Perspectives from a Part-time Student
‘At the close of my first year at Trinity, I feel I want to trust God that I am here for a reason and not yearn for clarity as to what that reason is. I want to trust him that he will reveal his purpose and plan when he is ready.’ – Kally Adderkin-Hall
Occasionally in my life I wake up in the morning and make a decision I believe to be Holy Spirit inspired. Choosing to study at Trinity was one such decision. I didn’t know why I wanted to study theology, I just knew that I did.
As a wife, mother to two adopted boys, journalist, filmmaker and preacher, life was already busy, and I wasn’t sure how I would have enough time to fit in studying without neglecting one or several of my other responsibilities. But as with all God-breathed decisions, things have a way of working out, and I found all areas of my life began to march in time with each other once I began the journey.
The winter before I began at Trinity, our family had come out of the Vineyard movement after nearly 20 years and begun to worship at St Andrew’s Church in Cullompton, but it was not that transition that necessarily prompted the desire within me to study. I think it was more a longing to go deeper and further in my faith, and I believe it will be a foundation for things to come in the future—but as yet, I have no idea what that might be.
The classes that changed me
As a result of my first year’s learning as a part-time student, I am thrilled that I have gone deeper and further and wider and stronger in so many aspects of my faith. The stories and protagonists of the Bible have not so much come to life, as to me they never felt dead, but I am looking at them through a new viewfinder and I am repositioning my camera angles. I thought I would share which modules have impacted me and why. At Trinity, assignments are blind-marked so I won’t get any extra points for ‘big upping’ particular modules or their convenors!
Top of my favourites’ list is ‘Ministry and Mission’ led by Rev Dr Howard Worsley. I am a revival cheerleader and have long felt that revival and mission are inextricably linked. Learning that the Five Marks of Mission provide a purposeful and effective structure for church growth fired my imagination and led me to think that anything is possible.
‘Methods of Reading the Bible’ has completely altered my view of Scripture. I used to be in the ‘I just read the Bible and apply it’ school of thinking, but Dr Jamie Davies and Dr Knut Heim have persuaded me that there is much to take into consideration when approaching any biblical text. Learning not to self-interpret and impose my own expectations upon the words in front of me has been a challenge, but I know that I wish to read the Bible with an intellectual honesty that holds integrity with nonbelievers, so I must not sweep away or ignore the tricky bits. Old habits die hard, but I hope that I am excavating deep into the Word to arrive at a mature understanding of the Bible.
I didn’t think I would be too inspired by studying church history, which is strange for someone who holds a history degree, but perhaps I had taken Ecclesiastes 1:9 too literally, as it tells us, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. The church history and doctrine modules have caused me to consider the necessity of studying as a means to aid my understanding of our own time and how we do church today. I have seen things from a different perspective while studying doctrine with Dr Justin Stratis; I don’t think I had ever considered why we hold the Bible in a place of authority—I know it is, I just didn’t know why, but I do now!
The call to preach
Preaching was not a new experience for me. As I embarked on the ‘Introduction to Preaching’ module, I was gearing up for a preaching engagement at the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House, so there was an expectancy within in me. Of course, no one wants to be a rubbish preacher, least of all me. My greatest concern was fulfilling the assignment, which tasked us with recording a preach to our home congregation for assessment. At this point we had only been attending our new church for a matter of months, and I worried that if I approached our vicar to request to preach, I would be seen to be ingratiating myself or, at worst, self-promoting. I worried and then worried a bit more. As the assignment loomed, I did the one thing I should have done all along. I gave it to God. I prayed that he would go before me, that he would lay me on the heart of the vicar, and I said, ‘Please God, let him ask me to preach, not the other way around.’ I prayed that prayer for a week and the following Sunday, just as we were about to head home, the vicar of St Andrew’s, Rev Ed Hobbs, said, ‘Kally, I was wondering if you would like to preach sometime?’ God is so faithful and so good. He heard, listened and answered by going before me.
Up until the point of studying that module, whenever I stood up to preach, I was filled with self doubt. Not that it necessarily came across as I stood in front of a congregation. I was and am hugely grateful for opportunities and consider it an awesome privilege to preach the word. But secretly I always thought of myself as too much of a sinner to be preaching to anyone about anything. During that module, we were taught that if we have been asked to preach, we should take authority in that place. I found that to be immensely helpful, and while I am still humbled each time I preach, I believe there is a new dimension to what I say because I don’t feel quite so apologetic about it all.
Working through challenges
Being a part-time student isn’t a similar experience to those who study full time. Most live in a community where they pray, study and eat together, as well as hanging out with each other. As a part-timer, I am not in the same orbit by virtue of the fact that I am only at college for short bursts of the week. However, it is not difficult to get to know the others. I try to eat in the dining hall the days I am at Trinity, so I give myself an opportunity to chat to my fellow students and I’ve made a few new friends, which is always a bonus.
I sometimes feel envious of the ordinands. Their future seems to flow before them as a strong clear rapid. After training and curacy, the river meets the ocean, where the tide has the potential to carry them anywhere in the world as they become fully fledged clergy. For me the path is not so clear. As I write this, I am reminded of the man who sought out Mother Teresa to ask for her prayers. When she asked him what it was that he wanted her to pray, he replied ‘For clarity.’ She told him she would not pray for clarity but for trust. Her reasoning was that clarity does not bring us strength in God, but trusting in him will do so, and in his time he makes all things clear.
At the close of my first year at Trinity, I feel I want to trust God that I am here for a reason and not yearn for clarity as to what that reason is. I want to trust him that he will reveal his purpose and plan when he is ready. In the meantime my heart will rest on Habakkuk 2:3, ‘For the vision is yet for an appointed time: but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.’
My first year at Trinity has been awesome. Sometimes when I have sat in lectures, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and had that ‘I know that I know, that I know, this is right for me’ feeling. I have felt challenged, excited, sometimes overwhelmed. My heart and head are brimming with all I have learned, and I am determined to apply it to my personal devotional time as well as ministry. I am looking forward to returning in the autumn for round two. A big thank you to faculty and staff, and I will see you in September.
There is still time to register for part-time classes at Trinity this autumn. To explore part-time study at Trinity, click here.