A desire to give candidates for ordained ministry the opportunity to experience life outside of the bubble of metropolitan Melbourne has led to rural ministry placements becoming part of students’ formation experience.
Candidates for ordained ministries within the church must complete two supervised field education placements during their period of formation.
These placements take place in congregations, agencies, schools, hospitals and community settings.
But, because they usually occur during the academic year, students have tended to be limited to metropolitan ministry while continuing to study at Pilgrim Theological College.
Sue Withers, the field placement coordinator at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, said she had been trying for some time to ensure candidates had the opportunity for rural ministry intensives.
Kathryn Stoel-Cousineau recently spent time in Tasmania, the second student in recent years to be based in the state.
She welcomed the challenge of being at Kingston in Tasmania during a period when its minister, Colin Gurteen, was on leave in January.
“With Colin away I was given a lot of freedom,” she said.
“I had more scope to do some things in worship which I have wanted to do and obviously I am also at a different stage in my formation than I was when I did my first placement (at Wesley in Geelong).”
Kingston has an on-site community of 12 young people with disabilities and has been active in that area of ministry for many years.
“I read about the community in Crosslight, so I thought this would be a unique opportunity and I found it really exciting.”
Ms Stoel-Cousineau said giving students the opportunity to undertake their placements outside of metropolitan Melbourne was certainly a bonus.
“It’s a great experience, particularly for those who come from a background where they have lived all of their life in the city.”
Kingston Uniting Church council chairperson Claire Wherrett said the local community also benefitted from the visit.
“It is a wonderful idea to put students in different ministry settings because it gives them a vision of how other churches function,” she said.
“I think Kathryn really enjoyed becoming part of the community and seeing how it works. It has also helped us share the vision and mission of Kingston further.”
All candidates for ministry also visited Tasmania in February to work with Congress members and other ministry workers in an intensive learning experience.
“I am hoping these sorts of collaborations can be developed with other Presbyteries and the College,” Ms Withers said.
“It is an invaluable experience for candidates for ministry to work with experienced ministers in different contexts.”