The Latest thoughts and reflections from our Principal at Westminster College
The Latest thoughts and reflections from our Principal at Westminster College
In this, the centenary year of women’s suffrage, the Cheshunt Foundation has been asked to join in with a fascinating celebration of influential women from the 1720s and 1730s- the 21 ‘ladies of quality and distinction” who helped philanthropist Thomas Coram set up his Foundling Hospital in London. Long before women were given the right to vote, these ladies were influential in helping Coram secure a Royal Charter for his Foundling Hospital, which was set up to support and care for some of London’s abandoned ‘foundling children’.
One of the ladies was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who also founded Trevecca College for young men to train for ministry- which later moved to Hertfordshire and became Cheshunt College.
These marvellous ladies are being celebrated this Autumn with a remarkable exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London. The Collections Manager, Alison Duke, came to visit the College recently to look at the painting in situ, and to discuss how best to transport it to London for the exhibition. Alison has written about her visit for Art Funding here .
We look forward to seeing the Countess surrounded by her peers- or, strictly speaking, her Peeresses- on September! The exhibition opens to the public in September and will run through into January 2019.
To find out more about the exhibition at the Foundling Museum, have a look at the Foundling Museum website
…And to find out more about the 21 Ladies, and about Thomas Coram, visit the website of Coram, the charity which continues their work today.
To see all the oil paintings at Westminster online, visit: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/keyword:westminster-college-Cambridge
Blog by Helen Weller- Westminster College Archivist.
The latest thoughts and reflections from our Principal at Westminster College
Andrew Todd is currently co-coordinator of the Centre for Contemporary Spirituality, Sarum College in Salisbury.
Previously Director of the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies (and an Honorary Research Fellow of Cardiff University), he is a practical theologian and ethnographer, who has been published widely in the chaplaincy studies field. Earlier in his career, Andrew was Vice-Principal and Director of Studies for the East Anglican Ministerial Training Course (now ERMC), and was also President of the Cambridge Theological Federation 2000-2001.
This post will draw significantly on his research in practical theology and the sociology of contemporary religion and spirituality. He is looking forward to working with doctoral students as they develop as practical theologians in interaction with their professional practice; and to the privilege of nurturing students in their research and in skills of critical and creative theological reflection. Andrew’s appointment to this role represents an opportunity, not only to develop his work in practical theology, but also to return to East Anglia and be nearer to his family.
His new post comes at the same time as one for his wife Catherine, which will also be based in East Anglia.
Publications: John Caperon, Andrew Todd & James Walters (eds.) A Christian Theology of Chaplaincy (Jessica Kingsley, 2017); Chris Swift, Mark Cobb and Andrew Todd (eds.), A Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies (Ashgate, 2015); Jonathan Prye, Peter Sedgewick and Andrew Todd (eds.), Critical Care: Delivering Spiritual Care in Healthcare Contexts (Jessica Kingsley, 2015); Andrew Todd (ed.), Military Chaplaincy in Contention: Chaplains, Churches, and the Morality of Conflict (Ashgate, 2013).
I recently happened upon an interesting image from 1877 entitled “Shark Attacking A Boatman”, in our series of The Children’s Messenger in the library here. It’s an illustration from one of a series of articles by Rev. Archibald Hewan, describing the journey to the Old Calabar Mission, and this one is specifically about “the sharks at Lagos”.
The Children’s Messenger was a monthly magazine produced by the Presbyterian Church of England for young members, and, as well as moral stories and Bible studies, it included many letters from missionaries describing life in far parts of the world – and the Messenger tried to accompany its articles with illustrations. Nowadays, television and photography and zoos and the internet mean that we are familiar with wildlife from around the world; but it seems pretty clear, looking at this picture from 140 years ago, that it was drawn by someone who had never actually seen a real shark.
This shark has a pointed snout and (rather strangely placed) gills, but the eyes and head are more like those of a seal. Its fins are reminiscent both of the fins of a bony fish, and of the flippers like a sea lion or a walrus- but are nothing like the smooth cartilage fins of a shark. It has a leaf-shaped tail straight out of a Mediaeval bestiary, and strangest of all, it has fur!
The anatomical descriptions in Hewan’s text are very vague, if you don’t already know what a shark looks like: it only says “Look at his flat head. You can’t see his mouth; that is quite under” and later refers to his “great eyes”, “great fins” and “great tail”…though if you look closely, you can see that someone has also told the artist that sharks have more than one row of teeth.
However, if the artist had only heard or read descriptions of sharks before beginning his illustration, then he’s not alone in the task of trying to draw an animal he’s never laid eyes on. Albrecht Durer’s woodcut of an enthusiastically-armoured rhinoceros from 1515 is one of the best known pictures of an animal by an artist who has never seen his subject. Another famous example is George Stubbs’s portrait of a kangaroo, with a very long tail and no pouch, held at the Royal Museums Greenwich, which was based on descriptions given to the artist by Joseph Banks on his return from voyaging with Captain Cook in 1771, and painted soon afterwards. So our shark is in illustrious company!
Blog by Helen Weller- Archivist
Thinking of Westminster College as your future employer? We thought it would be nice for you to meet all our support team, and show off all the amazing things they do for the college and why they like working here!
Meet Emma, our PA to the Bursar and Office Manager.
Name: Emma Brown
Title: PA to the Bursar and Office Manager
Start Date: September 2009
Job Title Changes / Transfers: 3
What I like about Westminster…
No two days are ever the same.
It’s a bit of a mixed blessing this one! As a relatively small organisation, we’re quite a tight knit family and it means we all pitch in wherever help is needed; many of us hold more than one title, and those who do have one title have a fairly diverse set of things to do. Those of us who’ve been around for a few years have knowledge about things which might not be anything to do with our job title. If something needs to get done, we’ll find a way of doing it, and doing it well.
