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BBC Wales series shows year in the life of trainee priests

A new TV programme spends a year following ordinands from across Wales training for ministry at St Michael’s College, Cardiff

Ever wondered how priests are trained to serve in today’s communities? There’s a lot more to it than studying the Bible and learning how to compose sermons, as a television crew discovered when they spend a year following ordinands from across Wales training for ministry at St Michael’s College, Cardiff.

Their journey took them into prisons to help offenders, to schools to lead assemblies, to hospitals to visit sick and dying people, on the streets to feed the homeless and to the seat of government to campaign. Now a four-part documentary on BBC One Wales, starting on 15 October, captures the challenging but richly varied life those called to ministry can expect today.

Vicar Academy was made by an independent company, Presentable. Its team shadowed several full-time “ordinands” from St Michael’s College – Wales’ only theological college – who came from all corners of the country, with vastly different backgrounds and were at different stages on their three-year course to being ordained.

The series producer, Ian Durham, said: “We wanted to explore and understand the changes and challenges facing the Church in Wales through the eyes of the St Michael’s Ordinands who are its future.
“Through their individual and shared journeys we hope that the programmes will reveal not only the human face of the Church in Wales, but also show the Church as an institution to be an accessible and relevant entity with a - sometimes unexpected - core role in contemporary Welsh life.
“The overall hope is to move away from still commonly held public perception that opening fetes, drinking tea and eating cake are the primary roles for which those who are called to Ministry should be trained. Instead, we aim to truly reflect the varied, complex and impactful roles the ordinands, chaplains and clergy have to play in day to day Welsh life and culture, at a time when the Church in Wales itself is undergoing dramatic changes and challenges.”

The Principal of St Michael’s College, Revd Canon Peter Sedgwick, said he hoped the programme would inspire others to a life in church ministry. He said: “As this programme clearly shows, being a Christian minister is a demanding role and one which is changing fast. A pastor needs to be alongside people in the midst of life’s crises and celebrations. But they must also be community leaders, preachers and teachers – they are the public face of the church.

“I hope this programme will give viewers a more up-to-date impression of what today’s church is all about and perhaps inspire them to get involved in any way in which they feel called. I’m also very grateful to the students who took part as it’s not easy being the subject of a film at such a crucial time in your life.”

The programme features Alex Grace, 41, from the Diocese of St Davids, Steven Bunting, 31, a third year student from the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, Lorraine Badger-Watts, 36, features as a second year student from St Asaph Diocese, Marcus Zipperlen, 41, was also a second year student - from St Davids Diocese and Huw Bryant, 28, was a second-year student from Bangor Diocese.

Huw says:“It is my hope that through this documentary people will see us truly for who we are. Not people who claim to know all the answers, that say that our way is the only way. But people seeking truth and reason. People working out just what our faith means, and how our faith interacts with those around us.

"Yes, we must learn the practical issues of being a parish priest, how to take a Eucharist service, funeral, weddings, baptism and more. But more than that, we are searching for how we are able to reflect God's love to his creation through a life of service.”

Vicar Academy starts on 15 October 2012, 10.35pm, BBC One Wales


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