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The OCMS Week
A week in the life of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
The week begins with the daily papers arriving. These are placed on the kitchen table when the building is opened - at around 8.00am. Fresh milk for the staff and student teas and coffee is put in the fridge, and the lights go on. Everyone who comes in and out of the Centre signs in to help us comply with fire regulations, and at 9.30 the Senior Leadership Team meet to pray for the staff, students, partners and supporters. Some students who are in residence pop in on their way to a different library in the city, or settle themselves in one of the library carrels for the day. Often scholars will read the paper today, sent out in advance of the Seminar on Wednesday. This is a vital task for those in residence.
At 5pm, daily, staff and students are invited to the small group prayer-time (though there's space to make it big group prayer-time when more come along!). During this time we pray for the families and ministries and places of work of those who are studying here, but who are often thousands of miles from home and their loved-ones.
The second busiest day of the OCMS week, Tuesday is when we hold our open lecture. Scholars have a mandatory number of lectures and/or seminars they have to attend a year, both to ensure they get exposed to a broad variety of research methods and skills, and to meet stringent validation and visa regulations. The majority of those invited to speak at a Montagu Barker Lecture are from outside the centre, and the subject range is enormous. The lecture is followed by questions, and then by tea and coffee and informal discussions about the subject.
Many scholars will take time on a Tuesday to see their in-house mentor or supervisor. Carrels are at a premium and the kitchen buzzes at lunchtime with folks sitting chatting as they eat. Officially the day draws to a close with prayers at 5pm, but the lights carry on burning as scholars stretch the day's study as late as the staff will allow. Which can sometimes be very late indeed!
Wednesday is community day for OCMS. Chapel starts at 9.30 prompt, usually with the call of a drum. Led by a different member of staff, faculty or a scholar each week, the cultural flavour of worship varies each week. Our speakers come from outside the immediate community and from inside and the quality of preaching at this service is consistently high and a source of delight and spiritual sustenance for those who work and those who study at OCMS. Prayer requests and answers are shared, and usually we have a time of either small group or quiet individual prayer - people are free to pray as they find comfortable. And news is shared, of those who have arrived that week, and those who have completed their annual residency, of alumni and partner organisations and of events of interest.
After tea, coffee and informal fellowship following Chapel, at 11am the weekly Student Seminar commences. Led by an OCMS scholar, participants must have read the advance paper and come prepared to contribute in the form of listening, asking points of clarification or questions and offering different perspectives or insights into the subject area or the methodologies being discussed.
The seminar is followed at 1pm with the weekly community lunch, served by Flora. Staff and students alike take this opportunity to introduce guests to the OCMS community, and often supervisors will try to come in for meetings on a Wednesday afternoon so they can take advantage of the delights of the community meal as well as see their students. At 5pm, a group meets to pray.
Generally a quieter day, there are nonetheless meetings that can take place today as on any day. A student may meet a supervisor, or there may be other visitors to the Centre, or maintenance work or the like. Scholars enjoy the relative peace and quiet, or take themselves to one of the other city libraries to borrow books and journals from other parts of the Oxford University Library.
At 10.30 the Women's Group meets in the Faculty room. This is for female scholars, the wives of students and faculty, female staff and female supervisors and any other women who are part of the OCMS community. It is a time of gentle sharing, much laughter, great understanding and prayerful support.
Again, at 5pm, a group meets to pray.
On a Friday Andy Buck is in the building. He is our IT consultant and the person who helps to connect students to the wifi and adresses issues with the internet cafe, the servers and staff computers. New and returning students in particular need to schedule a meeting with Andy if they want to get their computer checked for viruses or connected to the system in any way. This is generally the quietest day of the week in the building. But still there are students in the carrels and some meetings take place in the faculty or seminar rooms if, for example, supporters come in to visit or the validation team are in for a visit or the such like. A drum calls the regular 5pm prayer-attendees together for the last prayer meeting of the week.
Saturday and Sunday
OCMS is not officially open these days, but when a member of staff is coming in, which is not uncommon, then particularly on a Saturday the library can be open for our own scholars to use the library. All students are warmly encouraged to attend a local church on a Sunday, and to take some rest and time to think and pray. This is as important an element of the study programme as the lectures, meetings with supervisors and community lunch. It helps to prepare us all for the next week ahead.