Working for a non-profit organisation.
Any surplus is invested back into either the people or the building. I’m really proud of that; it makes the occasionally long, challenging days very worthwhile. Every penny we make enables us to invest in the future.
We’re very much an equal opportunity employer.
We’ve a very diverse team here, with people from a multitude of countries, all bringing their own unique experiences to add to the Westminster experience. The thing which stands out most for me, as a woman in management, is that our current management team has more women than men – that is unusual even in these times, but most particularly in a Cambridge college. We invest in our people, so it is natural to see internal promotions or transfers; I started as a temp for 2 weeks. Since then, with my most recent role change being from PA to the Principal to PA to the Bursar back in October 2015, I’ve had quite a few changes within what I do as part of my dual roles of Office Manager and PA as the college and the team have grown. I’m also really proud to work for an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer, which is one of only two Cambridge colleges which pays the Living Wage, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation. That’s phenomenal!
We’re not afraid of change.
We don’t “do something that way because it’s always been done that way”. It’s important that we acknowledge our history and legacy – why we’ve done something that way before – but it’s also important to constantly reform. Both as part of the United Reformed Church, and as a forward thinking organisation! I started here when we had 2 full time members on Reception (including me), opening the building at 8.30am and closing up as we left at 4.30pm, closed at weekends. We’re now open 7am to 11pm, seven days a week and I manage a team of 5 to cover reception. Back when I started, we didn’t have any en-suite bedrooms – it was all shared facilities along draughty corridors – and our building was beautiful but in need of some serious updating in many different ways. After raising £7 million, we underwent a major building refurbishment and we’ve now got 38 bedrooms and 2 cottages, all en-suite. Gone are the days where we had an occasional overnight guest alongside our students. The extra income from B&B goes back into keeping Westminster sustainable for our students and the URC, and into ensuring we look after our Grade 2 listed building – she’s a gentle creature and we need to nurture and protect her!
I’m not going to lie, a lot of us put on a few pounds when we start working here! The food is delicious and I get fed a very tasty two course lunch every day during the week. They cater for my rather weird dietary requirements; though I should try harder to resist pudding, making the healthy choice is incredibly difficult when you’ve got Igor’s chocolate brownie in front of you…
What an average day is like…
There’s no such thing! I oversee Reception, and whilst we certainly have daily tasks to do, our focus is customer service, be that interactions with our students as they collect their post, welcoming in a contractor arriving to service a piece of plant, directing conference delegates to their meeting room or checking in our B&B guests. People, by their nature, are all different and have different needs and expectations. We try to anticipate what they need and exceed their expectations. That, in turn, makes every day different. Then we get queries and challenges that, even with 8 years under my belt, haven’t come up before.
On a ‘bad day’…
They do happen to us all occasionally! I try to do three things.
Firstly, look back to my very first day and remember how many positive changes we’ve been through. Even the very hard changes have lead to new opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.
Secondly, I spend a moment just quietly in our stunning chapel. I’m not a Christian, but I’ve always adored churches and cathedrals, and simply being in such a beautiful, spiritually rich space recharges the batteries.
Thirdly, I visit the sisters. They were rather phenomenal women with a very quirky, rich history and fascinating lives. Their portraits hang in our Dining Hall, so we eat with them looking over us most lunch times. In a world which didn’t allow them to attend university or get a degree, they let very little hold them back from doing exactly what they wanted to; i.e travelling through the desert on camel back fully garbed in their Victorian outfits, complete with their china tea set. I visit them because I like to think that we continue their legacy. They would certainly not have let a singular tricky email (letter?) or long, difficult meeting get to them so why should I?
(PS – the photo is of me on my wedding day in June 2014 and proves that I do, ever so occasionally, wear bright colours)
Keep up to date with our blog to meet more of our team!
“Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!
It is a rich and fascinating experience that has welcomed, celebrated and included me from the day I began. Walking with me as I grow in the journey of faith, whilst also enabling me to learn effectively by supporting my needs.
Studying scripture here has allowed me to work through why I believe what I do and how we are all able to discuss, evolve and change as part of a living tradition responding to a living word. Whilst on retreat together in January 2018, the community were reminded by our Principal, Neil Thorogood of our connection with many people of faith from the past, present and the future. Whilst reflecting on this I was reminded of the journey that has brought me to Westminster.
Before coming here, I was a store manager for WH Smith in a busy Hospital in East London, whilst also being a Church Elder and volunteer youth leader in the little ‘spare’ time I had. I have been able to bring all my life experiences with me sharing with others.
We learn with and from each other, day by day. With many opportunities to interact with peers from around the world. Whom represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
It is a blessing to be here!”
by Stephen Ansa-Addo – student, Westminster College
With Spring approaching it is time to get booked in for our March events at Westminster. Coming up is the first of this year’s Elders residential as we look at Eldership on the Frontline aimed at helping Elders be think about what it means to be leadership teams encountering both opportunity and challenge.
Then we have Draw Breath and Reflect upon the Cross coming up on March 24th, offering a chance to spend a day reflecting upon how the cross of Jesus affects our daily living. There will be opportunity to do this through worship, art, prayer, conversation and personal space and reflection. The choice will be yours.
Following on from these we have many more opportunities to come to Westminster over 2018 and experience one of our learning opportunities either for a day or longer stay. Some are conferences but there is also opportunity to come for guided personal space or simply to enjoy all that Westminster has to offer. You can view all of our 2018 events on our RCL Events page.
We look forward to welcoming you to Westminster!
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.
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.