I'm just back from a residential in Manchester for my part time doctorate, which I extended to include a free Sunday and a visit to a church where I used to work. I am very tired, it'd be good if I had tomorrow off too to recover, but it has been a good experience.
The 'three' days of study were quite intense but overall were productive and enjoyable. There was a sense that the first residential had been pretty unsatisfactory for everyone - teachers and students - and that this was inportant to get 'right.' I arrived with some apprehension, and very much feeling inadequate - everyone else seemed so much more articulate and advanced in their thinking. Also, having been told by various folk recently I am either 'scary' or 'intimidating' because of a perceived intelligence or work output I was very self conscious and watching myself. Made for an interesting experience! For the record, I consider myself to be of broadly average intelligence but a hard worker with tendencies towards being a girlie swot and class creep. Someone has to do/be these things, you should be grateful I am willing so to do! I was once told by a prospective employer (when I was about 19) that I was " a pleasant girl who will suceeed by application rather than inspiration." Well, the later two thirds are certainly true.
Anyway, enough self flagellation/adulation/whatever.
The input on action research was good, with an interesting and engaging speaker. The "speed DPT" exercise was fun and the tutors had done a good job in splitting us up from our friends and pairing us up with those who had complimentary styles, skills and interests. I found myself working with a very different person who was great at sparky ideas but lousy on process and task focus, who immediately related the fictitious task back to his real life research but could not manage a key word search on a library catalogue; we made a good team. Perhaps because my interest is, ultimately, more about process than content, I entered the task with a different angle from some people, I don't know. Did I understand what the DPT was about better at the end of the exercise? No. Did I feel more confident at tackling it? Yes. And the latter is surely the important factor here. A veil of self doubt had been (at least temporarily) lifted.
Today's service was centred on the lectionary readings of Moses veiling his face, Jesus being transfigured and Paul's letter to Corinth that suggested that our faces are unveiled glimpses of God's love; that 'true love's true form' is glimpsed in our relationships, attitudes and actions. The fairy tales of 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Shrek' provided illustrations of how 'true love's true form' subverts expectations [though I remain unconvinced that Shrek is as subversive as others may claim]. It was a great sermon in a good service, and there was a real warmth about the whole experience. It was good to see that a veil of suspicion and hurt that had once shrouded this fellowship had been lifted and that a genuine affection had emerged. Some transfiguring had clearly happened in the last four years.
So, back home and getting ready for a 'normal' week back in Costa del Dibley. Going away is always useful in lending some perspective, in seeing more clearly what is good about the 'here and now.' There is plenty of work to do here, plenty of uncertainty and plenty that will continue to trouble and challenge me. The issues have not gone away and the frustrations remain unaltered. But maybe the fact that I have been renewed and refreshed, encouraged and enabled, will make a difference. I hope so.
So, apart from wondering how many people will be how intimidated by my latest plethora of waffle, I am ready to relax, unwind, watch 'Waking the Dead' and then tomorrow return to my disciplined reading of atonement theories and practical theology, alongside a sermon on sacrifice, preparation for a meeting in Didcot and the Women's World Day of Prayer... no rest for the Hermione Graingers/Lisa Simpsons among us.