Sunday, 6 June 2010


You know those Sunday afternoons when there’s nothing on the t.v. and so you wander over to your video collection and see if there’s anything you haven’t watched for ages. Yesterday, was one of those days. Feeling too lethargic to go out anywhere, and the weather was drizzling and unsettled, I wandered over to the Webster collection for something to watch that would lift my mood.

The film that “bounced” out at me was “Educating Rita”. Hadn’t watched that in years, so, in the DVD player it went. My expectations were that I would find Julie Walters character as amusing as I had the first time round and that my sympathies would be with both her and Michael Caine’s character Frank, but what I found was that my own life has changed somewhat and that the film meant something different to me this time round.

I’m presently waiting to apply for the Ministry. Although I already serve my chapel in a role which reflects a ministerial position, I am not trained and do not hold the level of knowledge with which a congregation are entitled to be lead by. This month is the month the application forms come out, apparently. Perhaps it was not a good idea watching the film I had chosen.

I better explain a bit of background here. I have no academic qualifications at all, in fact, I left school with 6 lousy CSEs which, now, aren’t worth the paper those results are printed on. Although I’ve held some pretty good working positions, they have always had to be worked hard for. I’ve been an Office Cashier (including Jaegar, Regent Street), Building Society/Bank Manager (depending on which point in time you’re considering), Store Manager, Mortgage Adviser (complete with stage 1 FPC passed first time) and an Analyst. Sadly, even my FPC is now worthless.

I didn’t get on with school at all, in fact, I hated it from the time I started (aged 5) to the time I walked out the school gates for the last time (aged 15). No, it wasn’t anything to do with “having a problem with authority or discipline” as my favourite teachers were the ones everyone else was afraid of, for some reason, but these were usually the best teachers, not only could they control the class, they also made sense in their explanations and I always did well in exams when they had been teaching me. Doing well, back then, wasn’t always a good thing. I did well in Maths under a very good teacher so I was put up a grade which meant joining another class with a different teacher who I did not understand, who wasn’t patient or willing to explain himself and so I never got any further. Are you catching my drift here?

So, my past, on an academic scale, is zilch.

In order for me to become a Minister I have to get a degree (no, not university, although that’s what I originally took for granted). I’ll be expected to study at my own denomination’s college (luckily it’s in Manchester) and my degree will be issued by Chester University (although how that works is beyond me). I’m officially middle-aged, and that I’ve got no academic background is scary to say the least, in fact, I had avoided ministry on that basis for the last couple of years.

Why am I doing it? I read a book which I bought for someone else as a joke, believe it or not, it was entitled “If not now, when?” It was aimed at the over 50’s and I purchased it as a gift for my partner for her 50th birthday. It was only the fact that she was already reading another book and, you know how it goes, you see a book sitting there idle, you start to thumb through a few pages, find yourself reading the odd paragraph and in the end I admit, I read it before my partner got her hands on it.

Although I’m much too young to be considered as the age group this book was aimed at (cough, cough), the book pointed me in the direction of “if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then stop making excuses and do it before you end up regretting that you didn’t even try” (or at least that was the message I got). Without going into any more detail on the book (although, if it’s still available, I highly recommend it for those at the latter end of their working years and beyond. Author, Esther Rantzen), I knew that Ministry was what I really wanted because I wanted to serve the Unitarian community to the best of my ability on a worship level and I wanted to improve my academic record, both pointed to ministry.

Back to yesterday, I watched that film and I was Rita, accept, I don’t have her cheeky and sometimes bolshie characteristics. Education is one of the areas where I have very little confidence in my ability. Rita excels in the film, she becomes the person she wanted to be and even passes her exams with distinction. I ceased to be Rita when she started to understand the literature she was reading and found the film was scaring me into wondering “What the hell are you thinking of Shammy?”

I’ve got loads of different fears all rolling round my head now. What if I don’t even understand the questions let alone give a good enough answer? What if I am “thick” and that getting a degree is really a laughable dream? I’m unemployed (having been made redundant over a month ago) and have not looked for work (or claimed any benefit) because the dream was my aim. What if I’m using precious monetary resources on something that will never happen?

Sometimes I wish there was someone, a parent or relative, that I could call on to talk these things over with. My partner is so supportive that sometimes I wonder if she just tells me “You can do it” because she thinks she has to. Much as I love her for it, the fact that I feel like that tells me I need someone who hasn’t got a vested interested in my success. I even mistrust the opinions of my Unitarian friends as they too have an interest because the denomination is crying out for Ministers.
Times like these I wish I had parents or relatives with constructive views, someone I could go to who could talk things through with me.

I could, of course, read the book again, but I doubt it would hit the same chord second time around.

I want to be Rita, but is what I want realistic? That’s all I want to know. I guess I can either find out the scary way or not fill in the application form.

What was the message I got from Esther’s book? “if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then stop making excuses and do it before you end up regretting that you didn’t even try”. I think I’m gonna have to repeat that into the mirror every morning until the application forms come out.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Shammy
    Really understand what you are saying here. I was academic at school, had a degree equivalent in my profession and a deep interest in theology. The word "degree" is not one to be scared of. It means a lot of different things and if you have a good tutor they will help you to see how the Uni want things presented. Your writing here on your blog is articulate so I don't think you have any worry on that score. Having trained as Methodist preacher at a time when it was proper sit down 3 hour exams I was very surprised when I looked into training as a reader in the C of E how much these things have changed from when I was at school etc. Now that I am a lot older, 55, and brains cells are throwing themselves off the cliff like so many lemmings, I found what was required by the C of E in this diocese was more than I could cope with because they have lost their way and got too bogged down with making academic excellence their aim, rather than looking at the rounder picture of what makes a good reader or priest. I expect you have already prayed about this, but continue to do so and be guided by what you feel God is telling you, not by the expectations of a church that wants more workers, or by your own, probably misguided, need to "prove" yourself. Becoming a minister will put incredible pressures on your life and relationships unless you can be quite hard hearted about giving yourself some time for yourself and your partner and learning to say "no" and mean it, but there will be incredible rewards too. Pray about it, test it, don't be ashamed to decide against it, trust God to give you the strength to achieve it if that is His will