Controlled Overflow

Last year (2015) I finally went to University at the ripe old age of thirty-nine. It’s a long-ish story, but basically a couple of well timed nudges from good friends and trusted counsellors set me off on a path of pursuing higher education.

For the sake of dramatic tension, you probably ought to know that I finished school in 1993 and dropped out of my A-Levels before Christmas that same year, so it has been a LONG time since I was in full-time education. Having spent a couple of years doing a part-time, church-based course at Kings in Durham (roughly the equivalent of the first year of a degree) I applied to Cranmer Hall at Durham University and was accepted directly into the second year of their BA in theology, ministry and mission. Thanks to the remarkable generosity of Sir Peter Vardy, St John’s College at Durham University and Christ Central churches, I have somehow found myself studying at no personal expense.

Sheesh, the grace of God in this whole thing is nuts!

So I find myself commuting to Durham two and-a-half days a week (20min cycle to the station, 45min train journey from York, 15min walk the other end) and soaking in the wisdom of some incredible scholars and practitioners. My ‘day job’ is leading York City Church (a massive thanks is due to my co-elders, staff and the trustees of the church who not only agreed to let me do this crazy thing, but actively encouraged it) and while it is a stretch in terms of time and responsibility, a degree in theology, ministry and mission probably has more vocational overlap than a degree in sports science!

I was praying with Mark Alty (a co-elder at City Church) one morning last term, when this phrase ‘Controlled Overflow’ popped out. We were asking God for wisdom about how my degree might best bless and build up City Church and I had this impression of a reservoir. The reservoir has a dam wall that keeps water in, but there is also a controlled overflow that means water doesn’t just splurge out and flood the area (anyone who lives in York knows all about the damage uncontrolled overflow can do). That phrase just seemed to spark our imagination, so we’ve been chatting ever since as a team about what this ‘Controlled Overflow’ might look like. One cool thing we are trying for is making team decisions on what essay questions I tackle, on the basis of what will serve the church and our family of churches best in terms of preaching and teaching content. It’s a relatively small thing I guess, but it feels like it’s a way of making it our degree as a team and as a church rather than my degree.

And so this blog…My best intentions are that this blog is a means of regular controlled overflow. I’d like it to be an interface between life at Durham, York City Church, Christ Central churches and anyone else who cares to listen in to the conversation. It will contain thoughts on life, theology, ministry, studying, excerpts of essays and reviews as well as various other bits and pieces. The name- alanalogy.com- is a cheeky (and slightly cheesy) nod to a way of speaking about God called analogical theology. Analogical theology recognises that human language is a slightly sketchy signifier for speaking about God, so hopefully this blog will reflect that in creative, playful and non-draconian postings (and comments, please!)

Have fun reading and, if you feel the urge, please comment, tweet or post on BookFace.

Alan

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