The Revd Dr Michael Wright

Dual Role

 

Biography: Dual Role

 

I still wonder about how I arrived at Wells Theological College in 1965. The short answer is that inspirational teachers nurtured my growing interest in religious studies and archaeology. So when I left school I read theology with the intention of then wandering off and joining a dig that would unearth some cultural antiquity, hidden scrolls or a Rosetta Stone, that was of great value to the world. What actually happened was a growing sense of vocation, tested and accepted for the Anglican ministry. Wells was simply a recommendation; but it influenced the rest of my life. 

 

Two things happened. First was an acute sense of place and tradition: not difficult when you reside in the oldest lived-in street in Europe and worship in the Cathedral’s undercroft, a still place, ideally suited for plainsong and meditation. Then came  ‘teaching week’ - school placements that were compulsory for all students - and an unexpected but irresistible feeling that this was where I was heading. At such an early stage in my training, this had serious implications, especially for an organisation that centred on the parochial ministry. But times were changing and support came from an enlightened principal and the Church Commissioners, who funded a postgraduate course in education alongside my training for the ministry.

 

The 1960s were a time of ferment and change and there was no exemption for the Church. John Robinson’s Honest to God and the secular–to–sacred meditations of Michel Quoist resonated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s notion of secular holiness and his call for religion-less Christianity. It signalled a time of reflection and re-alignment: a new form of engagement with the world. This engagement was fuelled by notions of freedom and responsibility, founded on the existentialist views of writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre; and resonated with an innovative perception of courage that enabled a person to stand alone in the face of anxiety (Tillich’s Courage to Be). Crucially, Martin Buber’s I and Thou explored the essence of human relations as a pathway that ultimately and profoundly leads to God. These ideas combined with contemporary concepts of specialist ministries and worker-priests to produce a heady mix of opportunity and expectancy.

 

In this scenario, I felt drawn to the that point of the interface where notions of being ‘in the world’ butt up to the realities of being ‘of the world’. A ministry here, outside of traditional structures, seemed energising and in a phrase of the day, ‘avant-garde’. Education beckoned, and the opportunity to become involved in the development of young people during formative stages of their lives. Mary Warnock’s (1978) report encapsulated the vision: of an education service that enlarged knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding; that developed an awareness of moral values; that included a capacity for enjoyment and encouraged independence.

 

It was this vision of ministry that led me to ordination and the dual role of parish priest and assistant teacher (2 days per week) in the local secondary modern school. And for the last 40 years, I have moved—sometimes but not always—seamlessly between the demands of both roles. And alongside those who soar, I have been drawn to individuals on the margins, both young people and adults.

 

My first headship was at Eastmoor High School (Wakefield) where the previous headteacher had been dismissed. Next was the headship of Carleton High School (Pontefract), facing a second re-organisation in ten years. In such scenarios, issues surround the very heart of an organisation. Is teaching of the highest standard? Is the school inclusive, affirming, reconciling and just? So a mix of inter-related professional, social and spiritual dimensions - all to be addressed for the school to be successful.

 

Today, amid societal change and widespread perceptions of the dislocation of religion from spirituality—welcomed in many quarters—thought is being given to ’fresh expressions’ of being Church. Underpinning this shift is the adoption of what Sue Hope (2008) calls a ‘going spirituality’: seeking out new communities and interacting with a wider population in different ways. Uncharted waters lie ahead. Yet spiritual expression in a secular community is hardly a new idea. And for me, its exploration has led to enriching times in both my personal and professional life.

 

 

 

 

Home

Biography

Books

Papers

Presentations

Hensall Book

Biography

Early Days

 

Dual Role

New Direction

Global Reach

CV