BTh Pathway Reflection

The BTh has the advantage of being the best of both worlds in that students have access to the divinity faculty of the University of Cambridge and a college as well as being taught across the Cambridge Theological Federation. I was on the BTh during 2017-2019 and it was a full, exciting and formative two years. The BTh includes a wide range of papers taught in lectures and supervisions and is assessed by coursework and examinations. The fast pace of work taught me to manage my time effectively and to learn the value of good enough when supervisions piled up, preventing me from agonising over the same piece of work for too long! The advantage of being in group supervisions was that we all benefitted from each other’s work and could share the workload between us, as well as having fruitful discussions with one another and the supervisor during the sessions.

 The unique thing about the BTh is the pastoral portfolio (BTH51 &BTH52) where students are assessed in Theological reflection, learning the skills for reflective practice and producing assessed work reflecting on recent placement experience. This meant that we learnt to join the dots between what we were doing in academic papers and in placement experience to gain new insight. In the first year we learnt the reflective practice models and produced one piece of written work. In the second year there are two longer submissions and there is the option to do one of these submissions in a creative medium – I decided that this was not for me and stuck to two essays! I did enjoy exploring this process in seminars with my fellow students and seeing the end results because in the second year each person whilst developing their work presents on their submissions throughout the year and receives feedback from their peers in developing it, meaning that we effectively supervise each other as well as receiving support from our Director of Pastoral Studies, modelling the reflective practise we are learning about. We also learnt the value of confidentiality and trusting one another with our own vulnerabilities as the process would often touch on issues within ourselves and called us to become more aware of our own role and voice within our experiences.

The academic vigour of the BTh made it a stimulating experience, but the emphasis on the practise of Christian ministry in supervision helped to connect the academics with the process of formation. We would receive the same lectures as the undergraduate students but the focus of our assessment and supervisions sometimes went in a different direction where required. In the Old Testament paper this was demonstrated in being asked to tackle the question ‘In what ways might the biblical interpretation of the exile in Babylon be a resource for Christian ministers?’ alongside more traditional questions such as ‘How does Ezekiel’s priestly heritage shape the message of Ezekiel?’  

Overall the BTh has been an excellent part of my formation giving me both an academic grounding in theology but focused on how this works in a ministry context, encouraging and equipping me to make connections between academic theology and practical experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the BTh and was privileged to experience it.

Vanessa Hadley-Spencer, final year ordinand from the Diocese of St Albans, due to begin serving her title in the parish of Christ Church Waltham Cross.

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