United Reformed Church

Education for Ministry: Phase 1

Information on Education for Ministry: Phase 1 (EM1) is for students who have been accepted for ministerial training following attendance at an assessment conference and the successful completion of training at a Resource Centre for Learning.

EM1 covers the period between acceptance for ministerial training following an assessment conference, training at a Resource Centre for  Learning (RCL), and the satisfactory conclusion of that training for ministry, as agreed by the Assessment Board, leading to ordination/commissioning.

This content describes EM1 for stipendiary service and models 1-3 of non-stipendiary service.

Some of the specifics of EM1 for those training for the ministry of non-stipendiary service Model 4 (Word and Sacraments or Church Related Community Work) differ from the routes through EM1 described here, although candidates accepted for NSM4 EM1 will still relate to one of the three RCLs.

For more detail contact [email protected]

Throughout this content the word ‘minister’ is used to identify those in the ministry of Word and Sacraments and ministry of Church Related Community Work.

In the tabbed pages below you’ll find information about the process of allocating a Resource Centre for Learning, advice for those who are candidating for the ministry, and information on what financial support is available.

Education for Ministry Phase 1


Information about

Find out about the process of allocating a resource centre for learning, preparation students are required to make, the courses available, and who to contact for more information.

1.1 The United Reformed Church uses three Resource Centres for Learning (RCLs): Westminster College based in Cambridge; Northern College, based in Manchester; and the Scottish College, based in Glasgow. All three RCLs are used for the initial preparation and formation of candidates for ordination as a minister of Word and  Sacraments. Northern College has responsibility for the initial formation of candidates for commissioning to the ministry of Church Related Community Work.

Becoming a minister is a process of testing God’s call, which continues throughout the process of education for ministry. Preparing to inhabit the role of a minister is a careful combination of gaining practical experience, engaging with theological study and being open to spiritual growth and change. It is a lifelong process which does not end with the completion of Education for Ministry Phase 1 (EM1).

Any candidate recommended by the Assembly Assessment Board for initial preparation for the ministry of Word and Sacraments would be able to complete EM1 equally through any one of the RCLs. The decision about which RCL is right for each student is the responsibility of the Assessment Board.

1.2 A candidate may contact or visit any of the three RCLs before or after the assessment conference.

1.3 The URC will only financially support those candidates who have been accepted for EM1 by the Assembly Assessment Board. For those accepted for stipendiary ministry there will be a financial assessment, post-acceptance, and a grant may be awarded. Academic fees will be met by the URC, not the candidate. Relevant expenses will also be paid, including for those who do not qualify for a grant. Separate guidance is available here, and in print, from each synod’s candidating secretary which explains the financial support system available during EM1.

1.4 An adviser is offered through the Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries for any candidate or EM1 student who would like to discuss the processes they are undergoing with particular reference to black and minority ethnic concerns. The current advisers are Ms Karen Campbell and the Revd Andrew Mudharara (email: [email protected]).

1.5 At the assessment conference, an Education and Learning Board meets each candidate to discuss potential routes through EM1. They make the overall  recommendation on the EM1 route for the candidate in the event of being accepted by the Assessment Board. The minimum requirements to complete EM1 are set out below (see section 2.1 below).

1.6 The Education and Learning Board recommends the particular EM1 route which will best contribute towards providing a wellequipped ministry for the Church whilst also taking the needs of the student into account. To those ends, the board will have in mind the vocational needs and the circumstances of candidates.

1.7 Factors in the decision include:

a) The RCL setting which will best enable the student to develop personally and spiritually;
b) Any family or financial restrictions for the type or location of residence during EM1;
c) The most suitable programme of academic study, practical experience and formation;
d) The size and balance of the student body of each RCL at any particular time.

1.8 The decision with regard to which RCL a candidate will train at is made by the Assessment Board. Any change of RCL will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, the Education and Learning Board will consult with the Assessment Board, the student’s synod, and the RCL concerned. If a candidate decides to defer training, there is no guarantee that the college, and, in some circumstances, the course recommended will be the same and the candidate may be asked to return for a further training conversation.

1.9 Once the Assessment Board has accepted a candidate for EM1, the candidate will be invited to a meeting with the recommended RCL to decide on the detailed EM1 programme to be undertaken, to complete admission procedures, to discuss financial and housing matters (if appropriate), and to note any recommendations arising from the prior medical and psychological assessments.

2.1 To meet the minimum requirement for ordination or commissioning, accepted candidates commit to undertaking:

a) The satisfactory completion of the ‘Introduction to the United Reformed Church’ course which consists of four to seven sessions with a synod tutor, attendance at the
‘Our Church, United Reformed Church Ethos and History’ weekend, and completion of assignments;
b) The URC’s basic safeguarding training provided by the RCL for EM1 and the satisfactory completion of a DBS/PVG, before starting any placements in EM1;
c) A programme of study through one of the RCLs which could be full-time or part-time but which ensures that students have reached a minimum of a diploma of higher
education or a foundation degree in theology.
d) A minimum of 800 hours in supervised and assessed placement(s).
e) Participation in at least one summer school organised by the Education and Learning and Ministries departments during their period of EM1.

2.2 Every student is encouraged by their RCL to take advantage of opportunities to experience the world Church first-hand, through a placement.

2.3 The normal duration of EM1 is four years, either part-time or fulltime. This may be varied depending on the previous theological education of individuals, or their potential to benefit from further studies. Experience has shown that both candidates for ministry and the United Reformed Church are best served by EM1 programmes  of at least two years’ duration.

2.4 The decision about whether someone pursues EM1 full-time or part-time is shaped by the principle that the pattern of EM1 reflects the pattern of eventual ministry. Normally, people accepted for stipendiary service engage in EM1 full-time and people accepted for non-stipendiary service engage in EM1 part-time.

2.5 Personal circumstances sometimes mean that a candidate for stipendiary service is recommended to start EM1 part-time and then move to full-time mode  subsequently. There are also instances where someone preparing for non-stipendiary service is supported in EM1 full-time on an expenses-only basis. These are decisions taken by the Education and Learning Board during the assessment conference.

2.6 General Assembly requires candidates to attain, as a minimum, an undergraduate diploma in theology (2.1.c above). Many of those undertaking EM1 full-time will complete a theological degree at bachelor’s level. Work towards a master’s degree may be possible for those with a first degree in theology.

2.7 In exceptional circumstances it is possible for a student to carry work forward from EM1 and complete it after starting ministry (EM2), for example topping up diploma level study to achieve a bachelor’s degree, or finishing off a dissertation. However, this is not always a good idea. The early years of ministry can be fiercely busy, and the URC has its own learning programmes (EM2) for supporting new ministers. Any work that runs on from EM1 would need to be discussed carefully with the Secretary for Education and Learning and the EM2/3 Officer of the receiving synod. The synod is responsible for setting up new ministers’ programmes of learning, alongside the URC’s EM2 programme.

2.8 After ordination/commissioning, ministers will:

a) proceed into Education for Ministry Phase 2 (EM2) for an intentional programme of learning in the context of their first (normally) three years of service; and
b) undertake appropriate subsequent development as Education for Ministry Phase 3 (EM3) throughout the ministries entrusted to them.

Resource Centre for LearningAwardsDuration of EM1
recommended by
Assessment Board
Learning modeFull-time patternPart-time pattern
Westminster CollegeDiploma/BA/MA
Durham University;
BA/BTh/MPhil Cambridge University
2-4 years minimum (research degrees may involve additional periods of study)Classes with Cambridge Federation partners;
home-based training with block weeks at Westminster or fully residential at Westminster; contextual reflection; placements throughout; Living
Ministry programme
6-8 block weeks
per year; or weekly
commuting during term time; or termly commuting;
or residential in
Cambridge; year
round assignments/
3-4 block weeks/
weekends per year; year round assignments/
Scottish College Diploma/BD/MTh/PhD with University of Glasgow. Diploma, BA, MA with Scottish Episcopal Institute
(Durham Common Awards). Certificate with University
of Aberdeen for NSM4
2-4 years minimum (research degrees may involve additional periods of study) Formational programme through seminars,
residential events, visits and online teaching; academic programme with partners; contextual reflection; placements throughout
As set by the learning mode, engaged fulltime; year round placementsAs set by the learning mode, engaged part-time; year round placements
Northern CollegeDiploma/BA/MA (Durham Common Awards)

PhD: York St John's
2-4 years minimum (research degrees may involve additional periods of study) Classes with Luther King Centre partners; distance
learning; contextual
reflection; placements and assignments throughout
2 days per week
attendance at Luther
King Centre in term time; year-round placements.
Some mid-week and weekend study interchangeable
Part-time students will need to be available for 6 academic teaching weekends (online) and 3 or 4 other weekends of
attendance at LKC.

For further information about Education for Ministry Phase 1, please contact the Secretary for Education and Learning using the contact details below.

The United Reformed Church, 86 Tavistock Place,
Telephone: 020 7520 2720
Email: [email protected]

Resource Centres for Learning

Find out more about each of the three Resource Centres for Learning you can apply to.

Westminster College, Cambridge

Westminster College, Cambridge, is home to a vibrant community of learners rooted in prayer and worship. It offers a warm and welcoming environment in which formation for ministry takes place. Our programmes are delivered in partnership with the Cambridge Theological Federation (CTF), which is one of the world’s broadest and most diverse providers of theological engagement and encounter, serving more than 300 students from over 25 countries. The CTF consists of twelve institutions including three Anglican colleges representing the full breadth of the Church of England, alongside Orthodox, Methodist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic communities. It includes specialist research centres studying global Christian mission, interfaith dialogue, the interaction between science and religion, and public theology.

The Westminster campus is home to four of these Federation members as well as the administrative centre for the CTF. All other member Houses of the CTF are located within easy walking (or cycling) distance of Westminster. EM1 candidates usually follow programmes validated by the University of Durham, but there are also pathways involving study in the University of Cambridge.

EM1 pathways are shaped in discussion with the denomination and with candidates. We will always work with you to provide a programme that fits your circumstances as you explore your vocation and grow into your future role:

Option 1:

Stay where you live and come to Westminster for 8-9 intensive block weeks/weekends of academic and formational teaching per year, supported by online learning experiences and materials.

We’ll provide you with a study bedroom when you’re here. All our rooms are en-suite and the College is fully accessible. Throughout your training, placements will be arranged within a reasonable distance from where you live in order for you to gain practical experience which you will reflect on with peers and tutors. Each year the dates of the block weeks are set well in advance and students entering programmes taught in this way will know in good time when they are required to be in Cambridge. During their block weeks, home-based students benefit from the same diverse expertise as residential students. Beyond that, contact is maintained through placement visits and use of electronic media.

