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to proclaim Christ’s gospel remains, but that initial excitement which accompanies any foray into new territory has been replaced by a realisation of the work to be done both academically and spiritually as questions abound not only about my future ministry but also about the direction of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

 

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.”

News Announcement: Appointment of Director of Church Resource Development

Following interviews which took place from 24th to 25th April, Westminster College is delighted to announce that we have appointed Rev Peter Ball, currently Training and Development Officer of the URC Churches Eastern Synod, to be the first ever Director of Church Resource Development at Westminster College, Cambridge.  Our Principal, Rev Neil Thorogood, says;

“We are delighted to have been able to create this exciting new post to develop Westminster’s work with the wider Church and local congregations.  Peter Ball is well suited to this task and brings many gifts and much experience that we value, and we look forward to welcoming him to Westminster and to working with him in the years to come.”

Interview time…

Thursday 6th and Friday 7th April see us holding interviews for the Director of Studies in Church History and Doctrine.

As many of you will be aware, Revd Dr John Bradbury has accepted a call to be the new minister at Emmanuel, Duxford and Whittlesford URC. He has served at Westminster College and the Cambridge Theological Federation for almost 10 years and will be sorely missed when he vacates his position here at Westminster later in the summer.

We are therefore seeking a new member of teaching staff to fill his role as and the Director of Studies in Church History and Doctrine. The candidates arrived yesterday afternoon and have joined with the community here until later today.

Please hold John, the candidates, and the interview panel in your thoughts and prayers as we seek to discern Gods will.

National Assessment

From today through to Sunday 26th March, we welcome all those who are taking part in the Spring National Assessment Conference for the United Reformed Church.

The conference forms an important part of the process in discerning who is being called to ministry and what their needs might be to support them in that journey. We invite you to join us in thinking of and praying for each of them.

Guest Blog: Being a mum at Westminster College

Magalie Cooper, our Bursar, has kindly shared the below piece with us;

How do you do it? 
There they were, my polished brand new shoes, my new dress with my name badge on.  Everything ready on a Sunday evening to return to work the following day…and I was so restless.  I was like a kid returning excitingly to school to see their friends after the long summer break…

But it wasn’t a summer break…

It wasn’t school…

And sadly I was no longer a kid…

It was November 2014 and I was returning from maternity leave, only three months after giving birth to my beautiful boy, Noah and just before the rush of Christmas parties; 90 days that had changed everything. I had changed, my priorities had changed and my team-mates would need to adapt to the new ME! But this wasn’t going to break me. I was determined this was going to be the making of me, as I realised whilst being away from the College that I was getting so much more than just a wage. I had indeed missed the College terribly.  Firstly, I missed the people with whom I work every day as we have a bond in Westminster, sharing the same drive to make or keep this place a special place for everyone who steps foot in it. Secondly, I missed the stimulation I get from my work, resolving issues, finding new opportunities and reacting to daily challenges! Finally, I missed the building.  Beautiful stones that mean so much more than just a shell, it is a safe place where you can be, just the way you are… Who can say they go to work, have prayers in the morning, chat with students at coffee time about feminism and serve dinner for 100 young and very hungry Chinese students? Me, me and me!

I am part of a wonderful organisation where my employer asks me what I can do, rather than why can’t I do it. Everyone knows Noah, Maisie and Ollie. I get asked frequently for news, even the General Secretary of the URC asked after Noah on his last visit to the College. I also get tips from my fellow mums or just get a sympathetic hug when the night has been interrupted by his night terrors. If Noah goes to the doctor one day, the following day people genuinely ask me how he is now. Thanks to the incredible support I got from the Senatus team, the Management Committee and the Board of Governors, I have managed to grow in my role and have blossomed both at home and at work. I was entrusted with more responsibility in June 2015 and despite being sometimes challenged with time to attend to all my engagements, I have managed to seize all the opportunities offered to me, the team or the college because I care, because I am fully-equipped to do my job well thanks to adequate training and professional network.

So when many people looks dubious when I say that I am a mum and step-mum to three beautiful kids, ranging from 2½ to 17 years old, that I am also a part-time student for the Open University and I work full time in a managerial position. They then ask me how I can possibly do all of this?  Well I respond rather smugly, that I have found the magic recipe:

1. I have a pretty amazing husband who is extremely supportive of my personal development and completely devoted to our family, despite him as well working full-time. We work as a team!

