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to proclaim Christ’s gospel remains, but that initial excitement which accompanies any foray into new territory has been replaced by a realisation of the work to be done both academically and spiritually as questions abound not only about my future ministry but also about the direction of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?