Option 2:

Keep your home but be resident at Westminster throughout the three terms (of 8-9 weeks at a time) during each year of the academic programme. We can provide you with either a wellappointed study bedroom or flat depending upon circumstances and availability. Some of our students have regularly returned home at weekends as well. You will undertake a number of shortterm placements, outside term time, in order to gain practical experience which you will reflect on with peers and tutors.

Option 3:

Move permanently to Cambridge for the duration of EM1. We have flats on site suitable for single students and couples. Students with children can be accommodated in rented housing and we can help you with introductions to letting agencies as well as the local school system. Short-term placements will be undertaken, outside term time, in order to gain practical experience which you will reflect on with tutors.

At Westminster, you will be part of a Christian community of shared prayer, worship, fellowship and hospitality. We delight in the diversity of the community which gathers daily at Westminster: lay and ordained; preparing for ministry and being refreshed in ministry; UK-based and from the global church. The community is further enriched by welcoming guests from ecumenical, interfaith, intercultural and international contexts.

During term-time, we gather at 8:30am every weekday to worship in the College chapel and the service is live-streamed to members of the community who are off-site. They in turn are able to lead prayers for those gathering in the chapel. The rhythm of worship includes Morning Prayer, celebrating the Lord’s Supper and studentled assessed services. Services vary in style and format, and are led by students and staff. We also spend time together in Bible study, with staff and students meeting as disciples to open God’s word and discover what it means for us today.

The Federation gathers for worship several times during the term and this is led by the member institutions in turn. Some of these services are conducted on-line while others are available only to those living in and around Cambridge. These services enable students to experience a broad range of liturgies and practices.

At Westminster, we believe that any kind of Christian service means being prepared for a future as yet unknown in a church and a world that is rapidly changing. As a result, we seek to equip and prepare people to be resilient and faithful, rooted in our heritage while confident enough to face the challenges of today’s world and embracing new opportunities for mission and service.

Formation and learning for ministry: focused on today’s contexts alongside the wisdom of many traditions

All Westminster students integrate placement-based learning with reflection and academic study across each year of their programme. Placement-based, hands-on learning is a central part of each one of our academic awards. On this foundation, we build the Living Ministry Programme (LMP): nine months placement in a pastorate under the supervision of a local minister. This placement is arranged in full consultation with each student. Alongside tutor visits to the placement, students return to Westminster for four block weeks during the LMP to reflect with peers and continue their formation with College tutors and invited practitioners. We feel that the LMP is an excellent way to transition from College life into the pastorate.

The academic programme is made up of classes in all the theological disciplines including biblical studies, Christian doctrine, church history, Christian ethics, while there are options to study courses in apologetics, Christian leadership, and inter-faith relations. The content and assessment are geared towards the church’s ministry and mission in the twenty-first century. This is augmented by Westminster’s formational ‘Enrichment Programme’, which includes short courses or topics relevant to ministry today. These include Mental Health First Aid, Bridge-Builders Conflict transformation and Diversity awareness. Specialist practitioners are invited to lead and Westminster students join with EM1 students from the other RCLs for these courses whenever possible.

The ecumenical experience at Westminster is one of learning, prayer, hospitality and socialising, which students and staff find both richly exciting and deeply challenging.

The CTF provides extensive resources for theological education and ministerial formation. Resources are increasingly being made available as e-books or online journals, but our students can borrow books from Westminster’s library and the libraries of other Federation Houses. When in Cambridge, students can worship in Federation chapels and eat in their dining rooms. The libraries of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide and the Woolf Institute for inter-faith dialogue are located on the Westminster campus. We also have access to Cambridge University and Divinity Faculty resources. Students following courses taught in block weeks can also borrow books from the different Houses which make up the Federation. Much of the teaching is planned and delivered jointly in the Federation, drawing on the expertise of some 40 theological teachers and most classes are attended by students from around the CTF.

Cambridge-based members of the Federation also meet regularly for worship and to share community life.

Westminster offers the benefits of a small and intimate community, where individual needs matter, along with a diverse range of academic programmes that can respond to those needs. There are several Federation programmes of study – all designed and taught with ministry in mind.

For up-to-date details of our academic awards visit the Westminster or Federation websites.

Programmes of study

1. The Common Awards in Theology, Ministry and Mission (Durham University)

These comprise a suite of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes taught by the Cambridge Theological Federation in partnership with Durham University and the Ministry Division of the Church of England. These are available on a full or part-time basis and are taught through intensive block-week modules or during academic terms. Assessment is through written work, presentations and creative submissions after each module. While the awards have been designed for the formation of ordination candidates and accredited ministers, they are also suitable for lay people from all denominations who wish to deepen their learning and understanding of Christian discipleship.

For those who have not previously studied theology (or a similar subject), the programmes for Common Awards are typically:

  • Certificate: one year’s study full-time, or two to three years part-time
  • Diploma: two years’ study full-time, or three to four years part-time
  • BA (Honours): three years’ study full-time, or four to six years part-time

For stipendiary Ministers and NSM1-3, the Diploma is the minimum requirement. NSM4 candidates might attend modules with other ministerial candidates, but they usually do not study for a particular academic award.

2. Bachelor of Theology for Ministry (BTh – Cambridge University)

This is a two-year programme of ministerial education, including both classroom and practical work, leading to a Cambridge University degree awarded through the Faculty of Divinity. To gain access to this programme, students need to have at least a high 2.1 in a previous degree (not necessarily in theology or a related subject), and they need also to be accepted by one of the Cambridge Colleges through a process managed by the CTF.

Learning a biblical language is a standard part of the programme and unseen examinations form a large part of the assessment.

3. BA in Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion (Tripos – Cambridge University)

Where a student has a strong academic record and would benefit from an intensive taught course in the more traditional disciplines of theology, Westminster students can be entered on to the traditional BA programme at Cambridge University.

This programme is always supplemented by pastoral studies, organised by Westminster College. As with the BTh, Tripos students have to be accepted by one of the Cambridge Colleges, while assessment includes examinations and some required biblical language classes.

4. Postgraduate Awards

Suitably qualified candidates for EM1, usually those holding a good initial degree in theology or a cognate subject, might be entered for one of a number of postgraduate awards available to Westminster students through the Federation.

MA in Theology, Ministry and Mission (Durham University)
This programme is validated by Durham University. It provides a practical and broad-based approach to the exploration of theology and ministry in a variety of settings and contexts. Modules range from more traditional areas of study to those exploring the challenges facing churches in the 21st century. It is possible to shape the modules chosen and the assessments undertaken so that the specific interests of a student are given special emphasis.

  • Graduate Diploma: one year’s study full-time, or two to three years part-time
  • MA: two years’ study full-time with various options for part-time study.

MPhil (Cambridge University)
Students who have completed the Cambridge BA or BTh might be eligible to register for the Cambridge MPhil, a taught programme which concentrates on one of the theological disciplines. Entry to the programme is subject to acceptance by the University and to one of the Cambridge Colleges.

All ministerial students at Westminster are expected to share fully in worshipping communities where they live. Further essential and major blocks of placement in church and social contexts are undertaken annually and for most students this will lead to a 9-month placement in a congregation through our Living Ministry Programme.

Students  following a block-week programme will undertake placements in a variety of different contexts according to their location and experience before undertaking their Living Ministry Programme placement. NSM Model IV students will follow a bespoke placement route discerned between the College and the synod in which they will serve. In addition, our students are all encouraged to undertake an international placement. Westminster has global connections and support for international placements and can be offered through the URC’s Belonging to the World Church initiative.

We take seriously the Church’s calling to mission, to serve God and make Christ known among our neighbours. Theology involves an understanding of human community and an imaginative vision of God’s varied ways of working in the world. Reflection on both is a vital part of formation for ministry and continuing discipleship. Placements offer contexts within congregations and such settings as prisons, hospitals, hospices and workplaces through which your theology is applied and refined and you are able to reflect on your gifts and learning.

Simon Cross

Second year student, homebased, attending block weeks. Studying for the Common Awards PGCert

‘One of the great advantages to the flexible pattern of training at Westminster College is that it takes into account the different circumstances of individual students, meaning that our formation is done in the context of training which is specific to our needs.

I am a ‘block week’ student, which means that I attend college for a few days at a time and do much of my work remotely. The flexibility of the system also means that my previous qualifications and experience were taken into account and I’ve been able to train in a way that builds on what I have done and addresses gaps in my knowledge. This year I’m doing a Post Graduate Certificate which allows me to access some teaching on subjects which are interesting and useful to me, this has been delivered by a mixture of block week teaching and remote learning. A further advantage of training at Westminster is that I’ve been able to get to meet a range of different people, the college is something of a melting pot really. Sabbatical visitors from overseas mix together with students and staff, as do other people who might be passing through: formation is done in the dining hall and the common room – not ‘just’ the classrooms.’

Maria JY Lee

First year student, living in Cambridge during the term. Studying for the Common Awards PGCert

‘I am a weekday student, meaning I stay at the college between Monday and Friday and go home at the weekend. This helps me to concentrate on studying while also having some breathing time at home. Living in Westminster College has given me opportunities to meet all kinds of people who make use of its facilities, while being part of the Cambridge Theological Federation (CTF) has enabled me to make multidenominational friends in Cambridge. CTF gatherings and services offer a taste of so many different ways of serving the Lord. This whole experience has enriched my theological thinking and has helped me to see how I can serve God in an ecumenical context.

Morning Prayer has become my essential spiritual vessel. We meet Monday to Friday during term for 15 minutes, led by either a student or one of the tutors. It is a time for thanksgiving, asking for wisdom, searching our hearts humbly and praying for each other. Each of us is taking a personal journey, e.g. full-time or part-time study, stipendiary or non-stipendiary ministry, NSM4, two, three or four years of studying. Personal circumstances and experience are taken into account. In my case, I am transferring from the ministry of Church Related Community Work to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.

I thank God, who led me to start my new journey at Westminster College, and all the people here have been incredibly supportive. Wherever your journey might be, Westminster College will be able to listen to your calling, pray with you, and guide you on the right path.’

