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2013 Conference

Culture Context & Community in Field Education

DATES: 2-4 December 2013

PLACE: Laidlaw College, Auckland

Download the booklet (PDF): ANZATFE 2013 Booklet


The Australia – New Zealand Association of Theological Field Educators gathered at Vaughan Park conference centre in Auckland in December 2013 to explore the how issues of context, culture and community impact formation for Christian ministry in the 21st Century. It was an opportunity to engage with new ideas, network and gather resources that will strengthen leadership formation in our colleges, churches and communities.



Keynote Addresses


Mark Nichols   
Mark Nichols is Executive Director, Faculty with the Open Polytechnic, a role he accepted following three years with Laidlaw College as E-Learning Specialist. Mark is in the finishing stages of a PhD through the University of Otago, investigating the spiritual formation experiences of on-campus and distance degree students. His career has been characterised by distance education and online learning for the past 15 years, following his online graduation (in pyjamas) from the Open University in 2001.


Keynote Address: Better you stay where you are: Theological distance education and spiritual formation
Theological distance education is often criticised on the grounds of students not being spiritually formed through the on-campus or residential experience. However the grounds for this criticism seldom draws on a comparison of distance and on-campus students, nor investigation of how distance students perceive their formational experiences. Much of the criticism, it is apparent, is based on posturing rather than proof.

This presentation reports on a mixed-mode investigation of Laidlaw College students who had completed 60 credits of their degree-level study (the presenter’s PhD thesis). Students were surveyed as to their spiritual maturity and likely further growth, and some were interviewed to learn more about the dynamics of their spiritual formation during study.

The results challenge the perceptions of formational experience of distance students, and the assumptions made about the benefits of on-campus study. Theological distance education, done well, has the potential to be the optimal means of spiritual formation and also reclaim theological study as an academic means of developing wisdom for life. The presentation concludes with a vision for theological distance education with the potential to solve many of the tensions inherent to traditional theological education.



Rev Mark Johnston
Mark serves as the Auckland Coordinator for Knox Centre of Ministry and Leadership. Formerly he worked as a teacher, staffworker with TSCF. He has also served as a Presbyterian Minister in Wellington and a Community Minister in Aberdeen, Scotland with the Church of Scotland. Mark is married with 1 high schooler and 2 adult children. He enjoys neighbourhood living and renovating an old apartment in centre of Auckland.

Keynote address: Renovating Ordained Leadership Formation in the New Zealand Presbyterian movement



George Wieland
Dr George Wieland is the Director of Mission Research and Training at Carey Baptist College, Auckland. Prior to taking up that role in 2012 he taught Biblical Studies at Carey, Auckland University and the Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School. He has published several books and articles on Biblical and Applied Theological topics. He travels frequently, particularly within Asia, partnering with local churches and mission and development personnel. George and his wife Jo and their family came to New Zealand from Scotland in 1999 after periods of mission in Brazil and pastoral ministry in the UK.


Keynote address: How does a teacher learn? An uncomfortable cross-cultural experience
The apostle Peter’s encounter with the gentile military officer Cornelius occupies a significant place in the unfolding narrative of the Book of Acts. It is a story of transformative learning involving subversive communication, fractured paradigms, boundary crossing, liminality and re-theologizing in the light of what has been observed and experienced in a cross-cultural context. Peter’s learning becomes the catalyst for far-reaching change in his community of faith and its practice in the world. How could such learning be experienced in our Theological Field Education? Or by us as Theological Field Educators?




Session 1
Ministry in an Agrarian Context: The need for contextualisation and a model to teach it
This session will expose participants to the extraordinary challenges farmers face in their honourable mission of growing food while being responsible stewards of the earth and facing the obstacles – natural, political, social and practical – that challenge that mission.
Christian ministry in an agrarian context needs to be sympathetic to the challenges of contemporary rural life. “A Rural Immersion” is one learning model for training people to work in that context. This consists of a live-in guided orientation to a broad slice of rural life. Other models may be explored or suggested as participants wrestle with rural contextualisation as a model for other contexts.
Geoff Leslie is a long-term rural pastor and DMin student researching “The Working Theology of Australian Farmers: What Makes for Sustainability?”


