By Peter Daulby is in the RAF and is currently studying towards a Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality at Sarum College. He has completed his first year of the three-year course. Peter has financial support for his study through the Enhanced Learning Credits Administration Service (ELCAS) scheme which promotes lifelong learning among members of the Armed Forces.
ELCAS learning provider Sarum College is a great choice for serving military because the programme of study has enough flexibility to accommodate those of us who are posted to far-flung places.
I work out of the Middle East and the College has been incredibly helpful with sending books and extending book loans when it has not been easy to return them. The College has a good library of e-books which also has made studying much easier. Some modules have been on Zoom, as have tutorials and group help sessions. The course has brought me into contact with some fascinating people from varied backgrounds. I have met students from other countries, church leaders and even monks.
The guest tutors have been fascinating and emanate from all parts of the Christian church and academia.
The opportunity to mix with other students interested in the topic has been incredibly valuable and gives me a great sense that I am already adjusting to life outside the military.
I am pursuing the MA while in the Service to give credibility to a future role in lay ministry which could be a formal Lay Reader in the Church of England or in a more informal capacity in a wide range of ministries, including preaching.
I chose the Christian Spirituality programme because the modules interest me and seemed to be achievable for someone without a background in theology – my first degree was in Aeromechanical engineering!
Also the Christian Spirituality course seemed to be particularly relevant to lay ministry because it covers early Christian spirituality and more modern-day interpretations of what we mean by spirituality and how Christians interact in communities with other Christians and those of other religions or no religion.
My experience of lay ministry has mostly been in a Service context in military churches. As I consider retiring from the military, I felt like I needed to gain more credentials before offering to serve in a new church.
It was also a great opportunity to study with civilians, including other church leaders. As most of my training throughout my career has been with other Armed Forces personnel, the opportunity to mix with other students interested in the topic has been incredibly valuable and gives me a great sense that I am already adjusting to life outside the military.
The renowned German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his Nazi prison in 1944 that ‘people simply aren’t religious anymore’. In short, he was arguing for a new approach that doesn’t assume that those exploring Christianity are able to plug into traditional church structures.
With similar thoughts, I wanted to explore Christian Spirituality to enable me to go deeper into my own faith and to understand better the spiritual aspects of our faith in the hope that it will give me a greater ability to talk to non-Christians, who nevertheless have a sense of their own spirituality.
This is an evangelistic aspiration of mine: to reach those on the margins, or completely outside the church, through a future role in lay ministry. I have always been fascinated by religious books that go back centuries. This course has enabled me to dig back to the Desert Fathers in Egypt and the formation of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. It has also brought me into touch with modern theologians, such as Dr Rowan Williams, and has given me a good understanding of theology and the language of theology. The course is also encouraging me back into a learning mind-set which I hope will to continue so any future preaching is informed, fresh and relevant.
As I prepare to retire from the military and return from the Middle East my future is uncertain, but my Sarum College course has brought me new challenges and a fascinating insight into a totally different area of study from that of my background. This has been refreshing, enlightening and rewarding experience.
I heartily recommend Sarum courses, not just for Service leavers, but also those in the military who want to explore theology through part time study while they serve.
I wish you well.
Peter Daulby (Gp Capt)
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