Abigail Perrow

First year student, living in Cambridge during the term. Studying for the Common Awards BA

‘One of the best things about studying full time at Westminster is the community spirit. From the start, the friendliness of everyone really made me feel at home.The tutors are both knowledgable and approachable, always willing to offer support as needed. College lunches are a great time to get to know others, as are community socials. There’s something special about the chance to gather as equals, and learn from all who work in the building! Living in Westminster College has also allowed me to make full use of all that the city has to offer. There are opportunities to attend additional lectures and seminars, as well as to join in with events and services at the many local churches.

I attend a mixture of block and term time modules, allowing opportunities to spend quality time with all the Westminster first year students, as well as the chance to discuss topics with Anglican students from Ridley Hall and Westcott House (two Anglican colleges in Cambridge). So far, lectures have offered input into aspects of biblical studies, as well as church history, doctrine, and practical ministerial skills. I have also very much enjoyed college Bible Studies, which allow the chance to explore specific Bible passages in more detail. From learning ways to interpret the Psalms to having coffee with fellow students or conference attendees, I feel like I’ve learnt so much already – and it’s only just begun.’

Westminster College welcomes enquiries and is happy to discuss how our programmes can connect with your particular needs or to discuss any questions or concerns.

The Principal, Westminster College
Madingley Road

Telephone: 01223 330 633 (for the main College office)
Email: [email protected]

Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College, Glasgow

The Scottish College was founded as the Glasgow Theological Academy in 1811. Vera Kenmuir entered the College in 1926, graduating to become the first woman minister in Scotland. The Olympic athlete and missionary, Eric Liddell – of Chariots of Fire fame – was one of our students too.

Our College came about through a concern of early Scottish Congregationalists for an educated ministry and the development of the whole people of God in ministry and mission. Our roots lie in radical movements in Scottish political, social and Church life.

We seek to continue that ministry, following in – and developing – a spiritual and educational tradition that is rooted in life – and for life. We follow a pattern of preparing ministers ‘in the world, for service to the world’: This means that our ordinand students study for theological qualifications with educational partners, often local universities.

Ordinands take classes alongside students from other denominations, and often with ‘ordinary’ graduate and undergraduate students heading for a multiplicity of careers. Scottish College students bring their calling to ministry to be rooted and matured in the academic marketplace of ideas.

Our approach is also ‘with the whole Church, to serve the Church’: many elements of our in educational partnership with formational programme are also made available to members, Elders and local Church Leaders. Ministerial formation is integrated with the education of the whole people of God – learning together with and from one another.

A place of partnership

The College enjoys a close relationship with the National Synod of Scotland, which roots our work in a stimulating local context. Our community, however, comes from all over the United Reformed Church and beyond. The pandemic has accelerated the movement towards online meeting, complemented now with a full measure of ‘in person time’ together, bringing together the best of our old traditions with what we have learned in recent days. While distance learning technologies and possibilities are new, the challenges of distance are not. From north to south the churches in the National Synod of Scotland lie up to 300 miles apart, so we are used to maintaining fellowship and promoting learning across a broad geography.

Partnership, mutual learning and flexibility are characteristic of our programmes. Courses try to draw on history, literature, social sciences and a range of other  disciplines and experiences. We integrate traditional perspectives with more radical outlooks.

Academically and professionally, we have a significant interests in such fields as:

  • Fresh approaches to biblical study
  • Ministry with older people
  • Community work, development and grassroots movements
  • Story and narrative approaches in worship and education, pastoral care and organisational growth
  • Interdisciplinary ways of doing theology
  • Systems approaches to congregational life
  • Asian theologies
  • Political and social theologies
  • Engagement with civil society in dialogue, and in mission
  • Intercultural theology, and
  • Homiletics

Most ordinands will be required to obtain a theological qualification as part of their Education for Ministry Phase 1 (EM1) programme and we co-operate with partners who help us deliver this. For us, this is not unusual but the way that our ministerial preparation has been delivered for decades.

Our most usual partners are Glasgow University and the Scottish Episcopal Institute in Edinburgh. Our NSM4 students currently study with their Church of Scotland counterparts at Aberdeen University’s distance programme – and all join together for the College formational curriculum.

College staff contribute to teaching at the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Episcopal Institute. We have similarly worked with other universities, from Edinburgh to Cardiff. The aim in every case is to put together an appropriate and stimulating programme of academic and ecclesiastical formation for each of our students. While you study with a partner we remain closely supportive and involved in all aspects of your training.

We are able to offer rigorous and appropriate programmes, both general and specialist, across a range of levels, from diploma to doctoral opportunities. We work with every student, and with our partners, to determine the optimal course of formal study for each one – complementing our thematic in-house formation programme. Our aim is always to identify the best solution for each student.

Some examples of the most common courses for students to follow alongside their programme with us:

  • Bachelor of divinity degree – Often those who come to us without a prior degree will study for a divinity or theology degree at university.
  • Diploma in theology for ministry – This course is offered by our Episcopal partners, with input from Scottish College staff.
  • Graduate diploma in theology – A fast-track qualification for graduates in disciplines other than theology, taking the student to honours degree level in two years, part-time.
  • Master of divinity degree – this three-year programme, for graduates in disciplines other than divinity is offered by the University of Edinburgh.
  • Master of theology in ministry – for those who already have a degree in theology.
  • Theology and religion flexible learning programme – this programme, with the University of Aberdeen offers exit awards from Certificate in Higher Education all the way to Honours degree level.
  • There are also postgraduate research options in some of the most distinguished universities in these islands.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate for the EM1 student to pursue a non-university programme which is more focused on placement and reflective learning.

There are a number of exciting new programmes under development in which the Scottish College is involved. These include an innovative masters programme in  ministry being offered in both Glasgow and London.

Patterns of attendance

The College supports ordinand students following courses offered in a number of different modes. In every case, the College resources our students while they study with other partners, with a bespoke College programme for ordinands running alongside. This approach frees us to pursue a unique freshness and flexibility in our EM1 offering.

A theological qualification may be followed on the basis of full-time or part-time attendance, or distance learning. Each year, the dates of College modules are settled in consultation with the student community trying to ensure that these fit in with students’ other commitments. In recent years it has involved modules offered on three consecutive days per month in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Where necessary, non-local students stay in nearby hotel accommodation and have their expenses met by the URC.

In addition, the college is currently has worked hard to develop teaching and learning across mixed modes involving technology, social media and learning platforms. We believe that this will help build valuable and up-to-date skills for ministry.

Examples of themes explored in recent College formational programmes:

Café style approaches

  • Conversational cafés
  • Cafés as outreach and service
  • Café style worship
  • Death cafés
  • Night Church

A novel approach to faith: Discussing faith issues through Literature and Film

  • The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader
  • Behind God’s back by Harri Nykäänen
  • The Banshees of Inisherin


  • Multi-faceted celebration
  • The liturgical framework
  • Creative communion

The public square

  • Space for faith celebration?
  • Dialogue in the public square
  • Brexit and the book of Ruth
  • Slavery – then and now


  • Eco-theology
  • Myths of creation
  • Dinosaur Sunday – science with congregations
  • Crafts and composition


  • Weaving – integrating congregational life
  • Tapestries of life and longing
  • The Great Tapestry of Scotland

College community

College activities remain at the heart of the EM1 experience for ordinands. We nurture knowledge and understanding, prayer and meditation, skills and imagination through studying and talking together, in shared worship and reflection. Our aim is not only to prepare you for ministry but also to encourage personal and spiritual growth, discovering more and more of that abundant life to which all are called.

Students at the Scottish College are encouraged to participate in the College’s public theology programme, as well as the Scottish synod residential conferences for ministers.

Many modules are normally open courses – so we welcome Elders and members of churches, ministers undertaking continuing education and others as full participants. The college is a diverse group, enabling a rich mutual learning experience. Our integrated approach is intended both to capitalise on that range of experience and perspective and to prepare ordinands for being collaborative ministers. We seek to help break down barriers between different roles and responsibilities in the life of the church.

We don’t teach to a fixed pre-determined curriculum but, as a smaller community of learning, we can respond to individual interests and needs. To the maximum possible extent, we shape the curriculum around the needs, experience, and interest of the student.

In seeking to help future ministers and others nurture their creativity, we draw on many different disciplines, and a wide range of experiences. Our learning is rooted in conversation, and we hope, as Edicio de la Torre says, to help ‘birds learn to swim and fish to fly!’

Residential time together

Each year, we organise additional short residential times together around a theme. Overseas, we have connections with Scandinavia, India and Taiwan, with Ireland and Italy. Closer to home, we have travelled north to Orkney and south to Wales. Students have also been able to join study tours offered by New College, Edinburgh and Trinity College, Glasgow.

International/cross-cultural experience

The college encourages students to participate in exchange programmes and other opportunities that engage with the Church beyond these islands, and with  intercultural reflection more locally.

We support students who undertake Council for World Mission (CWM) programmes, for example. We are deepening links with international partners, offering further possibilities for exchange.

Placements are an indispensable element of EM1. These take place in a variety of settings – local churches (including ecumenical settings), hospitals and schools, prisons and workplaces.

Placements are structured to promote an experience of supported learning that allows the student to engage deeply with different ministry contexts. These are organised in cooperation with the ordinand’s sending synod. These can be close to or easily accessible from the ordinand’s home. Placements take place throughout a student’s years of study with us.

What if I am not based in Scotland and I can’t move there? Well, not all of our students are Scottish-based! Some students remain just where they are during training with Scottish College, whether that is on Scotland or further away. In recent years we have had students learn with us while living as far north as Inverness and as far south as Dorset. We have experience in making things work well for students wherever they live.

Of course, if it is practical for you, you may choose to move to Scotland for EM1. We believe that for some students from England and Wales a Scottish EM1 promises a real adventure of learning. If you need to move, either in Scotland or from further afield, the College can support you in finding accommodation and making necessary arrangements. We have experience in making things work well for those who live outwith our borders too!

For prospective students based in England or Wales, our pattern allows you both to have a taste of the Scottish context while also exploring further your home environment.

Roberta Ritson

Fourth-year student with Scottish College (and for three years at the Scottish Episcopal Institute), living at home and studying for non-stipendiary ministry

‘Back in 2018 I read a booklet just like this one and straight away I knew that Scottish College would be a good match. I was especially drawn to the creativity and flexibility of the curriculum. Cultural visits to Scotland’s cities and a New Year stay at The Bield, Perth are memorable, particularly for the depth of worship and developing cameraderie.

'Among other things, we have practised the art of storytelling for church contexts, read a novel about the brutality of the slave trade and considered how faith is inseparable from political matters today. We marked All Saints Day with a visit to Glasgow’s famous necropolis, paving the way to an in depth consideration of wholesome remembrance.

