Tree of Life: Encounter arrives at the Woolf!

Wednesday 10th to Friday 12th January welcomed a new arrival to our campus; the stunning “The Tree of Life: Encounter” marble sculpture, created by artist and sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld OBE specially for the Woolf Institute.

Helaine says: “Tree Of Life: Encounter was inspired by the aims of the Woolf Institute to bring about understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims in order to reduce intolerance, as expressed in the words inscribed on its foundation stone “A threefold cord is not quickly broken [Ecclesiastes 4.12]

Tree Of Life: Encounter is a powerful statement of the struggle for unity, with three strands joining together at the base and moving upward through dissonance and chaos to a beautiful flowering of hope.”

Helaine Blumenfeld, the Sculptor, and Ed Kessler, Director of the Woolf Institute, in front of the installation

The Woolf Institute have a lovely blog piece on the new arrival. There’s a wonderful piece on Helaine’s website and you and read a little more over at the BBC too.

Thoughts From My First Academic Term

Westminster College Gates at Entrances

I was born in Wales and, apart from one year studying ‘abroad’, I have lived all my life there. For twenty years, I worked in Welsh Universities (and have the scars to prove it!). The time came to look for a different challenge and for new opportunities and so I applied for the post of Director of Studies in Church History and Doctrine at Westminster, though I did not expect to be offered it. Having applied, and having been offered the job, what else could I do but accept, even if it meant relocating to the ‘wrong’ side of Offa’s Dyke?! Having been here a term, I can say that I am delighted to be at Westminster at this time.

I started work officially at Westminster on 1 September, having moved only two days previously. There was little time to settle in as the ‘Lay preachers’ arrived the following week. Thankfully this was not to be a baptism of fire! The event was a good reminder – if one is needed – of how blessed the United Reformed Church is by such committed, imaginative and insightful men and women of faith. I prepared some input on Luther (2017, after all, saw the five hundredth anniversary of Luther’s initial protest against the sale of Indulgences). Despite his strengths and weaknesses, Luther’s story reminds us that it is a rediscovery of the liberating power of the gospel which leads to church renewal (rather than the other way around). I also prepared input on a specific doctrine often associated with Reformed thought, namely the doctrine of Election. In fact, ‘Election’ and its significance for mission in the twenty-first century was the subject of the presentation required as part of the appointment process for this post. Perhaps surprisingly, it might well be worth revisiting some form of the doctrine (though probably not the form it takes in most people’s minds). While many in our churches might believe it to be irrelevant, in fact it points us to the Church’s role in God’s mission in a way that might well inspire us to be ‘missional disciples’.

Having trained at Westminster (in what seems a different age!), and having been back many times for conferences, for committee meetings and for study, it initially felt as if I were just visiting. The meeting, or the study, or whatever this was, would come to an end and I would return home to Wales. It was like an extended holiday! But then term started, and the holiday ended. The eight week term is hectic, especially in fitting the College activities around teaching. I know I was eased in to College life, and am grateful for that, though the Life and Service sessions were challenging and entertaining as we grappled together with different interpretations and understanding of the Reformed tradition.

My first term passed in getting to know people – Westminster staff and students as well as others in the Federation – and trying to understand how things work.  In fairness, I can say that I have never known any place like Westminster. The staff are committed to making Westminster work, whether as Resource Centre for Learning, a conference facility or a bed and breakfast business while acknowledging the importance of each aspect of the College’s life. More than that, everyone is friendly, welcoming and helpful, with a feel of real and positive collegiality. The student community is diverse, but it has been a delight to get to know them, to be alongside them in the devotional life of the College and to learn from their spirituality. It feels good to be at Westminster at this time and I look forward to the challenges the next term will bring.

Robert Pope

Imagine – December 2017

Seen & Unseen
Westminster has received its final ‘Imagine’ for 2017 from the Principal, Neil Thorogood .  Articles include “Seen & Unseen; We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible…”
The newsletter also thanks all those involved in the appointment process of our new members of the teaching staff.  We will share information with you in the New Year for our New Testament tutor.  Yak-hwee Tan will be leaving us in the summer of 2018 and she will be missed, not only for her wide knowledge and understanding, but for the wonderful array of food she has introduced us to!  Robert Pope has settled in well and has just been appointed by the Governors as Vice Principal.  Peter Ball has embraced his new role within Senatus, bringing the total number of Senatus to 6 for the first time since the 1960’s.

Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly!

The Westminster tree has been put up and decorated, with the help of staff and students – one or two braving the step ladder and scaffolding. Christmas music was playing and mince pies were flowing, and it was a great way to join in and have some fun ahead of the end of term.

The Advent service and dinner took place at the end of term with a wonderful menu prepared by our exceptional kitchen staff, who never cease to amaze us with their excellent food.  We thank them all for the hard work in producing the dinner, and the support staff who served it. We are truly blessed with an amazingly professional team.

