Intrepid Adventures In The Desert – Collection Newly Online


Imagine trekking through the desert in Egypt, towards St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai. It’s 35ºC, you’re riding a camel… and as it’s 1892, you’re wearing – like any other Edwardian lady – boots, a corset, and a very large hat!

‘Mrs Gibson 1892 on camel’. With permission of Westminster College, Cambridge.

Our Sisters of Sinai, the benefactresses of the College, made no fewer than nine trips to Egypt, Greece, and the Holy Land between 1868 and 1906; and just like more modern tourists, they took plenty of photographs of their travels.

 Following a project to digitise our collection of their travel photographs, high-quality digital images have just been made available via the Digital Library at CUL. There are almost 300 photographs of landscapes and people taken by the Sisters on their visits to sites of Biblical interest – mountains and monasteries, tombs and temples – across Egypt, including Sinai and the Nitrian Desert, and also to Jerusalem, modern-day Syria and Jordan, and Greece.

And they show the people the Sisters travelled with – academics, cooks, monks at St Catherine’s – and provide fascinating glimpses into what travelling in Middle East was like for intrepid ladies in the 1890s.

 

St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai; and a temple in Egypt. Reproduced with permission of Westminster College, Cambridge.
St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai; and a temple in Egypt. Reproduced with permission of Westminster College, Cambridge.

The originals are lantern slides, which the Sisters used to illustrate their books and talks – just over 3 inches square, they are two pieces of glass sandwiching a photographic image. As well as the travel photographs, Westminster also holds a further collection of over 250 lantern slide images, and 22 albums, of the Sisters’ photographs of manuscripts.

View the whole collection online here.

Girl in a Blue Dress – The Mysterious Lady Selina


Not much is known about the provenance or history of this portrait, belonging to the Cheshunt Foundation at Westminster College. The painting – by a painter of the English School, but unsigned and undated – is known as ‘Girl in a Blue Dress’, and is of Lady Selina Shirley, wearing a blue dress with a pink rose in the bodice, with flowing lace cuffs and pearls in her hair, and holding a book.

311 years ago today, on the 24th August, Selina Shirley was born in 1707 at Astwell House in Northamptonshire. The second daughter of Lord Shirley, Earl Ferrers, in 1728 she married Theophilus Hastings, the ninth Earl of Huntingdon, and became the Countess of Huntingdon. Rather amazingly for a woman of the time, the Countess of Huntingdon went on to found her own College for the training of ministers at Trevecca, in Wales, in 1768; and it is the descendant body of that college – Cheshunt College – which joined together with Westminster College in 1967 and which owns this portrait today.

Girl In A Blue Dress. Reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Cheshunt Foundation, Westminster College, Cambridge.

But is this a portrait of the Selina the Foundress? There’s a question raised by the book she is holding.

Detail of Girl In A Blue Dress. Reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Cheshunt Foundation, Westminster College, Cambridge.

If you look closely, you can just see the title on the spine: it reads “Hervey Medita…”, or (presumably) “Hervey’s Meditations”. (The colours in this smaller image have been adjusted to make the writing clearer.) James Hervey, author and clergyman, was a member of ‘the Holy Club’, a nickname for a small group of students in Oxford in the 1730s, led by John and Charles Wesley (and including, amongst others, George Whitefield and James Hervey) who met to talk and pray. Hervey’s Meditations Among the Tombs was published in 1745.

By 1745, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791) was nearly 40 years old – far older than the subject of this portrait! – and had had seven children. Moreover, if this portrait was painted after the publication of Meditations in 1745, she had been married to Theophilus for a good seventeen years and was now, of course, Lady Selina Hastings, rather than Lady Selina Shirley.

Is it a portrait from the 1720s, with the title of the book perhaps added later? The Countess was much influenced by the Wesleys and corresponded with John and Charles; George Whitefield was her personal chaplain; could “Hervey’s Meditations”, written by a fourth member of the Holy Club, have been painted in as a suitable title for her to be holding?

Or might it be a portrait of one of the Countess’s daughters, and be ‘Lady Selina Hastings’ rather than ‘Lady Selina Shirley’? Selina’s second daughter was called Selina, too (1737-1767). Perhaps it is her elder daughter, Lady Elizabeth Hastings (1731-1808), later Countess of Moira?

Or maybe it is a painting of a completely different sitter… and if so, who might she be?


To see more of our paintings, visit the College page on the fantastic ArtUK website, which aims to make images available online of all art in public ownership in the UK (and art in the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges too).

To read more about Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and her life,

have a look at Gilbert W Kirby’s biography, The Elect Lady.

To find out more about the Countess of Huntingdon and her work with Thomas Coram,

visit the Foundling Museum website.


 

THE SHARK ASCENDING

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!

Archibald Hewan (1832-1883) was a Jamaican medical missionary to Calabar in Nigeria, appointed in 1854; but the artist is unknown.

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

 

Studying at Westminster in short is, fantastic!


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

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.

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.

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.

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!