Westcott Foundation 2016-17 Programme

WF programme 2016-17 cover smallerIt is a great pleasure to publish the programme for this year’s Westcott Foundation.

As ever, there is a range of study days to resource church leaders in worship and mission, preaching and pastoral ministry, drawing on the riches of the church’s tradition to enable engagement with the contemporary context.  You can download study day programme here: Westcott Foundation Study Days 2016-17 

The annual retreats (for Deacons, and for established clergy) make the most of Westcott House as an oasis in the heart of Cambridge, perfect for taking time out to reflect and recharge.  You can download the retreat programme here: Westcott Foundation Retreats 2016-17 

All events are also listed on the main Westcott House website and calendar

To book a place at any of the events, simply call 01223 741000, or use the downloadable booking form.

You can read more about our first event this year (5th October) here, timed to resource planning and thinking in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday, and in the wider context of current conflict and the centenary commemorations of WW1.

The Bible, the Great War, and Remembrance
Wednesday 5th October 2016, 10am-4pm
Led by Andrew Mein, Nathan Macdonald, and Ally Barrett
Remembrancetide is challenging. How do we meet so many diverse needs and expectations? How do we both remember the past fallen and speak into the complexity of contemporary conflicts? 100 years ago, as the world faced the horrors of total war, the Bible was crucial in enabling Christians to make sense of their experience. Introduced by the leaders of a Cambridge University research project on the use of the Bible during WW1, and by Westcott’s Director of Pastoral Studies, we will reflect on current practice of remembrance, and draw on the use of the Bible during 1914-18 to find new resources for theology and preaching.


Responsibility Without Authority

by Revd Prof Dr. Michael Fass (Senior Research Fellow, Westcott Foundation)


This article is about the way that those who do not take a Stipend from the Church can reflect on their roles and responsibilities and the way that the Church can respond to them.

It is written from an Anglican perspective but its content may be applied to other churches who engage with such individuals. It is about the local church and is not about the multiple ministries that many non-Stipended clergy have in that part of the world understood as secular.

As the Church experiences falling numbers of those who offer themselves for full time ministry, issues of engaging with those who are Ordained but who are not in receipt of payments becomes more important. For example, in the Church of England the number of non-Stipendiary clergy is increasing at c. 3,000 whilst the number of Stipendiaries is reducing to c. 8,000.  The CofE has never paid much attention to this part of its clergy workforce and has no non-Stipended individuals in any position of authority anywhere.  At a recent workshop at Westcott one Bishop was reported to have declared that the non-Stipended clergy in the CofE were: “simply too diverse to do anything about!”.

As a consequence, this group can often feel marginalised and neglected and whilst it is true that it is very diverse, ways can be found to identity and develop common ground about its purpose.

The use of the words “Non-Stipendiary” to describe the role are in themselves derogatory and a number of attempts have been made to soften them at the same time that a variety of alternative non-Stipend-taking models have been experimented with – and introduced. Some of these usages must be a complete mystery to non-Anglicans and increase the confusion around the titles which now include: Self-Supporting Ministers (SSM); Ministers n Secular Employment (MSE); Locally Ordained Minister (LOM/OLM); Collaborative ministry, Voluntary Minister and Clergy with Permission to Officiate (PTO).

These difference in nomenclature, usages and understandings of role are not a sufficient reason for failing to appreciate the part these individuals play in the life of the Church. Rather, they describe an institution that is struggling to understand the nature of ministry (and by implication of Holy Orders!) at a time of rapid change, the most significant of which is the decline in church numbers and the call to mission.

One aspect of the discourse about non-Stipends is that it is very often framed in negativity.  This comes from both those who are non-Stipends and from those who are responsible for them.

I call this the seesaw effect of the abused and the abusive. On one end are the abused who are called upon to perform all those tasks in ministry (and there are many!) that are too tedious or time-consuming to attract the attention of full-time ministers. These individuals can become dis-enfranchised, dis-interested and destructive to the life of the local church and make the lives of the full-timers miserable. At the other end of the seesaw are those who are themselves abusive.  That is, they will only do what is convenient to them and are not willing to share in the “heavy lifting” of the life of the local Parish or of the wider Church.

