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June 2009

Trinity College abuzz with new courses, new faces

By Paul Titus

Courses in Tongan and Samoan and part-time lecturers from different sections of the Church are among the initiatives Trinity College is using to fulfil its mandate to train a new generation of Methodist ministers and lay persons.

Today’s Trinity College has a complex set of responsibilities. It must provide theological and ministry education to a culturally diverse Church in which lay people play a bigger role in leadership and worship.

Trinity College staff and partners (left to right): Tovia Aumua, Marissa Alix, Ama’amalele Tofaeono, David Bell, Nasili Vaka’uta, and Nicola Grundy.

College officials say to sharpen its focus, they have radically revamped its core ministry development programmes to concentrate on both the realities of parish ministry and theological thinking at depth. To do this they have expanded the range of people who teach its courses.

Trinity College has a full-time staff of three people: manager Nicola Grundy, who is supported by executive assistant Marissa Alix, principal Rev Dr David Bell, and lecturer Rev Dr Nasili Vaka’uta, who splits his teaching between the University of Auckland and Trinity College.

To deepen its pool of teaching talent the College has developed what it calls the ‘Ready Parish Model’. It pays parishes for the part-time services of presbyters who tutor in their fields of expertise. There are currently 11 of these presbyter-scholars, along with three Fellows of Trinity College.

David Bell says that practical theology remains at the heart of ministry education at the College. Every student seeking ordination as a Methodist presbyter must complete various Trinity College certificates, as well as the diploma in Practical Theology.

"Trinity College has achieved a new, vibrant relevance by involving people from the heart of the church’s life. It has re-etablished itself as a key centre for connexional learning and educational opportunities.

"Its level of Christian scholarship is of the first order, but of equal importance it is a place where the Spirit is truly aflame. We concentrate particularly on lay participation, and we are constantly being enriched by learnings and opportunities in the bicultural journey.

"Courses are tailored to mirror parish realities. Topics are carefully structured, have rigorous assessment and moderation, and students must put their training into action in their first parish appointments through the probationer-presbyter programme.

"The College is serious and intentional that students must be able to perform well leading worship. Development includes critiqued services for every major festival. There is an education of the soul, as well as a training of the mind."

Nicola Grundy says pastoral care is an example of a course where the College is drawing on the talents of serving ministers. The College pays Rev Val Nichols’ Whangaparoa Methodist Parish so that she can devote six hours a week to give the paper in pastoral care.

Others with specialist expertise are also brought in to deliver pastoral care tutorials. They include Rev Sylvia Tongotongo and Rev Ali’itasi Salesa from Wesley College on youth ministry, and Rev Jill Richards on dementia care.

Another Ready Parish partnership Trinity College has is with the Samoan synod, Sinoti Samoa. The College pays Waitakere Samoan Parish to have the services of its presbyter Rev Dr ‘Ama’amalele Tofaeono for 15 hours per week.

"Ama is contributing to two of our English language courses – ‘Reading the Bible in Oceania’ and ‘Moana-eco Theology’," Nicola says. "He is also developing a Samoan language course for lay preachers in partnership with Sinoti Samoa and Samoan parishes."

As a full-time lecturer Rev Dr Nasili Vaka’uta is further down the track developing Tongan language courses for the College. For the past six months he has held a Tongan Hermeneutics course that attracts students from Trinity College and Auckland University as well as lay people.

"The course creates a dialogue between the community and the academy. It brings the latest theological developments to lay people but also brings their experiences and understandings back to the College," Nasili says.

David says the Tongan Hermeneutics course is unique to Trinity College and a wonderful development because it makes the College more relevant both to the Church and to the wider community. "There are 40 new students of Trinity College in that programme. It is very satisfying to see church relationships and knowledge deepen around Tongan hermeneutics."

Nasili has also developed two other Tongan language courses – ‘Survey of the Bible’ and ‘Biblical Interpretation’. These will be taught next year and are intended for Tongan lay people or those wishing to enter ministry training.

Rev Diana Tana and other members of Taha Maori led the key orientation trip with students and staff to Waitangi and Mangungu at the beginning of the year. As tumuaki Diana is both a tutor in the presbyter-scholar programme and also represents the key stake-holder partnership with Rev Aso Samoa Saleupolu for the College’s Student Review Panel. The College is developing a range of courses in consultation with Te Taha Maori.