By Luke Keys
My name is Luke Keys and I am a member of Knockconny Baptist Church. I am 22 years old and a second year student at the Irish Baptist College. Ordinarily second year placement would be arranged by the College for the students to gain first-hand experience of working and serving in a local church context, or with a Christian organization if the student was not seeking pastoral experience. However, as everyone knows, this past year has been a year like no other, and that left a degree of uncertainty about how placements would work—or if they would even happen at all. Thankfully placements have gone ahead and, while they may be different to previous years, they are certainly proving to be beneficial.
I am placed in Armagh Baptist Church and serve alongside Pastor Ian Grant in a Student Assistant role. This has involved me attending Armagh on a Sunday and either a Wednesday night for the prayer meeting, or a Friday night for their youth and children’s activities. I have tried, where possible, to attend all three in order to give myself the best opportunity to see what these ministries look like in a church other than my own. I have had opportunities to speak at the prayer meeting several times and also spoke at the carol service just before Christmas. Placement would normally involve the student doing visitation alongside the pastor but that has not yet been possible. I have been able to meet up with Ian a couple of times, prior to some of those Wednesday or Friday meetings. Chatting with Ian has been helpful and offered opportunities to ask questions and to try to learn as much as I can from someone who is experienced in pastoral work. I have also had the opportunity to work with Paul McAdam and the Keady church plant that has been set up following outreach into the community by the Armagh Church.
One of the biggest challenges posed by placement is the necessary balance to be achieved between taking on speaking engagements in order to gain experience while still completing assignments for College to the best of my ability. In that sense second year is noticeably busier than first year. Nevertheless, placement is great practical experience that will undoubtedly prove beneficial in the future.