Orientation Week for the new academic year 2021-2022 opened today (Sunday 29 August) at St Mary’s Monastery, Kinnoull.
This is the first time an SEI residential has been held at St Mary’s since March 2020, and the first time those entering their first and second years of formation have encountered the building!
The cohort of eleven continuing students has been joined by nine first year students who are preparing for a variety of ministries, ordained and lay. This new intake includes three candidates for stipendiary priesthood, one of whom will study at New College and another on the Mixed Mode pathway. Two students will embark for the first time upon a dedicated curriculum for candidates for the vocational diaconate, and one new Lay Reader candidate will join the cohort.
A varied programme has been set up for the week, comprising worship, teaching, practical training and leisure. The week begins with a Eucharist at which the President is the SEI Chaplain, the Revd Canon Graham Taylor, and the preacher the Principal. This is followed by induction sessions led variously by staff and continuing students.
The next five days follow a standard pattern, each being bookended by prayer. Continuing Students will offer a three-minute ‘Thought for the Day’ at each Morning Prayer, as this being a good way of practising a vital communication skill. Also constant through these days is a diet of learning, with two modules being taught on ‘Ministry and Mission in Context’ and ‘Christian Doctrine’.
The week will be enhanced by the presence of several guests. Bishop John will be the Bishop-in-residence this year, attending for part of the week and leading Evening Prayer on Tuesday. The Revd Helen Bent from the Royal School of Church Music will lead two sessions on ‘Music and liturgy’, and also officiate at Plainsong Compline, and the Revd Lee Johnston will continue the musical theme by offering a paper on ‘Modern music and theology’.
On Monday the Revd Dr Jaime Wright will lead a Forest Church service, and later in the week the Revd Lindsey Sanderson will preside at a URC Communion.
Midway through the programme staff and students will go off-site to learn about funeral preparation at John McEwan and Sons’ Funeral Parlour in Perth. Dr Michael Hull, Director of Studies, will offer a study skills session and Linda Harrison, SEI Administrator, one on on-line skills. Associate Tutors have been invited to attend on Thursday and Saturday so as to get to know the students they will subsequently teach on-line.
Amidst all this activity there will be ample time for leisure, walks and forming as a community. Chapter Chair Rachael Wright and the four Small Group Leaders have arranged plenty of downtime activities, plus a ceilidh on the final evening where all are invited to share a particular gift: in song, poetry, dance, music or any other medium.
The map shows the provenance of the SEI student community, the ‘plus two’ over the Border referring to two ordinands from the United Reformed Church’s Northern Synod who are about to begin their third and final year at SEI.