Amongst the many horizons that have opened up to me in recent years, few have been more personally enriching and theologically challenging than academic administration. Yes. You are quite correct. Not a miss-print, nor a mind flip, not even a joke. AA. Not the Automobile Association, so hard pressed in the recent and returning climate of traffic paralysis. Not Alcoholics Anonymous, that wonderful organisation that, despite its faults and drawbacks, has drawn back many a life from the brink and enabled human beings to discover again their dignity, humanity and purpose. Not stranded motorists then, nor people at the end of the line all but destroyed by alcohol addiction - but something altogether more prosaic - AA, the discipline, skill, and ever recurring demands of ensuring that learning and teaching are up to scratch, quality assured, demonstrably effective. Academic Administration.
Now I admit I too have seen AA as an algae outbreak in the garden pond, until I realised it might instead be the aerator and filter that keeps the water healthy. Now yes - some academic admin is tedious but necessary, and some is tedious and repetitive and harder to justify. And there's too much of it. (Warning: two long sentences ahead!) But in thinking about theological education, and how to shape a curriculum for 21st Century Graduates in Theology, whose vocational trajectory is ministry of one kind or another, and for some, definitely pastoral ministry in the uniquely varied context of Scottish Baptist faith communities, the necessary clarity, scrutiny and rigour has come from thought disciplined by educational theory, ideas shaped by academic experience, and our limited small-world agendas pushed outwards by the requirement to demonstrate we know what we are doing! If theological education is to be taken seriously within the academy (and I refuse to have the word academic used always negatively, dismissively, pejoratively, as if loving God with our minds were not at least a quarter of what it means to love God at all!); so if theological education is to gain respectful hearing and serious consideration as a way of knowing, living and acting faithfully in our world, then it should not only survive in the academy, but earn the right to speak, be heard and make a difference to how we understand what a University is about.
That is why I'm spending much of my time with documentation, Module Descriptors, Programme Specifications, Regulatory Frameworks, QAA Handbooks, SCQF Articulations, Subject Benchmarks, and Annual Monitoring processes heavy on evaluative reflection. If AA is required of the Sciences and the Social Sciences, of Computing and Business, of Health and Engineering, then why not of Divinity? One particular area of increasing reflection in the wider HE sector is "Attributes of the 21st Century Graduate". Some of the work done here is very helpful in identifying the kinds of persons we ideally want to produce through an effective, distinctive and high quality course of personal and academic formation. So. What might be the attributes of the 21st Century Graduate in Theology and Pastoral Studies. Ideally, what kind of person should emerge from a Degree aimed at training people for ministry in the 21st Century?
From a lengthy process of consultation, reflection, and distillation I have formulated eight, which will form the basis of a paper I hope to have published soon. Do any of you readers want to have a go at suggesting attributes both essential and desirable, of the 21st Century Graduate in Theology and Pastoral Studies? You are allowed up to three.
By the way, to raise the issue during Advent might seem another AA - Advent Aberration brought on by seasonal over excitement; or AA - Altogether Annoying distraction from seasonal themes; or yet Another Argument not worth having before Christmas:)) Indulge me - make your suggestion a gesture of goodwill.....