Day two of the 365M training in Belfast was dedicated primarily to Norm Henry and myself covering some of the basics behind our classes with students in the program. These sessions were designed to orient both current and future mentors in the program.
Reverend Henry, a licensed clinical counselor, provided a masterful overview of the need for self care even by the mentors. Self care includes multiple dimensions but Norm focused primarily on the spiritual. With busy lifestyles, finding time for spiritual refreshment, as well as physical renewal, remains a crucial challenge for mentors as well as students. Henry discussed the need to moderate stress in the lives of ministers, the place of Sabbath, and the need for personal spiritual practices. All of the ideas were well received by the them.
To be honest mentoring can seem daunting at times since it is rooted in the “larger than life” character from the Odyssey in the guise of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This view of “wisdom personified” can seem so “mythic” in nature (can you say “Yoda” from the Star Wars series) that we often shrink under these expectations. However mentors can address both psychosocial needs and vocational roles in the lives of interns as they name grace and adapt our role based on student ability (serving as guide, model, guarantor, or mediator for interns). The second half of the presentation presented the cycle of experiential learning by David Kolb (including his Learning Styles Inventory). This approach to experiential learning takes seriously that learning often begins in the concrete experiences (life) of the student and then encourages mentors to take seriously several key goals including the following:
- Awareness of context/culture
- Ability to reflect in the midst of ministry/culture (Schön: Reflective Practitioner)
- Theological assumptions/learning
- Competency in ministry practices
Like last night, I would say that the strength of these sessions rest with the quality of ministers we were working with. There is an incredible depth of wisdom and desire to strengthen others. While we might not have the original “mentor” in our midst (and I did not see Yoda either), we do have people, gifted pastors already planning to receive interns. Listening to their plans I realized they were quite capable in guiding future interns through relational and vocational goals during ministry.
With rain and still filling the “drag” of flying I was glad we spent a leisurely afternoon at Victoria Square. This is a remarkable outdoor mall with upscale shops in downtown Belfast. Along with the shops the mall possesses a globed roof that allows a pretty impressive city. Normally North American tourists would not understand the importance of this creation. Belfast is still a “tense” city divided along religious lines. However, the stability of the current situation allowed something unimaginable in the past, the building of an expensive mall without the fear of constant bombings. 365m Director David Wesley and I discussed the potential for ministry in this marvelous setting, noting the rich possibilities for the future.
I would not want to be too quick to judge this city. Belfast is a seaport city marked by a long history of violence… but also blessed with a changing temperament of peace and hospitality. Every taxi driver we met admitted to the past differences but also pointed out the hope and peacefulness of the majority of the population. Belfast is a city moving toward a brighter future, marked by wonderful people, a recovering economy, and, as a seaport town, a sense of humor… if only in the theme of a yellow submarine!