This short paper is part of a forthcoming collection on ‘Learning theology while avoiding academic culture.’ (which I will from now refer to as ‘non-academic theology’) written by practitioners in England and Wales. Key elements of this are:
– Moving away from applying learned theology toward growing reflective practioners from their experience.
– Moving away from learning as abstract toward learning as ‘creating a future’
– Theology as an activism that takes us further into mission and social action
– Moving from ‘Knowing as learning’ to ‘Wisdom as doing’.
The 3D Course
The 3D Course (Developing Diocesan Disciples) is a key part of Lay Training and Formation within the Church of England Birmingham.
This is the major programme offered by the diocese for the development of discipleship and the building of confidence in faith for those who are already established in their Christian faith. It offers Christians the opportunity to meet in small groups to study the Bible, discuss issues of faith and life and to pray together.
During 30 weeks, people from a parish or from different churches learn together in a group taught by tutors who are selected from within the Diocese.
It is designed to help transform discipleship and enable participants to grow as confident followers of Jesus. 3D is a Bible based study course for established Christians who want to develop their understanding and discipleship.
Full details of 3D can be found here:
The desired outcomes of 3D for participants are:
A clearer overview of the Bible.
Knowledge of the key themes of the Bible.
More confidence to express their faith and to live it out in daily life.
A wider understanding of other Christians who come from different traditions and viewpoints.
A more developed sense of gifts and callings.
More awareness of sharing in the life of the Church, gathered together in prayer and sent out in service
3D is very popular in terms of the numbers of people who take part in it each year. Importantly, it is the gateway to Reader Training and the Offering Pastoral Care and Community Skills Course.
3D and Estates Parishes
There are a number of issues facing people from Outer Estate Parishes who wish to do 3D. These include:
– a heavy dependence on skills and being comfortable with literacy
– for most of the time, a reliance on very few learning styles. Learning is mainly carried out by discussion either in small or large groups, based on written biblical passages or course handouts. With two exceptions, the other learning styles recommended in the leader’s notes feel as if they are added on rather than integral to the Course
– a 30 week course is quite a commitment for people whose lives are often extremely pressurised. The Course expects preparation to be done each week. This involves skills in literacy
– the major understanding of discipleship seems to be around acquiring knowledge rather than practically following Jesus
These problems have been overcome whenever a tutor has been skilled enough to adapt the Course to the needs of participants from estate churches. St George’s, Newtown have adapted officially so that it fits the needs of people from cultures and backgrounds which are not British and for people who do not speak English as a first language.
I am very grateful that the Diocese have allowed me to have a go at ‘officially’ adapting 3D so that it fits the needs to people from estate churches. The idea is that I explore how it works with two groups at St Bede’s, Brandwood during this academic year. We review how it has gone and then incorporate as much of the learning points from this into the 3D materials for other people in the future.
I have used the following points as a means of making 3D fit people from estate parishes:
– use of stories. During the course, people have been encouraged to discern how their stories might fit into God’s story. I am very encouraged how, as the groups have formed and established good, supportive cultures, people have been clearly become more confident and able to share. This sort of story telling is a hallmark of estate culture.
– use of a variety of learning styles. We have tried as far as possible to use a variety of learning styles and to ensure that different ones feel integral to the Course, rather than added on. These have included role play, Godly Play, and learning by reflecting on things we have done. (I would normally have included an emphasis on video,
music and listening to spoken words, but someone in the groups has a disability which precludes this)
– ensuring that practical discipleship is a key ingredient of the Course. Two parts of 3D involve a visit to a Synagogue and a Passover meal. These are highlights for the participants. We are in the process of planning some practical actions of discipleship that participants can do as individuals or as a group which they can then reflect upon and learn from
– ensuring that people do not have to read
– recognising that it is unrealistic to expect people to do preparation
The two 3D groups have comprised of 18 people from 3 estate parishes, predominantly from St Bede’s, Brandwood. People have enjoyed it and at this stage (we have completed 17 out of 30 weeks) remain extremely committed to it.
It has formed people into loving, mutually supportive groups. It is clear that this is having a positive effect on the culture of St Bede’s. Several people who were on the fringes of the Church have been drawn into the centre. We are seeing people being increasingly focussed on discipleship and increasingly empowered (it should be noted that this is, of course, part of an ongoing process that includes the parish being engaged in Jesus Shaped People). We continue to be focussed on discipleship as loving and serving those around us, especially in our local community.
– Andy Delmege, February 2016