The London/Oxford Advance was the first for our cohort and marked the official starting gun for our Doctorate of Ministry programme. It was great to meet my fellow students, advisors, and faculty face to face and to get to know each other a little better over the coming nine days.
LGP7 cohort and advisors: from online to on-the-street
Initial orientation was intense and included a wealth of information on the nuts and bolts of the programme. The vague and still slightly romantic concept of a Doctorate degree, and the myriad of details previously categorised in my thinking as administrative adiaphora, began to morph in front of my eyes over those first days in London into real research, definite deadlines, word counts, outcomes and deliverables. This was exactly what Rowntree described in his book on learning how to study:
“One’s early weeks as a student are often full of uncertainties and self-doubts. You are taking on a new role in a new social set-up. It’s different in so many ways from what you’ve known before. And where do you fit in? With whom do you compare yourself? Are you up to it?”[i]
Orientation in London: reality begins to sink in
At the same time, I found it gratifying to get down to details. To talk about rubrics and software programmes and study methods and library passwords. I was hungry for detail and I wasn’t disappointed. I wanted charts and tables and deadlines and dates – and the doctors delivered.
I was also grateful to have time with my advisor and to have someone to talk to and interact with and to receive the gifts of feedback and focus.
For me, London really marked the starting line for the struggle to come to terms with my direction of travel, my research thesis, and the question that is really troubling me at a visceral level. This requires intellectual perseverance, as defined by Paul and Elder:
“a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time to achieve deeper understanding or insight.”[ii]
This first semester has been very much about that struggle. And it started in London.
From London to Oxford
London was Lancaster Hotel. Logistics. Learning curves.
Oxford was a whole different world. I felt like I was stepping through a gate into an altogether more enchanted existence. A place of history and books and portraits and privilege.
A door within a gate – the almost hidden entrance to Pembroke College
This small door, hidden in a gate, in a corner of Oxford, opened into the courtyards and rooms of Pembroke Hall where we were staying. It felt symbolic of this programme: a small gateway into something much bigger, a world of books and learning and history and discovery. It took me a while to find, but I was very happy to step through it. This history of learning was no more greatly evoked than in the hidden upper library of Christ Church College, of which we were given a tour. What a privilege to peruse these ancient shelves and smell the history all around us. What a privilege to take time to study and learn and reflect.
The upper library of Christ Church College, Oxford University
The time in Oxford was by far my favourite part of the Advance. The initial uncertainties of meeting the cohort, orientation, and logistics, gave way to a more relaxed, though still intense, setting. There was time to listen to cohorts ahead of us, Oxford lecturers and professors, and George Fox faculty. The meal times in the Great Hall of Christ Church were a wonderful opportunity to sit and eat and share with others in the group. This was a privileged and historical setting , and it was a joy to experience it.
Meal times in the Great Hall at Christ Church, Oxford
The London and Oxford Advance was a great launching pad for this first semester of the LGP7 cohort. It started our conversation, continued online with our weekly video conference calls, and a journey of discovery and new learning.
The books that we have been studying together this first term have given us a good insight into reading and research methods, leadership and social theory. The blogs and asynchronous conversations have facilitated conversation and shared learning. As I have begun to dig, I have become more aware of the mass of material to survey, and the need to read books in different ways, as outlined in the books by Adler and Bayard.[iii][iv]. The ability to read widely and quickly and syntopically will be much needed in the days ahead as we delve into our research.
After the heady days of London and Oxford, the journey has very much begun.
Much reading ahead
Books in the upper library at Christ Church College, Oxford
[i] Rowntree, Derek. LEARN HOW TO STUDY: Developing the Study Skills and Approaches to Learning That Will Help You Succeed in University: A Virtual Tutorial with Professor Derek Rowntree, n.d. Kindle location: 227
[ii] Paul, Richard, and Linda Elder. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools. 7 edition. Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2014. Kindle location:191
[iii] Adler, Mortimer J., and Charles Lincoln Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. Revised edition edition. New York: Touchstone, 1972.
[iv] Bayard, Pierre. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. London: Granta Books, 2009.