'Together we have adapted to the restrictive lockdown world. The limitations of gatherings and celebrations on zoom have not stemmed the warmth of Scottish College. My other learning base, the Scottish Episcopal Institute, also placed great emphasis on working as community with good levels of mutual support. We have all worked to sustain and even enhance this while missing face to face contact.

'The continual reflective practice courses are searching, throwing light on tiny details arising from placements. Personally speaking, the practical side of formation is the best. Lockdown itself has provided strong motivation to reach out to people in novel ways, showing that Christian hope, love and wisdom will prevail.’

Louise Sanders

Fourth-year student with Scottish College (and  for years one to three at the Scottish Episcopal Institute), living at home and studying for stipendiary ministry

‘For me, living in the north-east of England and studying with the Scottish College has been a perfect fit for me and my family. I undertake my academic studies with the Scottish Episcopal Institute and this has been a source of not only great learning and growth, but also the making of life-long friendships. The formational training undertaken with the College has helped me grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined and again, the friendships made are very much valued with a strong sense of community in both.

'Since the start of the pandemic, all residentials with both College and Insitutte have moved fully online but this has still been a time of great pastoral support from both  places. The staff and tutors have been available throughout with guidance and support. Online learning was very new to me but once I got used to it, it became second  nature and fits around family life very well.

'My placements have both been quite different and have enriched my learning, and I have enjoyed them both very much. Scottish College has been a place of great  support and learning, and I look forward to being challenged in new ways in the coming two years.’

In summary

Yes, Scotland is different. It has its own theological traditions, its own church and ecumenical life, its culture and history, its distinct institutions, political discourse and is experiencing a renaissance in much of its life. We face many of the same challenges as other nations, but we have our own slants on how to address them. It’s an exciting and ever-changing place to be.

Ordinands will find a welcome at Scottish College. If they are coming from afar they will be following a well-trodden path – dissenting ministers have come to Scotland for ministerial education for many centuries.

If you have any questions about the Scottish College, please contact the Principal.

Telephone: 0141 248 5382
Email: [email protected]

Northern College, Manchester

Northern College offers a range of full-time and part-time study options and would seek to tailor your course to suit individual learning needs and experience.

Our academic courses are taught alongside the development of denomination-specific and practical skills for future ministry, and include engagement in church and community placements.

Course assessment tasks are designed to explore how your developing theological understanding relates to your practical experiences. Inter-disciplinary work and creativity is encouraged, and all courses have a strong international dimension - learning from the world Church and other world faiths has a place in the curriculum.

Northern College was formed by the union of several historic, independent Congregational colleges. Today, we continue to serve the learning needs of the United Reformed Church and the Congregational Federation. We also welcome students from the Moravian Church. We are part of Luther King Centre (LKC) in Manchester, a Durham University Common Awards Theological Education Institution with a strong focus on contextual theology and inclusivity. LKC is only a short walk from the fabled ‘curry mile’ restaurant district in the city. Public transport links are excellent and convenient.

Diploma in Theology Ministry and Mission (TMM)

For Ministry of Word and Sacraments (MWS) students who are either undertaking part-time study, or who wish to take longer over their study, we offer a University of Durham diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission (TMM).

Modules are taught by tutors from Northern College, the partner colleges of LKC, and sometimes external tutors who have a particular specialism. Full-time students attend in a midweek format; there is also a weekend format primarily used by part-time students. It would normally take a part-time student four years of study to reach the diploma level.

Mid-week, a full-time student would take two to three years to reach the diploma, and the period of study agreed by the Education and Learning Panel of the Assessment Board would be completed with courses that do not form part of the external award. In either format the award is made at higher education level five and meets the requirements of the United Reformed Church for candidates for ordination.

Northern College are able to respond to requests to mix weekend and mid-week study to support particular family circumstances should the Education Panel at the Assessment Board agree to this.

The Durham diploma course includes modules in these areas, and the College would guide the choices to be made:

  • Studying theology contextually
  • Spirituality
  • Biblical studies and languages
  • Worship, preaching and pastoral care
  • Mission
  • Theological themes
  • Radical church traditions
  • Ethical thinking in context
  • Environmental issues
  • Service and leadership
  • Children, Young People and Family work
  • Community Development

BA in Theology Ministry and Mission (TMM)

The Education and Learning Board often recommend that full-time students at Northern College continue beyond diploma level to honours degree level and complete a University of Durham BA in TMM. This can easily be accommodated within a four-year, full-time, programme.

Students undertake the same modules as diploma candidates and then choose from further areas of study with options that include:

  • Christian homiletics
  • Old Testament texts
  • New Testament texts
  • Conflict transformation for churches
  • World-shaking mission
  • Encountering Islam
  • Art and theology
  • Other than Western approaches
  • Intersectional theologies
  • Society, Community and Mission
  • Personal study module (equivalent to one module)
  • A personal dissertation on a relevant topic (equivalent to two modules)

MA in Theology Ministry and Mission (TMM)

For full-time or part-time church ministry students who already have a degree in theology, it may be possible to progress to study for a University of Durham MA in  Theology Ministry and Mission, also taught by the staff team here at Luther King Centre.

The MA course includes the following possible study areas:

  • Methods in modern theology
  • Reflective practice
  • Liturgy and Spirituality
  • Preaching
  • Chaplaincy
  • Biblical study
  • Injustice and Empire
  • Other faith traditions
  • Mission
  • Embodied theology
  • Paul’s Gospel in Rome
  • A dissertation (is a requirement to complete the MA)

Students with University-level qualifications in subjects other than theology may be able to audit modules for one or two years, or study for the undergraduate certificate or diploma in TMM, to obtain a good grounding in contextually-rooted theology, and then register to undertake postgraduate work. It is possible to study for this option in the normal four-year EM1 programme.

Ministry of Church Related Community Work (CRCW) course

CRCW students normally follow a specially-devised four-year, full-time pathway with both community work modules and modules shared from the wider palette at LKC. It is possible to qualify with a diploma or BA from the University of Durham.

The community work pathway through these programmes is recognised as a  professional qualification in community development work by the English Standards Board for Community Development (ESB), as well as being the required qualification for CRCW ministry. Our course is regarded, by the ESB, as innovative, creative and a benchmark for other providers.

The CRCW course is timetabled to enable integration between the ministry of CRCW and ministry of Word and Sacraments (MWS) students; a number of MWS students now choose to take one or more CRCW courses as part of their diploma or degree.

The CRCW required courses are:

  • Foundations for Reflective Practice in Context
  • Community Development and the Church
  • Exploring Education for a Learning Church
  • Biblical Perspectives on Social Justice and Equality
  • History and Theology of Community Development and Organising
  • Theological Perspectives on Discrimination
  • Mission and Ministry in a Rural Context
  • Mission and Ministry in an Urban Context

If a student is completing a BA, the modules are made up with choices from the wider palette of subjects, and all students must undertake either a private study module, or a dissertation.

Research Degrees

Students who are registered elsewhere for research degrees may still undertake their EM1 at Northern College, and participate fully in the placement and college-time programmes.

Studying full-time

A typical week for a full-time MWS student would involve working for somewhere between 8 and 12 hours a week (the time increases as students progress through their courses) on church and community placements, normally nearer home, with two days’ attendance at college during teaching terms for classes, college time, tutorials and shared worship. The MA classes are taught on Mondays with options available for block-taught Winter- and Summer-Schools. The diploma/BA (midweek) programme is taught on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Some module options involve block teaching when classes are held over three or four consecutive days or are spread across four Saturdays. All students attend on Tuesdays for college time and tutorials whenever their academic sessions are taught. The weekly pattern of attendance creates community both within Northern College and with students from other colleges. They belong to many different denominations, and that includes the joy of studying alongside students from the World Church.

Most private study is likely to be done at home, though there are library facilities at LKC. Resources can be gathered from the library, and significant resources are available online. Arrangements can be made to use a university library near a student’s home.

Studying part-time

MWS students on the part-time diploma programme have academic teaching provided online for six weekends in the year. There is an onsite Northern College programme tailored to support your formation for your particular ministry.

Students will do much of their work at home, and courses, like those for full-time students, are centred around placements that will be arranged as near home as practically possible.

It is also possible to undertake the MA as a part-time student. Anyone who feels this might be the course for them is invited to contact the college (see below) and ask about the pattern of attendance. The timetable for MA modules involves some Monday teaching and some block teaching.

NSM Model 4

This still relatively-new pathway into self-supporting ministry is completely tailor-made. Taking one year full-time or two years part time, a portfolio approach based around the URC Marks of Ministry, your past experience and the synod-agreed role description will be developed. Attendance at college will include the three block weekends for the formational programme together with attendance/online teaching dependent upon your particular portfolio of training.

You would have a local supervisor, and learning objectives set in your church/pastorate/particular synod situation to build your experience.


We are looking forward to receiving students for this new pathway of training which has been developed in September 2024.

Each student’s prior experience and learning will be taken into consideration as we develop a portfolio of requirements for their EM1 period. Full recognition by The Endorsement and Quality Standards Board for Community Development Learning (ESB) will be required with modules available online. Students may need to take other modules, some of which may require onsite attendance. We would also require attendance at Luther King Centre for formational time, potentially three weekends a year, and for developing practical skills for community development which is a further weekend a year together, with some one- or two-day short courses during their EM1 period. Placement hours would be fulfilled either in a student’s workplace or another locally-organised and suitable community development opportunity. The training will take three years part time, and can be started at various times in the year by negotiation.

(Candidates interested in this form of ministry are strongly advised to contact the CRCW tutor, Revd Dr Noel Irwin, for further information as this course is developed [email protected])

Additional courses

All students are required to undertake formational courses that are not part of their academic qualification. What we call ‘college time’ is the heart of this programme and there is a carefully-designed, four-year programme to support development towards ministry. There are also additional required courses to be taken during the period of study which are scheduled according to students’ availability. Currently these are:

  • Safeguarding of children and adults at risk (undertaken before you begin at Northern College)
  • Safe boundaries in pastoral practice, and
  • Worship and the art of public speaking.

We also offer a short ‘worship basics’ course for students who have not previously undertaken courses on worship leading and lay preaching, or who do not feel confident in leading worship in the URC tradition. Although they do not always preach or lead services, CRCW students are welcome to participate. Students may decide for  themselves that the course will be helpful; occasionally, a tutor may recommend a student takes the course to support their development as a preacher and worship  leader.