The College will be closed over the Christmas and New Year period from 23rd December and will re-open on Tuesday 2nd January 2018 for bed and breakfast guests. Students will return shortly afterward, with intensives week commencing 8th January and Federation term starting on Thursday 18th January.

We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and New Year!  Until 2018…

Westminster College introduces….

Peter Ball has arrived and has been very busy since taking up his post in August. He’s sharing the below with all of our readers;

I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce both myself and the exciting opportunities that Westminster College will be offering during 2018.

I came into post as Director of Church Resource Development at the start of August. This is a new post created by the college to help us take the next step of developing our role as a Resource Centre for Learning for all the people of God. Whilst playing my part in the life of the college as a member of the teaching staff I have also been given time to develop our work of resourcing and offering training/equipping opportunities for lay people. In the medium to long term I am hoping that there will be a development of our web resources and that along with the other RCLs, Training Officers and Mission Enablers we can have strong links across the Synods in both the development and delivery of courses and resources.

For now here are the highlights of what is already planned at Westminster for 2018.

Eldership on the Frontline
A chance to be refreshed and resourced for the important role Elders play in the URC. As the tasks and role change along with society you will be given the chance to think about what this means for you and your church and to hear stories and experiences that will get you thinking and sharing together.
Monday 19th – Wednesday 21st March 2018
Friday  6th – Sunday 8th July 2018
Wednesday 11th – Friday 13th July 2018

Living the Life of Jesus through our worship
For Lay Preachers and Worship leaders in 2018 we are offering a mix of Bible study, worship and reflection alongside of some practical ideas on how we bring alive the life of Jesus for today’s worshippers. There will be a variety of session leaders and styles all looking to provide you with the tools and new insights for your important ministries.
Monday 13th – Friday 15th August 2018
Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th August 2018
Wednesday 5th – Friday 7th September 2018
Friday 7th – Sunday 9th September 2018

Draw Breath and reflect upon
In the busyness of life we all need the opportunity to step back and spend time in the company of God reflecting upon life, our faith and what God is calling us to. Each of these days will have a different emphasis allowing a variety of approaches that make the most of Westminster’s stunning buildings and facilities. For our March date we will be focusing on Aspects of the cross. If you think you would like to take longer than a day with us why not consider our “In the Company of” initiative that allows for some guided reflection.
Saturday 24th March 2018
Saturday 11th August 2018
Saturday 3rd November 2018

NEW for 2018

It’s Advent!! Now what?
Join us and spend twenty four hours being resourced for the month ahead. This event is for ministers, lay preachers, worship leaders and anybody who wants to think afresh about Advent and Christmas.
Monday 3rd – Tuesday 4th December 2018

Alongside of these highlighted events Westminster also offers space for personal or group activities. We can cater for Synod activities, Spring and Summer Schools, Committee meetings, Church Away Days and personal reading and study times. We can also provide sabbatical opportunities.

We are excited to have our new Art Studio open to all URC members on request or exclusively booked for an event.

For further information contact:
Tutorial Office: 01223 330649 / admin@westminster.cam.ac.uk
Conference & Events Office: 01223 330647 / events@westminster.cam.ac.uk

Westminster College, Cambridge; Walking the way into the future

These are exciting times full of new opportunities for all of us. Here at Westminster College, Cambridge, as we look to further develop our role as a Resource Centre for Learning, we’ve created the new role of Director of Church Resource Development – and here I am! We want Westminster to offer relevant courses for today’s church here at the college and be available to work alongside you, sharing the love of Christ where you are.

As part of our commitment to embracing different ways of expressing faith we’ve recently opened our beautiful Art Studio, located in the college grounds here in Cambridge, beside the Prayer Labyrinth, which adds a creative space for quiet reflection or safe messy area for getting the paints out and having fun! Faith is expressed in many different ways and we are looking to provide the space and opportunities for you to explore.


Our new additions complement our freshly refurbished building, stunning chapel, wonderful meeting spaces and great hospitality at prices that may pleasantly surprise you. We can cater for groups great and small from hosting church weekends, URC Synod events, small committee away days or simply a guided retreat week. We have an excellent chance for deep reflection and personal study called “In the Company Of” (you can read more about that at our website) ideal for a quiet reading week or as part of a ministerial sabbatical.

Alongside our full and part time students training for ministry we run numerous courses, such as Quiet Days, themed Biblical conferences, residential Lay Preacher weeks and can provide some exciting interfaith conversations all aimed at feeding and building faith and resourcing people for service and ministry. We are working on some all age events for 2018 and our teaching staff can be found at churches up and down the country, sharing their knowledge and experiences in a variety of ways. We’re seeking to build a resource area on our website for anyone to access which we envisage will host a selection of worship resources. And of course, if you call or email us, we offer reduced B&B rates for Church members if you’d simply like to visit Cambridge!

