Congratulations are in order to Mandy Rhodes, a final year ministry student at Sarum, who has recently passed her accreditation panel to be ordained as a full-time, accredited, minister in the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
Mandy will be ordained on 9 July to serve as Associate Minister at Dorchester Baptist Church, where she has worshipped for 12 years.
“I came to Sarum because it was a family-friendly training course for ministers”, says Mandy, “The Baptist Union does encourage people to go to denominational courses where possible, but with two teenage children it wouldn’t have been possible to spend the required two days per week away from home in Oxford or Bristol, the nearest Baptist Bible Colleges to Dorset.
“I had been at the point of giving up on becoming an accredited minister when the possibility of training at Sarum opened. Sarum offers a lot of flexibility to fit study around both home life and church life.
“I come from a non-church family, my first church was Pentecostal and then I moved to a Baptist context. So I had very little understanding of the full spectrum of Christian belief beyond. Training at Sarum has given me an understanding of both the teaching and the value of other traditions like Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
“I think there’s a tremendous value in understanding other denominations as a minister. I never quite understood that until I came to Sarum. I have found a real richness in some of the things I’ve learned about the Church of England and Anglicans from studying here.
“I also think there has also been a benefit to the College and my fellow students from my dissenting Baptist awkwardness. It means I tend to ask difficult but important questions rather than just going along with the flow for the sake of it.
“My congregation in Dorchester have noticed that richness coming through I think, especially in how I lead worship.
“Dorchester is quite a big church and we are a busy church, and so I work with a Senior Pastor, a full-time Youth Worker, and we’re in the process of recruiting a part-time Children’s Worker. For most Baptist Churches it would be more normal to have a single minister. We have around 300 families on the books in our parents and toddlers groups, and this alone has allowed some wonderful moments of helping people consciously encounter God’s love and the Christian faith for the first time.
“About 12 years ago, we had a £1.2 million rebuild. The church is at ‘the top of the town’, right in the heart of Dorchester, so we let the building out to companies, organisations and charities and it’s busy every day. It means we’re having contact every day between Christians and people who may not have any church contact otherwise. We often get lovely comments about there being something special about the Church building.
“One of the best things about training at Sarum has been studying in small groups with a tutor, which I have found particularly beneficial to learning. You feel able to ask some of the questions you might not feel comfortable asking in a lecture, for example if you really haven’t understood something that everyone else seems to have grasped.
“Some of the tutors have opened up flashes of real, faith-changing, insight. It can be really challenging to the simplistic assumptions of faith – I would compare it to an elastic band. Your faith is challenged and stretched (almost to the point of breaking sometimes) but then it pings back, but somehow bigger than it was before.
“My reflection group has been tremendous, a huge influence on me. We pray for each other, we share, we laugh, we cry together, we have really strong bonds of friendship. The journeying together at an incredibly significant moment in our lives means I have made friends for life, who will be vital supports for my ministry for the rest of my life.
“I simply couldn’t have gone for training as an accredited Baptist minister without the flexibility offered by Sarum, and I will always be grateful to the college for that.”