MWS students normally have three placements (with full-time students an additional 'minor placemennt'):

  • first year – a placement in a church of another denomination;
  • second year – a ‘secular’ placement such as a chaplaincy;
  • over years three and four – a ‘major’ placement in a URC pastorate.

The activities and responsibilities experienced during these church placements are individually negotiated between student, placement supervisor and college tutor, to best fit the student’s learning needs and prior experience, and the opportunities offered by the placement setting. The time expectations for the placements increases during EM1 from 8 hours per week for full-time students in their first two years to 12 hours per week during their major placement.

Part-time students are expected to accumulate a minimum of 800 hours on placement during their four years of preparation for ministry, at an average of five hours per week.

Alongside this core structure of placements, full-time students are asked to develop a related community placement (years one, three and four) – perhaps in a school, or with a community group or chaplaincy, and a church placement alongside their secular placement (year two). The placement hours set out above are inclusive of such additional placements.

Full-time MWS students are encouraged to include a world Church placement outside the UK of a few weeks’ duration. Full-time students also spend six to ten weeks offering ministry in a vacant URC pastorate in the UK; this usually takes place during the summer at the end of their first or second year of preparation for ministry.

Those preparing for CRCW ministry will be based in substantial community work placements as close to their home as an appropriate placement can be found, but some travel should be expected.. During the four-year course, there will normally be two such placements, each lasting for two years. At least one of these will normally be in a church-related context.

The pattern of attendance at Northern College for both fulland part-time students means that they can continue to live in their existing homes. In recent years Northern College students have travelled to Manchester from: West Midlands, Nottingham, Darlington, Oxford, Reading, London, Kent, Surrey, the Lake District, Leeds and Sheffield as well as from closer areas: Liverpool, the Wirral, Blackburn and the Greater Manchester area. Students who wish to move to, or nearer, Manchester can discuss this with the education and learning panel during the Assembly assessment conference.

Anyone who lives more than 25 miles from Manchester qualifies for overnight accommodation in Luther King Centre (single rooms with en suite facilities) for either one or two nights each study week (or weekend).

In all cases, we arrange church and community placements as near as possible to your home.

Alice Gilbert studying full-time for CRCW ministry

‘Well what can I say about Northern College and life at Luther King Centre. From the start you are received into a warm, welcoming and supportive environment, where people are really friendly. I have found that there is so much support available, from paperwork and finance help, to the library.

If you are struggling to find something relevant all you have to do is ask. Plus, if you are finding things difficult or having problems with anything I have found that there is always a door open, with a listening ear, and help is offered.

Life at college is great, the learning opportunities we are given are fantastic. I have learnt so much from my modules and time in placement and being able to apply learning from one to the otherunderstanding in context is so important.

Being a CRCW I began my training on the weekend program before moving to midweek for my final two years. This meant I got to interact with more people and have a fuller picture of what was on offer.

Alongside learning is the privilege of studying and worshipping with those from other denominations and backgrounds, which brings a rich tapestry to the time spent here. The support that we give each other is an invaluable part of life during training, be it chatting and laughing at mealtimes or in the student kitchen, to trips out for dinner or the walk Sainsburys to buy it.’

Walt Johnson studying part-time for Ministry of Word and Sacraments in Non-Stipendiary Service (Model 2)

‘‘NSM’ students follow a different pathway with six intensive weekends’ online teaching per year, plus in-person ‘College Time’ and placements. The learning experience is enriched by studying alongside others from many different traditions in the wider Luther King Centre (LKC) community.I began my training in September 2019. NoCo responded superbly to the restrictions of the Covid pandemic. There is a good balance between online learning and in-person practical training. The Library facilities and access to additional online resources through the University of Durham are excellent.

Both administrative and teaching staff are immensely supportive. Every student comes to NoCo with a life-time of unique experiences and skills which form a bespoke learning plan. For me as a linguist, this means being able to learn Hebrew and Greek as additional courses. Like others on this learning pathway, I also have full-time employment and studies are interleaved with work and personal life. For me, the greatest and most difficult transition was laying down the considerable commitments in my sending church to give me the time and energy for my training.

I value that NoCo is small enough to offer its students a personal learning pathway, but large enough as part of a greater whole through the other URC RCLs and Luther King Centre to be part of a diverse learning community which resources us to respond to our calls to ministry relevantly to today’s context.

As my EM1 training draws to a close, I am pleased to write that my learning experience has been an excellent all-round preparation for future ministry.
CS Lewis’ Aslan said, “Do not dare not to dare!” Isaiah said, “Here, I am, send me!” Jesus said, “Come, follow me!”’’

Kate Wolsey studying full-time for Ministry of Word and Sacraments in Stipendiary Service

‘From From my first visit to Northern College during the candidating process I realised there was something special about the community here. Everyone who walks through the door receives a really warm welcome. Beginning EM1 meant big changes in my life, and I was apprehensive about how I would manage to complete my training being a busy Mum of four children. However, I quickly settled into college life, and I felt really at home. I had done academic study before but wasn’t sure if, at the grand old age of nearly 40, I would be able to be a successful student again. However, the tutors are all experts in their fields and employ a variety of teaching, methods to ensure everyone can learn and grow successfully.

There is a great balance of academic and practical placement work. Placements are arranged to ensure you get the experience you need in planning and leading worship, preaching and pastoral care. In my first year I was on placement with a local Anglican Church and this year (my second) I am with a local URC church.

Both these placements have given me a great perspective on wider church life, and I look forward to bringing this knowledge to my major placement in years three and four and into my future ministry. The academic support, pastoral care and administrative support are second to none. At Northern College, you are never left to deal with any problems alone.’

For more information, or to arrange an exploratory visit with us in Manchester, please contact the Revd Dr Adam J Scott.

Northern College
Luther King Centre
Brighton Grove
M14 5JP

Telephone: 0161 249 2506 (college); 0161 249 2530 (Principal)

Email: [email protected] or the college administrator via: [email protected]

Download this guidance

Candidating for Ministry

Find out more about the candidating process.

Introduction and calling

You may be reading this because you have been to an Enquirers’ Event or had a chat with your local Minister or Synod Moderator, in which case you have already begun to test that sense that God is calling you to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments or Church Related Community Work.

On the other hand, you may have picked up this leaflet at a synod event because you have already heard the call but have yet to share that with anyone else.

Whatever your situation, now is a good time to think about the series of conversations and interviews – in which you will share if you decide to test your call.

You will talk to your local Minister or Interim Moderator, Synod Moderator and/or Synod Candidating Secretary (where no Synod Moderator is in place). It is at this point you will need to meet the preassessment criteria (see below).

Your candidacy will need to be approved by your local church and synod, after which you will attend an Assessment Conference where the decision will be final, taken on whether you will be sent for training.

The different Councils of the Church are all represented in the process. The whole Church is involved because, as a Minister or Church Related Community Worker, you will not exist in isolation from other Church members. This is a testing time in more ways than one. The purpose of the conversations and interviews is to seek God’s will and calling in your life, not to interview you for a job.

The objects of the assessment of candidates are:

  • To explore the sense of call
  • To recognise individual qualities
  • To identify the potential to acquire further skills and knowledge through training

[General Assembly 1996]

The journey from the exploration of a call to ministry, through selection, training and introduction and then to ordination or commissioning is one of the most significant journeys that any Christian can make. It involves a willingness to open your life and your vocation to the testing of the Church. It demands a great deal in terms of commitment, vulnerability and openness.

It is a journey that, at every point, has no assured outcome and no pre-determined end. In itself it is a test of a person’s readiness to be shaped by the disciplines of the Church community and to engage in significant processes of discernment and searching.

At every step of the journey, both Church and candidate are engaged in testing a call and at every stage it may become apparent that a different path is the next step. At every point, both Church and candidate are seeking to work out what is right. The Church is committed to making any judgments about vocation with care and rigour, in a spirit of prayer and discernment, recognising that discernment is a two-way process.

Such decisions will need to be made at assessment conferences as they consider entry to training by Resource Centres for Learning as candidates take and progress through courses, and by local congregations or communities as they ask whether someone is called to a particular post or pastorate.

As decisions are made and oversight is exercised, the greatest care will be taken to act with justice and wisdom.

Those who engage in this journey are asked to be continually open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, acting through the councils, people and processes of the Church, as God’s people seek to listen for God’s will and to act in God’s name.

What do I do next?

The process for candidating falls broadly into two stages: the enquiry stage and the formal assessment stage.

Stage one

The Enquiry stage has two parts:

  • Meeting with your Minister or the Interim Moderator (where there is no minister) to explore you call;
  • Meeting with Synod Moderator/or Moderator’s deputy to give you further information about the process and to check eligibility for candidating. However, the Moderator has a responsibility to check that the potential candidate fulfils the basic age, membership and educational criteria agreed by General Assembly as well as to hear your sense of vocation. If a candidate does not meet any or all of the criteria, the Moderator should discuss what steps could be taken in order for the candidate to satisfy the criteria or what other forms of service the candidate might be encouraged to offer to the Church. You can contact the Synod Moderator via your Synod Office.

At any point during this stage of the process the potential candidate should be encouraged to attend an Enquirers’ Event. These are held twice a year and will give you, the enquirer, the opportunity to meet with those exercising ministry as well as to ask questions of the Secretary for Ministries and the Secretary for Education and Learning: [email protected]

All prospective enquirers and those who interview them must know which criteria have to be met before the formal process of assessment can begin.

The prospective enquirer needs to:

  • have been in membership of the United Reformed Church for at least two years prior to candidating;
  • conform to the age criteria applied in 2006 following the General Assembly resolution 1997 (the lower age criteria relate to training – 18 for Ministry of Word and Sacraments, 21 for Church Related Community work.) Candidates may begin the process before this lower age and young candidates should not be discouraged. The upper age criteria require application before a candidate’s 53rd birthday for stipendiary service. There are no upper age criteria for non-stipendiary service;
  • in the case of candidates for the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, have had a report written, on at least one service conducted and one sermon preached by an assessor appointed by Synod;
  • in the case of candidates for Church Related Community Work (CRCW), have experience of some form of community work. At the Assessment Conference these candidates will be asked to make a ten minute presentation on their understanding of CRCW ministry, answering the question ‘In what ways can our faith produce the actions that make a positive difference to people and their communities?’
  • understand, accept and be committed to the Basis of Union of the United Reformed Church, in particular the ordination and commissioning promises and the statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church;
  • have attended Church Meeting and Synod;
  • supply a reflective account of Church Meeting and Synod attended;
  • satisfy the required medical examination indicating fitness for training, ordained or commissioned;
  • complete the form relating to disclosure of criminal convictions and court orders.

