Dear family and friends,
Little over a year ago I made the decision to begin training for full-time pastoral ministry. I am writing to thank you for the support you have shown to me over the last twelve months, and also to give you an update on how things are going.
In September 2013 I began a course of study at Oak Hill College. Oak Hill is based in London but has also established a learning ‘base’ for distance education students in Liverpool. When I was looking choose a theology course to take, I had two desires (if you take the need for the course to teach sound doctrine as a given!) that I wanted said course to satisfy: I wanted the course to, 1) allow me to stay as a part of my home church and, 2) offer the opportunity to meet with other theological students as regularly as possible. The course in Theological and Pastoral Studies offered by Oak Hill via the North West Partnership in Liverpool looked like, and has proved to be a good fit.
It has meant that I travel over to Liverpool on the train on Tuesdays and Thursdays where I meet up with 7 other students. We meet in a building owned by the North West Partnership and Christ Church Liverpool and there we watch video recordings of lectures from Oak Hill. This year I have studied the following modules: Biblical Theology; The Word of God; Theological Reflection; OT: The Pentateuch, Joshua & Judges; Denominational Identity; Church Planting; Ministry for Corporate Worship; OT: Prophetic & Wisdom Literature; An Introduction to NT Greek. I am extremely thankful for the lecturers of these modules who have stretched my thinking and unpacked gem after gem from God’s Word for me! I have uploaded most of my essays to an online blog (www.deiniolsblog.wordpress.com) should you want to see in more detail the content of some of the modules.
While proving to be very demanding, the course is, however, only part-time. The rest of my time week-to-week is spent as a ‘trainee elder’ at Gwersyllt Congregational Church. Ministry ‘trainee’ job-titles are, in my opinion, one of the vaguest job-titles you can come across! So let me explain a little bit of what I do as a trainee elder. What the title is helpful in suggesting is that I am being trained for eldership. Practically, this looks like sitting in on elders meetings, regular conversations and meetings with the existing elders, visiting people from the church family, preaching, leading a church ‘community group’ and co-leading another ‘community group’ which we hope will soon have the foundations to become a church plant. In this role I would value your prayers. Training for eldership cannot have a timescale as the qualifications for eldership are not primarily academic qualifications, nor experiential qualifications, but are spiritual qualifications. Please pray that I would mature spiritually in order to serve the church in the role of an elder.
It has not always been easy to get ‘the balance’ between studies at Oak Hill and work at Gwersyllt Congregational Church, in fact, it has been very difficult. Having vetoed university, I have found myself needing to cultivate a study-ethic from scratch, and at times it is much easier to throw discipline out the window and spend the bulk of my time on non-study based projects. However, while this has been challenging, I am grateful to God for the opportune to spend a number of years intentionally studying who He is and what He has done. Thank you for the ways in which you have supported me in both study and church work, and thank you for your prayers.
In summary, looking back over the last twelve months I can see and feel that I have known God’s blessing in this work. Perhaps the main lesson I have learned (and re-learned) is that He is faithful. I hope I get to spend many more years diving deeper into this truth.
Next steps? Well, the next twelve months will be similar in many ways. I will continue with Oak Hill for another year before the course looks set to change provider to WEST, and I will continue for another year at least at Gwersyllt Congregational Church. There will be, however, one beautiful change. In July Charis and I will get married! We can’t quite believe the wedding is now just seven weeks away! Following the wedding and our return from our ‘honeymoon’ we will be living in Wrexham. We are both thankful that we have been able to buy a small apartment in Wrexham itself – our new address being the address at the top of this letter.
As well as knowing God’s provision in the form of a home, we are also so thankful that He has provided Charis with a job teaching history at a school in Malpas, a 30 minute drive from our home. Please pray for Charis as she finishes off her PGCE and begins her first teaching post.
Something that has overwhelmed me over the course of the last year has been the generosity of many people in helping support me in my studies, church work and recently in our purchasing of our first home. I, and we, are incredibly grateful to you all and to the generous God who is at work in you. As I’m sure you can appreciate, these two big steps of moving into our first home and getting married have increased our forecasted expenditure for the next year. While the course at Oak Hill is a good fit, it does come with fairly large tuition fee demands and also travel demands, approximately to the sound of £5000. I am currently trying to enlist the support for another year of an evangelical trust. Without their financial support last year I would not have been able to enrol at Oak Hill. Studying brings with it not only financial demands, but is also very time-demanding. This arrangement of study and work in the church leaves me with very little time to find paid employment elsewhere in order to raise funds. As a result, this year I will be heavily reliant on the generosity of trusts, family and friends again. I don’t want to push this matter any further in this letter, so if you would like more information on this front please get in touch. Once again, thank you for your generosity
So, thanks for being part of what has been an amazing journey so far! I’m looking forward to chapter 2.
With love and from a grateful heart,