I am extremely grateful to the Pantyfedwen Foundation for sponsoring me on a part-time Masters of Theology course over the last two years. I studied the Practical Theology pathway as I was very keen to ground the different elements of the course in my ministry, and draw from my experience. I completed 6 modules over a period of 2 years with a dissertation at the end of each, plus a 20,000-word dissertation. The course was offered by Cardiff University and taught by the Baptist College in association with St Padarn's Institute, St. Michael's College, Llandaff. Studying with people of different ecclesiastical traditions and denominations has been a rewarding experience, and I've made a lot of new friends as a result.
The course has benefited me in many ways. For one thing, it was an opportunity to catch up with the latest theological thinking. Also, as many things changed in my personal life over the last 3 years, the course gave me a new focus. My mother passed away during my second year, and I took the opportunity to write a 'Theological Reflection on the importance of Dementia-Friendly Churches'. My mother suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and we knew from experience how important it was for her to be fully included in the life of Capel y Nant Church in Clydach despite her condition. Writing this essay certainly helped me in the process of grieving for my mother.
The first lockdown phase was introduced as I began to prepare my dissertation. The pastorate had to adapt quickly to the crisis. So I decided to take advantage of this challenging and unique period and chose the following topic for my dissertation: ‘Covid-19 and the local church. How has Covid-19 changed the popular idea of what it is to be a church among local non-conforming Welsh congregations in West Wales, March 2020 to August 2020? '
I spent most of summer 2020 analysing the data collected from the 130 questionnaires I distributed amongst the church members! The questionnaire was in 4 parts: in a time of self-isolation, how is church Identity, Worship, Pastoral Care and Mission affected? The course has opened my mind and led me to consider many things in a different way, e.g. new and fresh ways of worship, the importance of prayer, new resources, the digital ministry, and that almost everything can be viewed through theological eyes.
Studying for the MTh has certainly enriched my ministry. The 28 years of experience as a minister gave me a maturity of mind which was certainly very different to the experience of studying for my first degree in theology at 22 years of age! I viewed the course as professional development, and was keen for any new experience to feed into my ministry. I have also appreciated being part of the Baptist College community and have had many enriching experiences outside the academic course - very interesting discussions and the opportunity to share new ideas, learn about new resources, and unite in prayer. I look forward to drawing on this experience, especially the research for my dissertation, so that the data can help us as churches to move forward carefully following the lockdown period.
Thanks again for the generous sponsorship. I would not have been able to follow this course without it.