In addition, prospective candidates must show they are able to undertake the academic aspects of ministerial training. The minimum requirements will be those agreed from time to time by General Assembly on the advice of the Education and Learning Committee. In order to be accepted as a candidate for training for both Stipendiary and Non-Stipendiary ministry, the candidate will need to have reached the following educational standard:

  • GCSE (Grade 9-4 in England or A*-C in Wales) or Scottish National 5 certificate (Grades A-C) in English Language or the equivalent (IELTS 6.5) as an essential prerequisite.

Plus one of the following:

  • 2 ‘A’ Levels;
  • 2 Scottish ‘Highers’;
  • A degree from a UK University, or equivalent;
  • 120 first degree credits from the Open University or other UK University working on a modular system;
  • An advanced GNVQ, involving a substantial quantity of discursive work (Level 3 and above);
  • A successful completion of the two-year Assembly Accredited Lay Preaching Course including the successful completion of the
    portfolio of evidence. Details of all the requirements can be found in the Handbook, available from: [email protected]
  • A successful completion of the one-two year Foundation Award in Theology, Mission and Ministry with the University of Durham through Northern College or Westminster College. Please speak with the Secretary for Education and Learning for further information;
  • Such professional qualifications or experience of life and work as, in the opinion of the Education and Learning Training Board, are of equivalent standard and provides a suitable foundation for training.

This pre-assessment phase needs to be undertaken carefully and unhurriedly and may take two or more years.

This pre-assessment phase needs to be undertaken carefully and unhurriedly and may take two or more years. The need to fulfil the pre-assessment criteria should not prevent prospective candidates from enquiring about the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments or Church Related Community Work and beginning to explore their sense of calling.

Support and co-operation from the local church, and synod should begin from the time of the initial enquiry. The pre-assessment phase is a time of growth which can be encouraged in several ways eg synods can arrange opportunities for prospective candidates to ‘shadow’ one or more ministers.

Remember, the Synod Moderator/or their deputy is responsible for checking and confirming that the pre-assessment criteria have been satisfied before the formal assessment process begins with the Church Meeting commendation and report.

Once the pre-assessment criteria have been met, the Synod Moderator/or Moderator’s deputy will pass your name to the Candidating Secretary. The Candidating Secretary will then send you the application form and other paperwork. It is at this point that the formal candidating process begins.

Stage two

The formal assessment process is made up of three decisions made by the three councils of the church:

1. Church Meeting commendation

If the Church Meeting recommends you, it will be asked to write a reference which is passed to the synod. If the decision is not to recommend, then you will not proceed to the next stage.

2. Synod interviews

If the Synod recommends you, it will pass your application and associated papers onto the Secretary for Ministries for the next available Assessment Conference. If the decision is not to recommend, then you will not proceed to the next stage.

Therefore, any candidate who goes on to the Assessment Conference goes sponsored by the synod. The structures of each synod will doubtless determine how the synod interviews are to be conducted. This means that the synods will need to oversee arrangements for an assessed service and any appropriate placement work or ‘shadowing’ for candidates for the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments. Visits to established CRCW posts and workers will need to be arranged for candidates for Church Related Community Work. Candidates will also be expected to attend both a Church Meeting and a Synod meeting and to write a reflection on both. Guidelines will be provided for how this should be done.

After the synod interview, the synod should ensure that the candidates who have not been accepted for training receive appropriate support. This may include an element of mentoring if the candidate has been advised to reapply after completing some further, wider exploration of the United Reformed Church.

3. The Assessment Board

The Board makes the final decisions about forwarding a candidate for training and the method of training taken after Assessment Conference interviews.

We don’t provide a list of questions but what might be helpful is to know the areas you will be assessed on. This is a long list but everything in it is important in a life of ministry. These criteria should be kept in mind by everyone involved in the assessment process and explored in depth at the Church Meeting, Synod and Assessment Board interviews.

The emphasis should be not on what is already known but on self-awareness and the desire and potential to learn more. If you are candidating for Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, reading the Marks of Ministry (Mission Council 2018) will be helpful. If you are candidating for Church Related Community Work ministry, reading the Core Competencies (2011) will be helpful. These papers can be obtained from your Candidating Secretary.


  • their Christian journey,
  • their devotional life,
  • their sense of call to the ministry of Word and Sacraments or Church Related Community Work,
  • how their understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith is developing,
  • their awareness of their own doctrinal position,
  • their acceptance of the diversity of positions held within the United Reformed Church.

Ministry of Word and Sacraments

  • their acceptance of the importance of worship, including all age worship, preaching and the sacraments
  • their understanding of ministry and of the promises to be made at ordination,
  • their awareness of the variety of ministerial situations and their willingness to serve in any of these,
  • their understanding of, and response to, the expectations placed on ministers,
  • their awareness of the attitudes and skills needed in pastoral care.

Church Related Community Work

  • their understanding of being a community development worker and a practical theologian.
  • their understanding of being an agent of local church transformation and change.
  • their understanding of being a social analyst, cultural researcher and an interpreter of power relationships.
  • their understanding of being an effective manager, collaborator, educator and storyteller.
  • their understanding of being a facilitator of and participant in worship.
  • their understanding of being an effective communicator, companion and listener.

Personal Development and Character

  • their concern for all creation,
  • their sense of the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and their experience of the Spirit’s enabling and sanctifying power,
  • how they reflect on the implications of ministry in the context of all their significant relationships,
  • their personal history and their ability to reflect on the way their experiences have influenced them,
  • their response to any situation in which they have faced risk or difficulty,
  • how they handle conflict,
  • their level of self-awareness, desire to grow towards human wholeness and their ability to learn from their own and others’ beliefs and experience,
  • how they value people, including those from whom they perceive they are different,
  • their potential to become competent in written and spoken communication,
  • their awareness of their own training and development needs,
  • their ability and willingness to respond positively to ministerial education and training,
  • how they organise and prioritise their present work and leisure time and their ability to relax,
  • their understanding of different styles of leadership and where each is most suitable

The Community of the Church

  • their reflective account of the Church, and Synod meetings they have attended;
  • their understanding and knowledge of the wider Reformed tradition;
  • their awareness of local ecumenical relationships and regional/national ecumenical initiatives;
  • their understanding of the ministry and mission of the whole people of God, with particular reference to their present church community.

The Church in the World

  • their understanding of the mission of the Church and how their ministry could contribute to it,
  • their understanding of issues in society and how the Church might respond to them,
  • their understanding of the relationship between Church, local and wider, and society.

Once your application form has been passed onto the Secretary for Ministries for the Assessment Board by the Synod Candidating Secretary you will hear from the  Ministries Office with details of the Assessment Conference and advising you that you will need to undergo psychometric testing with the Ministries preferred provider.

The objective is to reach a decision on behalf of the Church as to whether to send a candidate for training for the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments or Church Related Community Work. This is achieved by reaching a careful and balanced view of a candidate’s potential for ministry in the United Reformed Church and advice about appropriate training. Reaching such a decision is easier said than done, because subjective and personal elements in any assessment or person cannot be eradicated and should in fact find their place. The question ‘Can I see this person as my minister or CRCW?’ is a valid one. However, it is important that a judgement on a person’s suitability for ministry is more than just intuitive and is determined by an appraisal of a candidate’s potential to display and develop qualities and skills deemed necessary for ministry.

The Assessment Panel at an Assessment Conference is drawn from the Assessment Board appointed by the General Assembly. It includes experienced ordained, commissioned and lay members, those with particular gifts in counselling, personnel management, theological perception, those with personal knowledge of various styles of ministry, community development work and from differing theological stances. A panel will normally consist of four members, balanced as far as possible in the various categories. Each candidate will have two in-depth interviews with members of the panel working in pairs. The task is demanding, searching and at times deeply moving, and assessors are all too aware of the responsibility laid upon them.

The panel receives all the paperwork in the candidate’s application. Interviewers read these papers before meeting the candidate so that the interview can be conducted in the light of the individual’s concerns and personal statement.

Interviews take account of previous experience in the church and the community, the circumstances of a call, a candidate’s devotional life, expectation of future ministry and views about the training they feel they need. The application form and various references, including a report from the synod form the basis of discussion, but the conference provides the opportunity to go much deeper.

Often the candidates are faced with questions about their faith or themselves which have never occurred to them before, and it is clearly a learning process for them, let alone the assessors. For candidates for Church Related Community Work, the interviews will include a ten-minute presentation on their understanding of faith producing actions which make a positive difference to people and their communities.

All candidates will undergo:

  • Psychometric testing which evaluates your Personal Development. A professionally trained person in the field of Personal Development assists the Assessment Conference through appropriate tests and conversation in order to help evaluate potential and identify particular issues.
  • Participation in Group Exercises. All candidates take part in two group exercises which help to demonstrate their awareness of current issues, pastoral sensitivity and the ability to work collaboratively.

All candidates will also have an educational interview with the Education and Learning Board. The Education and Learning Board at an Assessment Conferences consists of representatives of the Resource Centres for Learning and the Education and Learning Committee. Board members meet with each candidate to discuss the training programme appropriate for the ministry for which the candidate is applying.

The following Code of Practice has been agreed by the General Assembly:

i) The Assessment Conferences shall take careful account of any needs expressed by a candidate. However, there are other factors which need to be taken into account:

a) The Resource Centre for Learning (RCL) setting which will best enable the student to develop personally and spiritually,
b) The kind of course most suitable;
c) The size and balance of the student body at any particular time,
d) The final choice is without prejudice to the admission procedures of the college.

A subsequent change of Resource Centre at the request of the candidate will only be recommended if good reasons can be clearly stated to all concerned.

ii) In the interest of all concerned, a candidate may contact or visit any of the three RCLs before the Assessment Conference.

Worship is an important part of the Assessment Conference and is led by the Chaplain.

Pastoral care is also exercised by a Chaplain, who is not part of the assessment process. The Chaplain’s role is to lead worship and be available to candidates for support and debriefing. The assessors are very much aware of the role of synods both before and after the Assessment Conference in ensuring that pastoral support is offered to all candidates, whether or not they are commended for training.

The Assessment Board may decide to invite the candidate to return to the next in-person Assessment Conference.

At the end of this Conference two decisions will have been made on behalf of the United Reformed Church, recognising that the Assessment Board has a mandate to do its work from General Assembly.

