A great article by Jodie McNeill on the problems of ‘uprootedness’ caused by Bible college placements at different parishes: Stolen generation of church planters.
Let me give you the theoretical Anglican Diocese of Melbourne scenario (in reality there is much more flexibility and diversity): Say you are a committed lay leader in your Anglican church for 10 years. You are encouraged to go to Bible college and join the ordination stream. You will then go to a different church every year for your four years of college as part of your field education training. You then graduate, get ordained, and do a two year curacy in one place, and then a two year curacy in another place. Then you are given a PiC (Priest in Charge position), in your fifth year after graduation/ordination (typically).
So by the time you are running your first parish, for the past 10 years you have been gone to 8 different parishes (incl. the current one). Imagine all the moves that your spouse and family have made in that time. Imagine all the committed ministry relationships which have been started and stopped suddenly this whole time. How does this prepare you for a long term pastorate? Surely this only feeds the culture of not putting down deep ministry roots?
Certainly this model does give you a good introduction to the diocese and exposure to a wide range of ministries, and helps you to build some good mentors and ministry networks. There are some real benefits. In fact one of the reasons I got ordained was because I wanted the benefits of this model.
In our own experience we have put the brakes on the system by doing longer student placements, and three year curacies instead of two. The diocese have been very supportive of my training and pastoral needs, year by year. We have deeply loved every parish we have been involved in and tried to give of ourselves sacrificially in every one of them. But at the end of the day, we feel very hungry to care for God’s people in one place for a long time.
Are we training for a church culture of ministry transience or ministry longevity?