Of course, there are many non-Stipend ministers we know who are at neither of these extremes and enjoy fulfilling ministries but the fact that the Church has no deliberate policy about their work suggests that something is not right that needs to be addressed.

As an alternative to framing the discourse of the role of non-Stipends in such terms, I should like to examine what lies behind the role and to explore what it means to have “Responsibility without Authority” that is intended to make a contribution to a revised theory-practice paradigm for those who do not take a Stipend from the Church.

However, it is important that the direction of travel from which I come is appreciated. I was Ordained into the Scottish Episcopal Church 20 years ago after half a life-time of lay discipleship. I served as a Non-Stipended Team Priest in the Diocese of Edinburgh and as Priest in Charge at Rosslyn Chapel for 9 years throughout the Da Vinci Code phenomenon before being appointed the Bishop’s Officer for ministry development. I now hold a PTO in the Diocese of Hereford; I work in three universities teaching theology and business administration at doctoral level and I am Fellow at Westcott Foundation in Cambridge. Throughout all of this time I have continued in secular employment and have not been paid by the Church except when I was part-paid at Rosslyn. I have also acted as Chair of ICF (Industrial Christian Fellowship and Moderator of CHRISM (Christians in Secular Employment).

I have divided my thinking into four parts in order to try to introduce some clarity into issues of “Responsibility without Authority” in ministry.  These are issues of: sociality, theology, ecclesiology and the ministerial role.

Issues of Sociality

Having responsibility for something usually goes along with the authority for its implementation but this is not always so. Most non-Stipends take on responsibilities in the local Parish and beyond, but few have the commensurate authority. Responsibility is about being answerable and accountable, being trusted and having the independence to fulfil the role. Authority means having the power to get something done with the attendant knowledge and expertise to achieve it.

Freud (1856-1939) put ideas about responsibility down to early-life experience and the way that our ‘unconscious mind’ learns to accept or reject responsibility; have it forced upon us or denied to us. Marx (1818-1883) referred to responsibility as structural and a function of ‘the buffers of destiny’.  In these ways ideas about responsibility are ‘hard-wired’ into our lives in both positive and negative ways.

Likewise, ideas about authority come from issues of structure as in Weber’s (1864-1920) ideas about hierarchy and ‘the grounds for authority’ in his bureaucratic model and from models in human history in, for example, De Gaulle’s (1890-1970) mystical self-belief.

Difficulties in dealing with responsibility include issues of denial, blame and punishment

whilst authority can involve difficult issues of rigidity, rules, certitude and entitlement. Each of these meanings can affect the way that we think about these words, their meanings and how we respond to them in the tasks of ministry.

Issues of theology

One of the founding Anglican thinkers about the idea of non-Stipends in the modern era was a CofE clergyman who in his work as a missionary in China came to the conclusion that the model of being church that was based on the primary role of the priest would simply not work in that vast country with its expanding population. Roland Allen (1869-1947) experienced the way that the work of mission was frustrated by clergy who held all the power; that the churches would never be able to provide the resources needed and that it should be the people of God who ministered to themselves and to others. Allen called this the ‘overflowing abundance’ of the Gospel. His ideas were considered so dangerous that he was removed from mission activity and, back in England, was banned from preaching from his own pulpit by the Bishop of Oxford. In our own times, the experience of Father Vincent Donovan amongst the Masai was not dissimilar.  He too was recalled to Ireland and was never allowed to go into Africa again.

However, signs had emerged in the post-war era that alternative ways of mission would be needed in its chaotic aftermath and in France the Little Brothers in Christ offered an example of the worker-priest deeply engaged with secular culture whilst maintaining a life of piety.