  • The first decision taken by the Assessment Board will be whether the candidate may or may not go forward for training.
  • If there is a positive recommendation it will be accompanied by a second decision taken by the Education and Learning Board as to the Resource Centre for Learning through  which the candidate (now a student) will be trained. The Education and Learning Board will also outline the nature of that training.

No candidate will be informed immediately of the decisions of the Assessment and Education and Learning Boards. Arrangements need to be made with the Secretary for Ministries for a meeting between representatives of the Synod Ministries Committee and the Assessment Board to discuss any implications of the decision reached regarding the candidate. This will take place within two weeks after the Assessment Conference and the candidate will be informed of the decision as soon as possible after that meeting, preferably on the same day.

An offer of training is subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary medical screening (as agreed by Mission Council in May 2011), attendance at the ‘You’re Welcome: An Introduction to the Ethos and History of the United Reformed Church’ course, and a satisfactory DBS/PVG.

Any appeal against the Assessment Board decision will be made by the candidate using the Assessment Board Appeal process and on the basis that the approved procedure has not been followed.

Candidates are free to reapply after two years.

The following flowchart helps illustrate the candidating process:

Candidating Process Flow Chart (PDF | 63kb)

A prayer for those exploring God’s call

Loving God
guide me as I seek your way for me;
When I am overwhelmed by the thought of my future
help me to search openly
and listen for your call.
Set before me the example of Jesus Christ;
Fill me with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit
that I may respond generously in loving service
with the special gifts you have given me
trusting in your grace.

© 2020 Nicola Furley-Smith

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Financial support for students

This information is intended for you as a candidate for ministry or as a student who has been accepted for Education for Ministry Phase 1 (EM1). It seeks to assist you to plan your finances both during EM1 and as you embark on ministry.

For more specific questions about your individual finances and estimates of what financial support you can expect during EM1 please contact the Revd Jenny Mills, Secretary for Education and Learning, who will be able to direct your enquiry accordingly: 07769 201 978, [email protected].

All EM1 students receive:

  • Academic course fees paid directly by the United Reformed Church (URC) to your Resource Centre for Learning (RCL)
  • Reimbursement for travel from home to RCL
  • A computer grant
  • A book and learning resource allowanceMembership fees of libraries close to home.

In addition, part-time students (and some full-time students not in receipt of grants) receive meals and overnight accommodation for days in your RCL associated with  the course. Depending on the result of their financial assessment, full-time students may also receive funding towards:

  • Meals in the RCL or a contribution towards meals
  • Accommodation in the RCL and/or a contribution towards mortgage or rent
  • Council tax, water charges and buildings insurance
  • Living expenses calculated according to whether you are single or part of a couple and how many children you have.

  • Your academic course fees as an EM1 student are paid directly by the United Reformed Church to the relevant RCL.
  • Your travel from home to the RCL (including RCL required events) and to/from and on placement are reimbursed at 25p per mile by car, 24p per mile by motorcycle, 20p per mile by bicycle, or the relevant public transport costs. 5p extra can be claimed per passenger by car or motorcycle.
  • You can apply for a computer grant for the purchase of computer equipment, for up to 75% of the cost up to a maximum of £500 during EM1. The relevant form for this is available and authorised through your RCL.
  • The membership fees for relevant libraries close to your home are reimbursable on the recommendation of your RCL.
  • Up to £300 each academic year may be claimed for books and other learning resources.
  • You will need to claim the expenses listed in bullet-points 2 to 5 (above) from your RCL, who will discuss with you the frequency and conditions for such claims. This system ensures that you have a known person at the RCL to whom you can relate immediately on matters of finance.

There are three reasons why you would find yourself being supported through the re-imbursement of eligible expenses:

a) You are undertaking EM1 on a part-time basis alongside your existing occupation because you have been accepted to train for ministry in non-stipendiary service,  including NSM Model 4.

b) Your particular circumstances mean that a part-time route has been recommended for at least part of your EM1 period, although you have been accepted for preparation for stipendiary service.

c) As a full-time student preparing for stipendiary service who seeks to be grant-maintained you have taken part in the Financial Assessment Scheme (FAS) described later in this guidance. The FAS has concluded that your personal and household income is sufficient to support you during EM1, with safety nets provided by the United Reformed Church against sudden changes in your circumstances.

For expenses-only EM1 students the United Reformed Church will cover the cost of your meals and overnight accommodation necessarily incurred in undertaking the agreed course. This is in addition to reimbursing the expenses listed in the section above.

The majority of candidates who are accepted to prepare for stipendiary service are expected to be full-time students and will therefore be eligible to apply for some financial support from the United Reformed Church for EM1.

You may be one of the people who comes to full-time EM1 following a number of years in well-paid secular employment. It is very important to understand that the level of financial support is not designed to enable you to maintain the lifestyle to which you may have become accustomed (eg running multiple cars or funding private schooling) without drawing on savings or other financial resources, such as a partner’s income.

Many will face a significant sacrifice in material well-being as a result of responding to God’s call to stipendiary service, and that will begin in EM1.

On the other hand, you may start EM1 at a time in your life when you have built up very few reserves and have had to live on a low income. The financial support is  intended to allow you to focus on your studies rather than worrying about making ends meet for your household.

As you prepare for EM1 you will need to compare your household expenditure with the grants and allowances available to you while you are in EM1 and to decide how a possible shortfall is to be met.

In doing this you will need to focus particularly on your housing arrangements. If you are a homeowner you may have to find ways to cover mortgage payments for the whole of the EM1 period. In light of this the church offers support to both owner/occupiers and those in rented accommodation.

It is also important to remember (even if retirement seems a long way in the future) that you and your partner may not qualify for retired ministers’ housing, and that a minister and their partner who have the finance necessary to provide for housing in their retirement (whether completely or as an equity share) would reasonably be expected to do so.

It is important that you understand the financial implications of your preparation for ministry as miscalculations can lead to unnecessary stress at a time when your  energy should be devoted primarily to your studies. If you foresee financial problems you ‘It is important that you understand the financial implications’ should discuss them in confidence with the person in your synod who acts as the candidating secretary, who may suggest that you seek further clarification.

If you are in any doubt  about who the candidating secretary is, your Synod Moderator (who in some synods acts as the candidating secretary) will advise on who to contact. You will also have an opportunity to discuss your finances in depth with the Financial Assessor as part of the Financial Assessment Scheme.

If you have accumulated debts prior to candidating for ministry you should consider how they are to be serviced and repaid. Even if you are accepted for EM1 it might be decided to delay the start of this until such time as any debt issues have been satisfactorily addressed. The higher your current income, the more you need to be aware of the remuneration package that will be yours when in stipendiary service, and to plan accordingly.

All forms of debt, in addition to mortgages, must be taken into consideration including: credit cards; car loans; home improvement loans; career development loans; individual voluntary agreements; protected trust deeds and any other personal debts.

While official loans taken out with the Student Loan Company must be taken into consideration for the long term picture, repayment of these are unlikely to be activated by the level of student support from the United Reformed Church.

It is important that any issues of debt are disclosed and discussed before acceptance for EM1. It is therefore essential that you seek advice as early as possible in the assessment process.

You are advised to seek independent financial advice and you may also consult the Revd Jenny Mills as an initial United Reformed Church contact on this issue: 07769 201 978, [email protected]

Although Education for Ministry Phase 1 comes before ministry, it is often appropriate to approach  financial planning by first considering the adjustments that will have to be made to live as a  stipendiary minister. Then attention can be given to the funds available for EM1 and how they will help to bridge the gap before a stipend is received.

Full details of finances in ministry are to be found in The Plan for Partnership in Ministerial  Remuneration.

There are various arrangements for accommodation during EM1. Accepted candidates are first  expected to fulfil certain requirements set by the Assembly Assessment Board. Once these have been completed there will be an early meeting with the designated RCL to discuss the details of your  academic programme and accommodation arrangements.

Some students may have to move in order to take up EM1. You are encouraged to read the  accompanying Information about Education for Ministry Phase 1 to gain a fuller picture of this.

If you need to move for EM1 you may apply for a grant to cover removal costs, if moving to unfurnished accommodation. This includes the actual cost of removal (normally three quotations are required with the lowest being accepted) plus a £500 resettlement grant. These arrangements are not applicable to students who move into furnished accommodation.

A variable, capped accommodation allowance is calculated for all students and included within the FAS calculations, taking into account whether you:

  • are in full-time occupancy of student accommodation provided by the RCL, or
  • pay commercial rent or have a mortgage, or • cannot access appropriate accommodation through the RCL, or
  • are allocated accommodation by the RCL which is normally only available for commercial rent.

As a student you are expected to house yourself as economically as possible. You should not enter into any kind of lease or mortgage arrangement, expecting that an accommodation allowance will be paid, without obtaining prior agreement from the RCL in consultation with the Secretary for Education and Learning.

It is not for the RCL or for the Education and Learning Committee to decide in what property a student should live, but it is for the Education and Learning Committee to set criteria and for the RCL to advise on the market rental rate and therefore the level of accommodation allowance that might be paid. The  current criteria of the Education and Learning Committee are set out in note 2 of Form FAS1, further down this page.

The allowance is based on the market rental rate in the vicinity of the RCL. If you are expected to live away from the RCL to undertake practical experience, any agreed additional rental and travelling costs will be met. If you choose to live away from the RCL for some reason, the accommodation allowance will be based on the lower of the market rental rate in the vicinity of the RCL and the area where you live.

Grants may be available to students from sources other than the United Reformed Church and students are expected to seek such support. Examples include grants for students in England and Wales from the Lady Hewley Trust, grants to students of the Scottish College from the Baxter Trust, and grants for students with particular learning needs due to disabilities.

Information and application forms about these grants can be obtained from your RCL.

Additional book grants may be given by some synods to their students. Contact your Synod Training Officer to find out more.

Missing National Insurance contributions during EM1 may result in students being unable to secure a full basic State Pension at retirement. The Finance Office of the United Reformed Church can provide information on this in your final year of study. Financial assistance towards the cost of some missing years' contributions may be available, and can be applied for up to 18 months after ordination/commissioning.

There is no system of financial support which is foolproof and the URC wants to take account of all reasonable personal needs. If, therefore, a special need arises which has the endorsement of your RCL, the URC can offer further financial support, through the Additional Support Grant. Approach your RCL in the first instance.

Financial Assessment Scheme (FAS)

These sections outline the system through which financial support for full-time EM1 students is assessed and agreed.

