Over the course of this degree, I've studied a lot of medieval and early church stuff. From liturgy to buildings via clergy and vestments. It's amazing how relevant it is today as it was 500, 1000 or even 1500 years ago.
I suppose it's given me a greater depth of understanding why things are done a certain way, even in my own denomination. There's a connectedness with the past - with the church since the beginning. Also, if I need to explain why we do something or used to do something, I can explain it or know where to go to get that info.
A few weeks ago, towards the beginning of this semester, I was studying Irenaeus of Lyons. He was the first theologian to actually record some the whats and whys of the church. He also proposed there should be 4 gospels, which ones and why. It's good to get a handle on where that comes from. But, within days of the class on Irenaeus, I was in the pub with some biker friends. In conversation (as you do) I was asked why the bible was arranged the way it was and, particularly, why there were 4 gospels! And some people I know think history is irrelevant - I wonder how they would have answered that question. Even 1800 years later, what Irenaeus was writing is relevant, even to those with (at best) an tenuous connection with church.
But I have sort of wandered off on a tangent to why I began this post. In all the study I've done regarding clergy up until (at least) the reformation is that through the church people from very humble (ah, the academic speak for poor) backgrounds could better themselves and, possibly, enter into positions of influence they otherwise could not. And how is that relevant today?
Well, it struck me on Friday night it's sort of happened to me. My socio-economic background is such that my first couple of primary teachers pretty much wrote me off. Fortunately, half way through primary school, I began to be taught by a brilliant teacher and I was always encouraged to learn by my Mum. So, eventually I would gain a degree and get a decent job. But I wasn't moving in any spheres of influence.
Then, I began training for ministry. I wouldn't say I am influencing the great and the good, but I am still having tea and cake with them! In the last 2 weeks there have been (in church terms) fairly important stories and I have talked to all the leaders involved. 2 of the leaders I have genuinely have brew and a bun with. How did that happen? Church (of all flavours) is a small pond in leadership terms, in Scotland, so it's easy to meet other leaders. These are just the sort of waters I never thought I'd swim in. When it struck me, I was OOOO, WOW, how did that happen to someone like me?