As we look to further develop our role as a Resource Centre for Learning for the United Reformed Church we are aiming to offer new and varied opportunities for everyone. I would welcome the chance to have a conversation with you to discuss how Westminster might play its part in serving you, your churches and the Synods.

You can reach me, Revd Peter Ball, on pb694@cam.ac.uk or call our Reception team on 01223 33 06 30.

News Announcement: Vacancy for Tutor in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology

We are now seeking to appoint a new Tutor in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology.

An amazing opportunity awaits the right person! We are looking for a creative and enthusiastic teacher to join the core staff team of Westminster. You will deliver New Testament courses across the range of awards we teach with three of Britain’s premier universities. You will equip, encourage and teach lay people across the United Reformed Church in their many ministries in the Church and the world. You will tutor and support candidates at Westminster preparing for ordination in the United Reformed Church. You will be committed to one of the most diverse ecumenical theological education contexts in the world. You will be open to the adventure of faith as God leads Westminster into a new chapter. Are you the person God is calling and we are seeking?

For more information please visit our Vacancy page or download the application pack.

Guest Blog: Being a student – a reflection

Matthew Rigden, one of our first year students, has kindly shared the below reflection piece with us;

When I first heard God’s call to ministry, I had no idea what I was getting myself – or rather, what He was getting me – into. Now, almost two years after I made the tentative moves towards application, and despite having finished my first academic year as a ministry student, I’m not sure I can say with certainty that I’m any the wiser!  The joy of answering God’s call to proclaim Christ’s gospel remains, but that initial excitement which accompanies any foray into new territory has been replaced by a realisation of the work to be done both academically and spiritually as questions abound not only about my future ministry but also about the direction of the United Reformed Church as we profess to follow to Christ.

There have, of course, been challenges. The United Reformed Church has a range of theological positions pulling its membership in different directions, threatening to cause the same division and strife which has characterised the worldwide church (often with good cause) over the centuries. As the training college where the students spend the most time together in community, Westminster is an intense microcosm of the breadth of the wider URC. And because theological beliefs form the foundation of our discipleship to Jesus, and as our discipleship is the most important factor in who we are, it is unsurprising that this sometimes causes friction within the Christian community here. Theology matters and therefore, like all things which matter, it cannot be ignored. However, some of the best conversations I’ve had this year were been with those who have widely different theological positions or worship styles. But don’t be fooled into thinking I’m promoting a diversity of theologies as a good thing in itself. Doctrinal claims about what was and what was not the case mattered to Jesus and to the early Church, so it should matter to us too. So it is much more important for me to learn what we have in common with one another despite our theological differences. For Christians, that answer will always be Jesus who we follow and adore as our closest friend and, at the same time, our ultimate King.

At a time when Jesus’ Church is often accused of being divisive and divided, it is good to see Christian unity being lived out in the Westminster community. That is not the same as being unprincipled in our individual beliefs, but about being driven by one theological commitment which, regardless of our positions, we all share: to follow Jesus and to treat one another with love. Have I got that right all the time?  Not at all!  Yet it has been good for my own formation to learn patience and kindness towards those with whom I might profoundly disagree. After all, if our Father has sought me even when my life was against Him (Romans 5), how I can refuse to share that same grace with others?

 

End of Term Valediction and Summer Fete


As we approach the end of the academic year, we say goodbye to our leavers and enjoy a Valediction service and Dinner.  There will be a service in the chapel followed by a wonderful meal prepared by our excellent kitchen team, certificates will be issued to leavers and speeches will be given.  It is a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next, when we welcome new students who will be joining us.  We give thanks to those leavers who join ministry and wish them well for the future. We also thank all of our attendees for being so good in coming back to us as quickly as you all did!

 

The following day we will be enjoying our staff and community family friendly event.  This year is based on a village fete theme and we will even have our own bake off.  The categories will be under 12’s and adult bakers.  We look forward to seeing all those budding Mary Berry and Paul Hollywoods!

 

 

 

News Announcement: Appointment of Director of Studies in Church History and Doctrine

Following interviews which took place in April, Westminster College are delighted to announce the the appointment of Revd Dr Robert Pope to succeed Revd Dr John Bradbury as Director of Studies in Church History and Doctrine. Robert is currently Reader in Theology and Joint Head of School at the University of Wales. Our Principal, Rev Neil Thorogood, says;

“We are deeply grateful for everything John Bradbury has contributed to Westminster College, The Cambridge Theological Federation and the wider church, and we wish him well for future ministry, and whilst we are sorry to see him go, we are excited to welcome Robert and look forward to all Robert will bring when he joins us this Summer.”