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CITI New Course – Irish Times Church of Ireland Notes 23rd January 2021

Picture courtesy of Nick Elliott
Picture courtesy of Nick Elliott

This weekend sees the launch of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute’s new Certificate in Christian Theology and Practice.  The new course has been developed as a one–calendar–year, fully accredited programme in partnership with the University of Dublin, Trinity College.  It is offered in three distinct pathways – as the new pre–selection Foundation Course for ordination training; as the main component of Diocesan Reader training (here it is supplemented by further instruction and practical training in ‘Preaching’); and as adult faith formation for any who may interested in developing their own personal discipleship.  A total of forty–three people have registered for the first cycle, and over this weekend they will begin online modules which engage with ‘Encountering the Old Testament’ and ‘An Introduction to the Creeds’.  Later modules will move the participants on to studies in ‘New Testament’, ‘Theological Thinking’, ‘Leading Public Worship’ and ‘Spirituality and Self–understanding’.

Otherwise, the Theological Institute continues with teaching, training and ministerial formation although its programmes have inevitably been disrupted by the restrictions on movement and assembly as a result of the Covid pandemic. The car park in Braemor Park is largely deserted – a sure sign of the diminution of the residential component of the Institute – and the regular footfall down the drive to the RCB Library, into Trinity or over to the local Spar store is silent.

There are currently thirty–five students in either full–time or part–time training for Stipendiary Ministry through the MTh professional course accredited by TCD, and a further twenty–four in training for Ordained Local Ministry through the Open Learning Centre at QUB.  There are nineteen curates participating in the Continuing Ministerial Education programme which is also facilitated by CITI, and a group of twelve will complete Diocesan Reader training in the spring of 2021.  

Since the onset of the pandemic, virtually all teaching has been delivered online and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  Whereas those courses which are more dependent on pure academic content can be reasonably transferred to virtual learning and participation, the same cannot always be said for the more formational aspects of training.  Practical experiential learning, communal prayer and community life have all been greatly diminished over the past nine months.  Nonetheless, in just the same way that parishes have had to be agile in adapting to new circumstances, the training process is also fitting itself to the new reality.  Going forward, church life is likely to continue to avail of a blended approach between in–person and online gathering, and all of those in training are being prepared towards this eventuality.

The RCB Library, which provides for the reading needs of the Theological Institute, has been running a click and collect service for the students, has been involved in facilitating an e–book scheme and continues to investigate ways in which it can support ministerial education and training.