It was Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) who in league with his Cambridge friend Bishop Mervyn Stockwood (1913-1995) of Southwark declared that the idea of the non-Stipended minister was inclusive of ‘the inward meaning of priesthood’ and theologically authentic. In particular, Non-Stipends would be self-supporting, mission orientated and would face both church and the world – Not unlike a number of the models in the early Church.

Whilst some of these objectives were distorted by the world oil crisis of October 1973 (my training Rector, the late Revd. John Farrant, used to say that non-Stipends were then used to fill ‘gaps in the thin black line’) the original aim was not entirely lost. As the churches have continued to lose adherents since then, the challenging words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (1906-1945) ‘What does God mean for people today?’ have come to be at the centre of the direction of the purpose and future of the churches.

Non-Stipends potentially now have both the responsibility – and the authority – to become the explorers of the Church; to work in those liminal places that other kinds of ministers are less likely to access and to minister in both contradiction and conciliation.

Issues of Ecclesiology

The CofE, as might have been expected, opposed such ideas and in a series of Convocations and Synods over many decades rejected non-Stipendiary ministry as being antithetical to Ordination and of the need to keep faith with Pope Gregory the Great’s (AD540-604) ideas of simony and celibacy (which maintained the separateness of the clergy) and of Justin Martyr’s (AD100-165) remark that ‘The blood of the martyrs is the life of the church’ (which made the stress and overwork of clergy to be the norm).

This compared starkly with the experience of those entering the CofE via the Southwark Ordination course who included the chief inspector of buses at London Bridge station and Jim Storey, solicitor to the TUC.

These individuals and many generations of non-Stipends who have followed in their footsteps understand their roles as contextual (don’t we all!), interpretive, recognisable and prophetic – each of which has the potential to add to the overall mission effort which is needed for our time.

Issues of role

Whilst Ordination comes from a variety of ontological motivations, ministry comes from that part of it which is about ‘doing’. Ministry is a ‘performative act’ in which something is expected of the minister in and of the social world.

All ministers share this responsibility for action and many non-Stipends (but not all) often have a double responsibility in more ways than one. In addition to their involvement in that part of God’s world known as secular, they often act as the ‘second chair’ or the ‘first follower’ in the local Parish to their full-time clergy counterpart.

This is a difficult role to play. Many non-Stipends enjoy major responsibilities in their secular role and are leaders and followers in their own right and on their own terms. Playing what they may feel is ‘second violin’ to another is not always easy for them. This is especially the case when they witness their full-time clerical leader behaving inappropriately or leading the local Parish ineffectively.

In such situations tolerance and Godly patience are needed on both sides to prevent the breakdown in relationship that is so common and which can lead to the distain that the two parties often express about the other – the “you lot are too diverse to take seriously or do anything about” attitude already identified.

This raises the question of the qualities that non-Stipends should aim to develop that will help them to own a ministry that is of both challenge and contentment within the local Parish. However, it should be recognised by their full time sisters and brothers that for many non-Stipends this will often only be a part of their lives when they are of working age and in  secular employment but that this does not mean that they are not in and of God and His mission when so engaged.

The ministry of non-Stipends is a gift to the Church and non-Stipends should not be passive about their Parish ministry but should contribute fully to the local church’s efforts (IE not to abuse it).

This raises the issue of the extent to which non-Stipends are of the Church but not in it. One of the reasons for the dis-enchantment of full-time clergy towards their non-Stipends is the way that some of them snipe at the inadequacies they observe in the practice of full-time ministry in the Church. As the Lay leadership of the Church becomes increasingly empowered through its knowledge and experience, many full-time clergy can feel threatened and correspondingly dis-empowered. Much of this lay criticism can be justified by the Church’s managing of its business but neither Church nor secular organisational practice is either wholly good or wholly bad.

There are a number of qualities that can be associated with those who have responsibility without authority and who act as first followers and second leaders. Amongst these are: the vocation of followers with responsibility; the ministry of followers without authority; the relationships of those with responsibility and the power of those without authority.