2. I am part of an extra-ordinary team who is committed, passionate and caring – One team, one purpose!

3. I work for an employer, the United Reformed Church, who genuinely care about their employees and takes its impact on society very seriously, putting people first rather than revenue, (we’re living wage foundation accredited). Here at Westminster, we apply the same level of care, understanding and professionalism.

So to all my colleagues who are mums or mums-to-be at Westminster College, I would like to wish you a Happy Mothers’ Day and see you on Monday to hear all about it with a cuppa’!

From a very happy mum at Westminster College

For further information about working at Westminster College, visit out Vacancies page.
Further information about studying at Westminster College , staying at Westminster or having a special event or conference check our website out.

Guest Blog: Called to Risk by Grace

Alex Clare-Young, one of our students and an ardent blogger, has kindly shared the below piece with us;

As a second year student at Westminster College, I am starting to explore my faith and calling in new ways. In particular, I am getting back in touch with my artistic side! You will be able to tell from the image that I am sharing with you that I am no professional artist. Faith and vocation, however, sometimes just can’t be explained in words alone.

This picture was inspired by my classmate Stephen, as he shared words about calling with us as part of his assessed service. What is it really like, then, to find ourselves here? Well, I can’t answer for everyone, but this is what it is like for me.

I am invited to unending change. Ministers are called to grow and to learn for life. The Church grows and learns and changes and shifts, particularly in our post-post-modern (???) age! Formation and ministry are not static. Change overflows!

My lips, heart and mind are set on fire and I am called to take this flame to others. I read Scripture and wonder what it is like to be touched on the lips by a burning coal, or to see a bush that burns but is not consumed, or to be refined like a precious metal. It all sounds a bit extreme… But it is what formation feels like. I am constantly challenged, burnished, polished, melted, passionately on fire for what I believe in. We are burned but not consumed, and we must not hide the flames.

Like all Christians, in fact like all people, I am welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, promised transformation. Both in this community and by the grace of God I am welcomed as the whole truth of who I.  I am pardoned when I mess up, say something stupid, offend someone, misunderstand the gospel or cause separation instead of inspiring wholeness.

I am invited to proclaim a dangerous, maverick, radical message that has cost many their lives and has the power to break down walls. And I am called to do this whatever the risk.

I am called in You and You in me. In all of this change, fire, welcome, promise, truth and brokenness God meets us and we meet God.

So what is it like to be here? Does this blog clarify anything? Probably not. It is indescribable. What I want to leave you with, though, is this: I am privileged to be called, I am privileged to be here but… but God does not call me to speak from my places of privilege but out of my places of oppression and for and with all those who have been marginalised. Thanks be to God.

Could you be eligible for a Sabbatical Stay at Westminster?

The Cheshunt Foundation is pleased to annouce that there is sabbatical space available for Easter Term 2017.
If this is something of interest to you then please do take a look at the Cheshunt Foundation on our website and, should you wish to apply, please email the tutorial office or call on 01223 33 06 49 in the first instance. Priority is normally given to those engaged in active ministry in the churches listed below.

• The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion
• The Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches
• The United Reformed Church
• Unaffiliated Congregational Churches

This would be a wonderful opportunity for anyone seeking a space for private study.

New plaque commemorates Westminster’s refurbishment

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve got a new brass plaque at Westminster! It commemorates our refurbishment and renovation project, which was completed in 2014, and thanks all the individuals, congregations, Synods, the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, and other donors who made the refurbishment possible. It’s in the Entrance Hall, in pride of place next to the plaque marking the opening of Westminster College in Cambridge in 1899.

On the table below the plaque lies a bible and a book of our student photographs dating back to the 1880s. Above them all is a stained glass window showing the burning bush, the symbol of the Presbyterian Church of England; and the coats of arms of Mrs Gibson and Mrs Lewis, the twin sisters who were our most generous benefactors when the college was built. There’s even a tiny hare – namesake of the architect, Henry Hare.

Come and admire our new addition to the College, and see how some of the key strands in the history of Westminster are brought together here!