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March 2009

Trinity College revamps ministry training

A week-long trip to Northland where they were immersed in the origins of Methodism in New Zealand the Church’s bi-cultural journey is one of the first tastes students have had of the new style of teaching Trinity Theological College has embarked upon.

Rather than traditional residential programmes in which students live in Auckland and attend courses at Trinity College and/or Auckland University, teaching will now be done through week-long block courses.

Students enrolled at the College are placed in a parish near their home for training and they gather in Auckland once a month for block courses.

Trinity College manager Nicola Grundy says during their week in Northland students were engaged in a single course, TR3011 – Theological Reflection in the Te Tai Tokerau Context. During other block courses, they may cover three or four courses during the week of intensive lectures and discussions.

In the three weeks between block courses students carry out academic or hands-on assignments in their parish placements.

"We could teach about the Methodist Church’s bi-cultural journey in the classroom but we feel strongly that it is important for students to get an experience of the context in which it has taken shape," Nicola says.

In Northland students, tutors and staff stayed at Aroha Island in the Bay of Islands. During the week they went on day trips and had formal and informal instruction from tutors Diana Tana, Donald Philips and David Bell.

"On Waitangi Day students attended the dawn service at Waitangi’s upper marae, which was attended by the politicians, and then the 10am service. They also had time to explore the upper and lower maraes," Nicola says.

Trinity College president Rev Dr David Bell provides some theological tips to Trinity College students.

"On Sunday the students helped lead services at Wesleydale Church in Kaeo. That day we learned of the death of the husband of one of the members of the Tamaki rohe so the students attended the tangi. It was a chance for them to become familiar with the protocols of tangi and reflect on their own practices."

"On Monday we went to Cape Reinga, which was very special event. Diana talked about its meaning and significance for Maori."

Later in the week there were visits to places of significance to Methodists in the Hokianga area and on February 12th, the students and staff took part in the Treaty of Waitangi celebrations at Mangungu.

Nicola says an advantage of the new way Trinity College will teach its classes is that it allows the college to draw on the knowledge and experiences of lay and ordained people in the Church to teach classes. It will also enable the college to tailor courses to suit the needs of students given their academic experience and stage of life.

The course is based on a two year Diploma of Practical Theology programme, with a standard five-year path to ordination. Students who already have a Bachelor of Theology degree might be able to enter at year three and earn the diploma in a year.

During weekends, students on the block courses will be involved in ‘intensives’ which are open to other people so they will gain input from other members of the Church. And block courses will mix formal classroom time with social events to enable students to build collegial bonds.