Adventures in Ministry Studies in Wales  

By Eva Kortekaas, Netherlands Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (NUUF)

From May 20 to May 23, I joined ministry students from the UK, US, Ireland and the Czech Republic for a Residential at the Noddfa Retreat Centre in Penmaenmawr, North Wales. During a Residential, ministry students from the Unitarian College, mostly from The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, get intensive, practical training in the knowledge, skills and attitude needed to become a minister. At this Residential, we explored topics like theology of worship, group facilitation, community ministry and resilience, along with other topics of importance to a minister’s mental health and self-care. I even learned a little bit about the unique history of Welsh Unitarians. We listened to inspiring ministers, discussed possible scenarios in small groups and participated in a practical exercise or two.

Not only was the training inspiring, but Noddfa is truly a beautiful place. A retreat center run by sisters, it’s surrounded by lovely grounds with two labyrinths, a cosmic walk where you can meditate on the evolution of the universe, Earth and humanity, a fountain surrounded by benches; and if you climb the hill, you can have a beautiful view of the sea. Between the intensive sessions, this was a beautiful place to relax… at least for the first two days when the weather cooperated. On the other two days, I preferred to curl up on the comfortable couch in the lounge. The sisters received us warmly; my room reminded me a little of an English grandmother’s room, and we were often joined in our sessions by the retreat’s two cats, Fifi and Lotti. Maybe they secretly wanted to become Unitarian minister cats? 😛

While the sessions and exercises were inspiring, and the surroundings were beautiful, I enjoyed most being together with ministry students from so many different places. We learned from each other, as we shared our specific traditions, talked about how things work in our contexts, and explored the joys and challenges we face on our paths to ministry. And of course, we also simply chatted and had fun with each other.

One other thing I learned that might interest EUU members is that Unitarian College also offers training for lay worship leaders. This page offers some general information: https://unitarian-college.org.uk/what-is-a-lay-worship-leader/. The full training has three levels and an online foundation course (the first level) will be starting on September 18. The course covers topics like developing your theology of worship, finding the right elements for the service, how to create a sermon and other practical matters. You can find more details about the foundation course at https://unitarian-college.org.uk/lay-worship-leadership-foundation-course-sept-2024/