Formation for a multi-cultural church
The challenges of preparing for ministry in a multi-cultural and theologically diverse church are real for minority and dominant culture students who are forming a ministerial identity inclusive of perspectives of other ethnic cultures. Students of minority cultures are often constrained to work within the dominant culture but hold to their own and other cultural values. Students need to learn to negotiate the varieties of values around issues such as leadership, time, divergent theologies, family values, and ministerial identity. In our seminar we will share insights gained from our experiences in the field education and formation programme in the Uniting Church in Melbourne, as students are challenged with aspects of their own culture and their own understanding of the meaning of ministry, to become ministers in a multi-cultural church. An interactive mode will give opportunity to learn from other’s experience as well.
Christine Sorensen, Formation Coordinator and Sue Withers, Supervised Theological Field Education Coordinator, Centre for Theology & Ministry


Becoming who I am: Exploring spiritual foundations for transformation
At the core of formation work is the identity of the individual: the true self. This true self is the likeness and image of Christ, the gift of God’s self through me to the world. How can we discover the unique shape of this identity for each of us in our lives? How can we work with the identity we discover in ways that enliven and empower us in our ministry? This seminar will offer insights to help candidates for ordination to ground their self-identity, their spirituality, and ultimately, their ministry, in the person of Jesus.
Rev Roslyn H Wright, Director of Field Education at Whitley College


Session 2
Building Collaborative Learning Communities: Convergence of Academy and Parish
How can the richness of the academy and the wisdom of the parish inform one another? Is there a way to build a conversation that brings the best of both worlds together in a way that forms reflective practitioners and grounds the academy in its context? This workshop will introduce a reflective process that fosters dialogical learning between both academy and parish and draw on examples from its use by Engage – Laidlaw centre for Church leadership.
Graeme & Linda Flett (National Internship Coordinators – Laidlaw College)


Field Education as a springboard for the development of lifelong reflective community.
Is it possible that seeds sown during Field Education programs can bear long term fruit in an individual, or even a denomination’s vocational habits? In Perth, Western Australia we have been intentionally bridging certain field education practices with ministry best practice. This workshop will present an exploration of local stories spanning three generations of ministry in our region, and their influence on this strategy. Knowing the depth and breadth of story that will be in this gathering of field educators, the workshop will also draw on the experience and story of those present. Weaving theory, strategy and experience together, a tapestry of ideas and wisdom will be developed to foster life-long reflective community amongst ministers.
Monica O’Neil (Vose Leadership)


Maximising the transformational potential of short-term mission trips
Mission-lite for the privileged? Neo-colonial arrogance? Short-Term Mission Trips have been severely criticised, but there are also reports of life-changing experiences for some participants, and testimonies of some hosts to beneficial outcomes. This workshop will consider how to take the critiques into account in facilitating cross-cultural field education trips. It will be suggested that intentional journeys with attentiveness to God and to others can contribute both to the learning and transformation of participants and to the cultivation of intercultural and transnational relationships that have potential significance for the life and mission of Christian communities in an increasingly interconnected world.
George Wieland


Session 3
From place to place: A comparative study of three models of workplace formation for theological students based at one campus
The theological education sector recognises that one of the key and growing contexts for transformative theological education is workplace or service learning. This is not just about providing unstructured “ministry experience” but placing and supervising students in a service context and inviting thoughtful reflection on what they experience and learn, and integration with their broader studies. The sector needs on-going analysis in how best to place learners in stretching contexts to apprentice them as leaders. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of workplace learning in three courses and proposes implications for integrated practical placements and learning-in-context pedagogy for other places.
Daren Cronshaw and Andrew Menzies (Stirling Theological College)


Seeing through the glass less dimly
Field education typically involves reflection on action. How can we help students harvest more of the learning available through their experiences and reflect on them with greater reliability? How can we help students understand their actions through the ‘eyes’ of others who may bring a different cultural lens? In this workshop David Burke introduces an approach to reflection that draws on action science and notions of framing.
David Burke, Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney, Australia (


Theological eDucation: Exploiting the opportunities for online learning
This workshop will explore how online tools provide opportunities for theological education. There is more to online education than accessibility, reducing costs and moving with the times; far from being a poor cousin to on-campus tuition, effective online theological education has the potential to re-ground spiritual formation and re-contextualise discipleship. The workshop will consider a ‘big picture’ perspective of what online theological education might achieve, while also providing opportunity to explore how content, discussion, and assessment might be re-imagined with the use of online tools.
Mark Nichols


Additional session
Assessing intercultural readiness: identifying areas for growth through cross-cultural field education.

The value of cross-cultural field education can be enhanced by identifying areas of potential growth that may be addressed in preparation for and supervision in a cross-cultural practicum. This workshop will introduce the GoCulture intercultural readiness assessment tool that is used internationally to predict success and challenges in cross-cultural transition and engagement, with examples from the use of the tool with students on the Carey Baptist College Mission Track.
Jo Wieland

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