New Appointments at SOLCe

SOLCeWe at SOLCe are delighted about the appointment of Helen Brown as Leader of Education.   We value highly the personal qualities and skills which she brings to SOLCe.  Helen’s role most closely relates to the traditional role of Principal.  She will be employed for 15 hours per week and will need to focus her attention on the essentials of the role and on her particular strengths.  Some of her 15 hours will be allocated to the work of the Spiritual Centre.  It is

Helen who will have responsibility for ordination students, who will work with the SSMG and who will provide the interface with New Church Conference.  Helen’s contribution will be mainly from home and she will visit the College intermittently for a few days at a time.  We recognise that it will be important for Helen to have other people in an Education Team for her to draw upon and coordinate.

Phil Wood has a 20 hour contract as Leader of the Spiritual Centre and some of his hours will be allocated to supporting Helen in educational activity within Conference.  We are also pleased that David Lomax has agreed to remain involved with SOLCe and has made an offer of support which will be immensely useful to Helen.

The Swedenborg Open Leaning Centre now has two aspects.  Firstly there is our traditional focus on education, ordination training and the support of Conference’s training needs.  Secondly there is the new venture of making connections with the local community and using our premises as a spiritual centre which can draw people to explore spirituality in a variety of ways.  There will be a supportive overlap between these two aspects of our work.  The two SOLCe roles of Leader of Education and Leader of the Spiritual Centre are of equal status.  The two appointees have met and both readily agree that they can envisage working well together.  They both started in their roles on November 1st.

The appointment of Phil Wood as Leader of the Spiritual Centre was a unanimous Council decision.  Most of us were present on interview day and we warmed to him very much.  He is not just a lovely, gentle and thoughtful person; he fulfils all our specified requirements.  He has more than a basic knowledge of Swedenborg which has built over many years and he is enthusiastic to communicate the relevance of Swedenborgian ideas.  We found him to be an engaging communicator who has a beautiful way with words and an easy use of bible imagery to illustrate his thinking.  In addition he displayed an amazing understanding of our current situation and of what we are hoping to achieve.

Phil comes from Bury and wants to move back to the area because he has two daughters in Radcliffe.  He has excellent formal qualifications; a B.A. in theology & religious studies and an M.A. in political theology.  His academic ability is clear.  He is widely read and quick to address new topics.   He is also a practical person who wants above all to allow his spirituality to flow into the ordinary things of life and to make connections with ordinary people where they are in ordinary places.  Phil has experience in lay worship leading, writing, lecturing, tutoring, conference and event organising, training of volunteers and much more.  He has experience of distance learning, teaching Christian ethics and of lay education in a denominational setting.  We will also benefit from his experience of helping people explore vocation and vision.  He is interested in spiritual accompaniment and in ‘accompanying the accompanier’.  Phil describes himself as a mystical Mennonite.  I understand he prefers a deeper and more mystical approach rather than a fundamentalist or evangelical approach.

It is not easy to summarise a person in a few words, especially somebody like Phil.  I know that we will all come to know him more as time goes by and we need to allow time for the picture to fill out and develop its full colour and focus.  We feel blessed to have Phil working with us and we are very excited to see SOLCe moving into this new phase.

The SOLCe Council and the SOLCe Leaders have also agreed to offer a place on the SOLCe team over the next 6 months to a self-employed Interfaith Minister living in North Manchester.  This will be a role in creative and community outreach.  Malaika runs peace workshops in Manchester and has gained accolades for her work in the community.  We feel that SOLCe has much to gain from her involvement.  She presents a regular local radio show and brings with her a strong network of contacts with schools, prisons, politicians, local authorities, community groups and spiritual groups around the region.  She is energetic, creative, inspiring and very enthusiastic to learn how she can bring Swedenborgian concepts into her work, how she can connect us with other organisations and how she can draw attention to the work we do.  Malaika fulfils the specification of SOLCe with her interest in using personal and psycho-spiritual rather than traditional church language to communicate spiritual ideas.  She has a Christian background and has worked with local churches creating an urban prayer movement and a Christian prayer walk linking churches in Manchester.  In addition she has worked closely with the Manchester Interfaith Network.  Malaika is keen to learn more about Swedenborg in a way which will support her work at SOLCe.  We are therefore planning a ‘Gems’ half day open afternoon workshop series which she will be attending as an introduction to New Church concepts.  The first workshop on December 12th will be on the theme of ‘Angels’.  The second workshop on January 9th will be on the theme of ‘Visioning’.  We will be advertising more details as soon as possible.

The induction day with our new team has taken place and we have an informal open afternoon planned for 18th November.  If you would like to meet Phil and Malaika and you are free to come we would be delighted to see you at the College.  [Please find details attached].  There will be another opportunity to join us at the College on the evening of Thursday December 12th at 7.00 p.m. when a Christmas Ceremony of Light will be taking place.  Everyone is welcome.

We are also pleased to announce that Melanie Bennett, the SOLCe administrator will be increasing her hours to support all the activities which are taking place and to be a first point of contact.  If you have any questions about the new structure or any planned events here at SOLCe please do ring or e-mail Melanie  tel 0161 766 2521   melanie.bennett@solce.org.uk .

Patricia Russell President

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