They didn’t tell us anything in college about standing beside a seven year old and a three year old while you bury their daddy’s ashes. There was nothing in any of the lectures or any of the text books about such moments; for that matter, there was nothing about most moments. A mug of tea and sitting and staring out at the Dublin mountains have to suffice in the absence of any professional tuition on the matter.
Professional tuition was really the problem; we had academic tuition, but the practical stuff was left to ourselves – a bit like teaching a medical student the rudiments of surgery and leaving him in theatre to get along by himself. The idea was that we picked stuff up along the way, that being a curate would teach you all you needed to know. I had an excellent Rector in those times, but he was constantly under pressure in trying to care for a parish where there were a thousand families on our church list. For the past two decades I have muddled through, trying to limit the damage I might cause.
Our training changed after I left, it became more academic. The humble diploma gained the exalted status of a bachelor’s degree. The new ordinands learned words I could not spell, let alone understand. Herma? Hermi? Hermeneutics? Don’t ask me what they are.
The training is changing again. It is being made a master’s degree instead of a bachelor’s one. People won’t be allowed to join the course unless they are already graduates (well, that rules out the apostles and many fine clergy in the twenty centuries since).
Perhaps the new course will be different, perhaps there will be less hermy-thingys and more stuff to equip people for doing real stuff. Perhaps they will do psychology and other subjects that would be helpful during the day, perhaps the next generation won’t spend the years muddling through and getting by and trying not to get things too badly wrong.
Perhaps the new training will teach someone how to cope when the daddy of two little kiddies has died; teach what to say and what not to say; teach them how to go about things; how to cope with a country churchyard on an August afternoon; teach them useful stuff, because I have no idea.