[ACNS] A revolution in ministry training in the UK is being promised by the Church in Wales when its new training institute opens for business next week. The St Padarn’s Institute will train and equip clergy and lay leaders in the Province for service in today’s communities. It will be launched at a special service in Cardiff led by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, on 3 July.
It will replace the training provided at St Michael’s College, in Llandaff, which has provided theological training – firstly in Aberdare before moving to its present site – since 1892. The change is part of the 20:20 Vision of the diocese designed to encourage growth by looking at every aspect of church operations. It includes transforming local parishes into Mission Areas with teams of ordained and lay people looking after a collection of churches.
The buildings at St Michael’s college will remain open as St Michael’s Centre – a conference facility owned by the Church in Wales.
Under the new scheme, all ministry training in the Church will be brought together – from full-time residential courses for people training to be priests to part-time courses for those looking to develop their faith and discipleship. Training will be delivered by a team of officers based across Wales in each of the Church’s six dioceses, making St Padarn’s a truly all-Wales institute.
“The way in which the Church serves Wales has changed enormously as we respond to people’s way of life today and the different needs of our communities,” Archbishop Morgan said. “I am very excited about St Padarn’s – it is a bold new venture which will enable us to offer a broader and more flexible range of ministry training and to equip our leaders, both lay and ordained, with the skills they need for today’s church.
“For the Church to flourish it needs the gifts and energy of all its people, not just a few. St Padarn’s is enabling us to open up ministry and equip more people to find and respond to their particular calling.”
The first Principal of St Padarn’s, the Revd Dr Jeremy Duff, describes the institute as the “biggest revolution in theological education in the UK for 50 years or more”.
He continued: “St Padarn’s is a massive shift in ministry training – it is breaking the mould of the traditional theological college. Firstly, it is not just about those training to be ordained as it is also about equipping the whole church – developing lay ministries and supporting existing clergy through changes.
“Secondly, it is broadening our geographical reach as students will be able to study right across Wales rather than in just one corner of Cardiff. They will be train ‘on the job’ – apprentice-style – rather than being tied to the classroom.
“This is important as it means it will protect ministry in rural and Welsh-speaking areas as well as ensuring students with families won’t have to uproot completely during their course.
“Thirdly, St Padarn’s brings together all ministry training offered by the Church in Wales in a single, united vision. It will be the Church’s engine for change.
“The number of students who have enrolled for its first year has been very encouraging which suggests we are already releasing a new enthusiasm in Wales for ministry.”
The new training institute will launch on Sunday (3 July) with a service in St Michael’s Centre chapel, led by Archbishop Morgan.
St Padarn, the sixth century saint after whom the new institute was named, was an abbot bishop who founded the Church in Ceredigion as well as a number of churches in Normandy, France, as the first Bishop of Braga.