This is a text-only version of an article first published on Friday, 18 October 2013. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.
A NEW scheme that gives curates the chance to meet up and discuss the joys, trials, frustrations and elations of being a new minister in the Church of England is proving a success in the Oxford Diocese. The initiative is part of the Ministry Education Programme and sees curates meet monthly for the first three years of their ministry.
They are led by a volunteer who is either an experienced priest or a qualified lay person who is given the title 'animator'.
The animator facilitates an unstructured discussion on anything from how curates have fared in their studies to deep theological reflections or even dealing with their parish flower guild.
More animators are needed to help the scheme continue. Father Peter Day, a curate at St Paul's Wokingham who is soon to become Priest in Charge at Christ Church, Reading, said most ordinands were resistant at first, not seeing the point of the scheme.
But once they had been to the meetings, they found it really useful.
He said: "We were all new curates in new situations and it provided a place where we could discuss things fairly openly without them being reported upwards. "For Peter, it was useful, as when his training incumbent went off sick, he was left running the entire church.
"Looking back it was a fantastic experience.
It gave me the chance to do and see aspects of being a priest I would not normally see as a curate.
I was de facto priest in charge. "I think the animator's scheme allowed you to build on relationships that start at theological college.
Naturally you would turn to other curates you trained with.
This scheme forces you to continue to work with people who may be of a different churchmanship to you and to carry on that sort of dialogue of compromise. "The Revd Dr Margaret Yates, a curate in the Walbury Beacon Benefice and a historian, said: "I thought it was excellent but realised that it depended on the skills of the animator.
It's about having someone to go on the journey with you as you go through anxieties, questions and self doubt so that the journey is done with authenticity.
It's down to the skill of the animator to support the process, as opposed to it being a lot of people sitting around complaining which it could be.
It was invaluable.
The role of animator requires great interpersonal skills and they need to be pastorally sensitive. "If you are interested in finding out more please contact David Atkinson, Ministry Development Group Co-ordinator on 0118 979 7911 or bdavida@hotmail. com or Beren Hartless, Director of IME on beren. hartless@oxford. anglican. org or 01865 208258.