  • It takes into account the variations in personal circumstances of individual students, resulting in fair disbursements which give support to those who need it most.
  • It is based on regularly updated figures which are generated by a public body external to the United Reformed Church, while being adapted to United Reformed Church conditions.
  • It is intended to identify those students who would benefit from advice and guidance on financial matters, so as to start to equip them for their future service in the Church.

The FAS arrangements take into account your household income and expenditure while you are a student in EM1.

Your household expenditure is calculated using capped accommodation costs and non-accommodation expenditure factors adapted from figures published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (see FAS2, below). The Rowntree scale varies for households of different sizes. Overall limits on both the expenditure factors and the final grant are related to the annual ministerial stipend.

Your household income is included as actual income after tax and deduction of certain allowances.

The grant application is based on the difference between expenditure and income. If you have a household with a high income and/or low expenditure it could be that you are given support on an expenses-only basis during EM1.

There are three steps to FAS, intended to give you a clear and timely outcome for the level of support that you will receive from the United Reformed Church.

Step 1:  Completing the Assessment form

Having been accepted for EM1, you will be asked to complete the individual Financial Assessment form FAS1 (included later for information). You will be given access at this stage to the relevant finance personnel of your RCL in order to answer initial queries about accommodation costs.

Step 2: Interview with the Financial Assessor

You send the completed FAS1 form to the PA to the Ministries Committee, who will:

a) forward it to the Financial Assessor;

b) arrange an interview date for you and the Assessor to meet in London. Your partner is welcome to attend the interview with you, and travel expenses will be offered for
you both. Due notice will be taken of sensitivities around your household finances concerning private income and family responsibilities, while recognising that the use of money is a theological issue which you can expect to have to tackle in the exercise of ministry.

The Financial Assessor will prepare a report from the interview (see FAS3, below), and forward this to the URC Student Finance Panel, giving a copy to you at the same time.

Step 3: Student Finance Panel decision

The panel will normally meet in June each year to make decisions about students accepted at the Assembly Assessment Conferences. The panel will consist of a representative nominated by each of the Ministries and Finance Committees; the URC Chief Finance Officer; and the URC Secretary for Education and Learning.

The panel will make the final decision on the grant to be awarded to you, and will also take note of any recommendations from the Financial Assessor concerning access to confidential financial counselling where this is needed. The normal procedure is that a decision on the grant will be given to you and your RCL within two weeks of the panel meeting, unless additional information is required.

You can download the form below:

1. RCL Meal/Overnight Accommodation: at this stage, leave these boxes blank. The arrangements are different at each RCL, and you will receive further information later in the FAS process.

2. Mortgage/Rent: please fill in annual mortgage payments or rent on the home where you will be living during your course. (If you are renting a home close to your RCL but paying a mortgage on a property elsewhere, enter just the rent here and see note 9 below).

Accommodation criteria and caps set by the Education and Learning Committee are below:

Family sizeProperty sizeWestminsterNorthernScottish
Couple or single, no
dependent children
Living room and one
£15,600 pa (£1,300 pm)£11,400 pa (£950 pm)£9,420 pa (£785 pm)
Couple or single, one
dep’t child
Living room and two
£19,200 pa (£1,600 pm)£14,400 pa (£1,200 pm)£12,000 pa (£1,000 pm)
Couple or single, more than one dep’t childLiving room and three
£24,000 pa (£2,000 pm)£16,320 pa (£1,360 pm)£16,200 pa (£1,350 pm)

3. Students may be eligible for some discount on Council Tax. Please ensure that you ask the local authority about this.

4. Other accommodation costs: please specify and provide evidence.

5. The URC Education & Learning Finance Sub-Committee has agreed standard expenditure factors according to the student’s family unit. These are meant to cover food and housekeeping, clothing, utilities, travel, holidays, personal expenditure and course books. The current amounts are shown in FAS2 (see below).

6. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and you may have commitments for dependents which do not fit a standard application form. This is the place to note these, so that they can be discussed with the Financial Assessor.

7. Income from public sources may include maintenance grants for students in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Students in England can no longer apply for such grants. EM1 students are expected to apply for any grants for which they are eligible, but not to apply for loans.

8. Any other grants: do not include Lady Hewley Trust, Baxter Fund, Western College Trust Fund, or the Congregational Fund Board but do include the Northern College Bursary.

9. If you have let out a property, show here any residual net income. That’s after mortgage payment, building insurance, maintenance, other essential costs of the property and tax have been met.

10. Include here the interest or other income derived from capital savings and/or other investments, net of tax.

11. If your partner is earning, or you receive vacation (excluding summer pastorate) or other earnings or a pension from previous employment, this income should be shown net of tax, NI and pension contributions deducted at source, ie ‘take home pay’.

You may also deduct from your partner’s income the first £6,070, plus any essential costs incurred without which it would not be possible to undertake employment, eg travel to work, child-minding, professional development and training.

The cost of servicing debts held in your partner’s name or your joint names, may also be deducted from their income. See sections 14.2 to 14.4 for further information.

12. If your circumstances and family income are such as to qualify you to receive benefits, you are expected to apply for them.  You do not need to declare any disability benefits.

13. The Committee does not require any contribution from your savings to be taken into account. If, however, you have sufficient personal resources that you feel called to make a contribution, enter it here.

Expenditure Factors based on April 2022 Minimum Income Calculator Rates (excluding accommodation costs)

Maximum Expenditure Factor = basic stipend for 2023 including children's allowances

  • No children (£30,984) : £25,093 after tax & NI
  • 1 child [1,462]* (£32,446) : £26,087 after tax & NI
  • 2 children [2,193]* (£33,177) : £26,584 after tax & NI
  • 3 children [2,924]* (£33,908) : £27,082 after tax & NI
  • 4 or more children [3,655]* (£34,639) : £27,579 after tax & NI

*Child allowance


CategoryMICMax Exp Factor
No children20,47025,093
1 secondary age child24,85526,087
1 primary age child27,95126,087
1 child 2-4 years29,45726,087
2 secondary age children30,57126,584
2 children - primary and 1 secondary age children33,70926,584
2 primary age children36,80026,584
1 child 0-1 year36,34326,087
3 children - 1 (2-4), 1 primary and 1 secondary45,61527,082
4 children - 1 (2-4), 1 primary and 2 secondary51,04627,579
3 children - 1 (0-1), 1 (2-4), 1 primary57,42227,082
4 children - 1 (0-1), 1 (2-4), 1 primary, 1 secondary62,82727,579


CategoryMICMax Exp Factor
1 secondary age child19,71226,087
1 primary age child22,80826,087
1 child 2-4 years24,31426,087
2 secondary age children25,60826,584
2 children - primary and 1 secondary age children28,74726,584
2 primary age children31,83826,584
1 child 0-1 year31,18626,087
3 children - 1 (2-4), 1 primary and 1 secondary39,21027,082
3 children - 1 (0-1), 1 (2-4), 1 primary52,22627,082

I have some questions...

If you are eligible for a grant, you will be informed as soon as possible after the Student Finance Panel meeting. Grants are usually paid in mid-August, mid-November, mid-February and mid-May. The final tranche, covering the months June to August, may be reduced by up to 2/3rds for final-year students, depending on the date from which they receive a stipend.

Your RCL will discuss with you the process for claiming expenses, and will endeavour to reimburse you as promptly as possible.

The first time that you work through FAS you will meet with the Financial Assessor. Once the Student Finance Panel has informed you of the decision about your level of grant the completed FAS1 and FAS3 forms will be copied to your Resource Centre for Learning. In future years the assessment will be carried out with you by the finance officer of your RCL, using these papers as a basis. If your circumstances change considerably they may seek the advice of the Secretary for Education and Learning. If necessary, you may be referred for a review meeting with the Financial Assessor.

Help with debt servicing is discussed separately from the FAS. Alongside the main application form which you completed in the candidating process, you would normally have been asked to respond in writing to a question about personal debt. That information would have been passed on to the Secretary for Education and Learning to form the basis of an individual discussion during the Assessment Conference if necessary.

If that has not been the case you are advised to contact the Secretary for Education and Learning before you meet with the Financial Assessor so that any help with debt servicing that the United Reformed Church might offer is discussed at an early stage. You are expected to clear as much of your debt as possible before starting EM1, and your entry into EM1 may be deferred to help you to do so.

If the debt is in their name or in your joint names the payments should be deducted from their income for the purposes of completing FAS1.

If your partner commutes to their main place of work in their own or household vehicle they should use the rate of 25p per mile to calculate the deduction from their income. This covers the marginal cost of using it for that purpose. There is an amount already included within the Expenditure Factor (FAS2) for travel which varies with the size of family.

Candidating for ministry is a response to the call of God on an individual’s life, which has major implications for the household of the individual. There is a great deal in  the Bible about how money can be used for the flourishing or the withering of the common good.

The Education & Learning Committee is aware of the sensitivities of household discussions about how shared or personal income is used, and for that reason the first  £6,070 of the spouse’s income is to be disregarded (see Notes to FAS1 form). The Secretary for Education and Learning stands ready to give potential candidates early advice on the likely level of their assessed grant to inform such discussions if they request this.

It is natural that a congregation which has nurtured someone to the point of candidating, and being accepted, for EM1 would wish to continue to support them  financially. The amount that a generous congregation offers will allow Assembly funds to be redirected towards other students who may be less advantaged. This is the same principle of generosity and grace underpinning the Assembly Ministry and Mission Fund which provides the funding for EM1.

The circumstances of a student’s household may change considerably and unexpectedly during EM1. You may request a reassessment of your grant if circumstances  change eg family illness or redundancy.

There may be times of sudden hardship, and your Resource Centre for Learning (RCL), in consultation with the Secretary for Education and Learning if necessary, will be ready to respond.

You are also expected to inform your RCL of positive financial changes in your household circumstances, particularly if they are significant. If you have any doubt of their significance you are advised to consult the person in your RCL who deals with student finances.

That is for you to decide as a household, but the way that your grant is calculated through FAS means that the effect of increased income is not as simple as having a pound for pound impact on your grant. It will depend on the nature of your household expenditure and income – child benefit, tax credits etc. Individuals approach their employment and careers from a variety of motivations including financial necessity and personal fulfilment.

Please speak to your synod candidating secretary or contact the Secretary for Education and Learning, Jenny Mills [email protected], 07769 201 978.

Experience shows that a conversation is a better place to explore the reality than a booklet, however detailed it is in trying to explain matters.

Download this guidance

Guidelines for writing reflective accounts

Read guidelines for writing the reflective accounts which candidates for training for the ministry are asked to supply

United Reformed Church