely applied here.
I quickly discovered that the West Coast, from Vancouver to Seattle, was known for its lack of religious affiliation, which became evident throughout the months. In the couple of conversations I had, it seemed to be due to the natural beauty of the West Coast. People seemed to be deeply connected to nature but not the Creator of nature itself; the term “spiritual but not religious” definitely applied here. I love travelling and find that I connect more with God through His beautiful creation, so to hear that many connected to creation without connecting to the Creator was strange to get my head around. But who knows, perhaps one day their eyes will behold God as they look at the beauty of creation, and exclaim as Thomas did, “my Lord and my God!”
I noticed how VST referred to God in gender neutral terms where possible; students were encouraged to call God, ‘mother’, and to change ‘He’ in Scripture to ‘Lord’. Whilst I was not used to this, and took a while to get into it, one lecturer noted that as leaders in ministry, we should be able to invite those we lead in worship to refer to God in gender neutral terms. That brief word from the lecturer has stuck with me, and I hope to often remind myself that when I lead others in worship, I am to create a space where all feel able to relate to our personal God, even if the way I relate to God is different.
For the one obeying the call of ministry in Canada, their journey may not be as straight forward as it is here.
I was struck to learn more about the process of ordination for Anglican ordinands in Canada. Having conversations with the ordinands made me even more grateful to be an ordinand in the Church of England at this time. Here, I am privileged to be in residential training, study for free, and once finished, accommodation, curacy, and incumbency are often much easier to come across. For the one obeying the call of ministry in Canada, their journey may not be as straight forward as it is here. In one conversation I had, a woman said that being at VST was really a big step of faith and they had to rely solely on the God who was calling, that He would indeed provide – the money to study and a parish to serve.
Leaving Vancouver, one question I am left pondering is why is there such a lack of charismatic Anglican churches? It seems that in the UK the fruit of the Toronto Blessing is evident, yet this did not seem to be true of Anglican churches in Canada. As a charismatic Anglican, I struggled to find a worship setting where I felt the full freedom to worship and be spiritually fed, yet perhaps this was a good thing as it allowed me to appreciate more the different styles of worship.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to VST, huge thanks to Michael, Rob, Philip, Charlotte, Leo, and Andy for supporting me throughout the process!