The vocation of followers with responsibility

It is not an easy task to fulfil ministry in our time even with the full authority the Church gives to its leaders. Ministry is full of ambiguities with or without the authority that goes along with the full-time role. The vocation of the non-Stipended clergy person is also ambiguous and often complex with one foot in the secular part of God’s world and the other in the local church. In particular, non-Stipends should ask themselves of their ministry in the local Parish – and of their responsibility to its leader – of the ways in which they can challenge, shape and contribute to its life and progress compared to their being passive, acting only as an implementer of the ideas of others or as its critic. In this model, followers have onerous responsibilities to act for good with or without the authority to do so.

The ministry of followers without authority

Whilst conventional thinking may propose that responsibility is a function of authority, it does not always need to be so. Followers can take responsibility upon themselves for their actions with the assumption that what they are doing will be in the general direction of travel of which their clergy-leader would approve. The giving of service does not always need the permission of another but can be an autonomous act of love. In the secular part of God’s world, current leaders quite deliberately say to their followers: “don’t ask me, make up your own mind!”. Active followers can also provide an aspect of challenge that is critical when alternative courses of action are under consideration and are valued by leaders who will ask: ‘what do you think we should do?”

Active followers do not leave their brains at the door; should struggle with complexity in the tasks of transformation and ill often find that their leader is engaged in the same struggle and will appreciate their supportive critique.

Lastly, followers are entitled to speak to power when this is needed if, for example, the leader is going in the wrong direction.

The relationships of those with responsibility

The relationship between the non-Stipended clergy person and their (usually) full time colleague-in-leadership will be one of the critical challenges that they will face.

One way to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the full-time leader is to focus on the purpose of the local church and not on the person of its leadership.  This is not easy when personality plays such a large part in the performance of ministry and when members of the congregation start playing Chinese whispers about what the leader has or has not done. Non-Stipends need to remind themselves of the privileges of Ordination and not get trapped in differences or disputes about personality. Another way to manage relationships is to seek to act as a mentor to the other in appreciation that the tasks of ministry are hard and that the role of the ‘critical friend’ can make a real difference.

The power of followers without authority

The idea that followers who are responsible but do not have authority cannot act is one of the main barriers to thinking and acting in the non-Stipended role. Followers have many opportunities to use their followership in ways that will support their full-time colleagues at the same time as developing their own distinctive ministries. These include a commitment to the tasks of ministry (or not shirking some of its tiresome activities1) as well as speaking truth to power, setting high standards and making hard choices. Many non-Stipends have extensive networks across the local church and beyond it that can help their full-time colleagues link themselves quickly and effectively with the local community. This can extend their mission boundaries and take them into liminal places they would not otherwise be able to go. Non-Stipends should be enablers and not gate-keepers whilst appreciating that very often their networks will last longer than those of their full-time leader who will move on. This situation is both a gift and a responsibility and has little to do with authority.


One way of considering ways to fulfil the non-Stipended role is to reverse the question and ask: ‘what do leaders seek from those who follow but also lead?’

Leaders seek individuals who will be their partners in ministry and who will serve the needs of the local church. One way that this has been defined is in the words ‘the towel of service’ (appropriately in the context of the Passion story!) to describe the qualities of the good follower. These include the credibility to act in the support role developed through long experience and of the trust that comes from it; one who is demonstrably patient with others, who is consistent in their loyalty and is a co-operator.

From this analysis it is possible to identify a ministry for non-Stipends that provides both challenge and contentment, both pastoral and evangelising opportunities, that is both performative and reflective and, above all, does not permit the role to be infantilised but gives proper place to the integrity and responsibility of the follower.

‘Always be ready to make your defence when anyone challenges you to justify the hope that is in you but do so with courtesy and respect (I Peter 3.15).

(This article first appeared in ‘Ministry Today UK’ Edition No. 67, Summer 2016)




‘Crisis in Employment’ by Revd Prof. Dr Michael Fass


Michael Fass is a Senior Research Fellow at the Westcott Foundation, Cambridge, & former Chair of ICF (Industrial Christian Fellowship)


As the news came through about the latest job losses at Newport in South Wales and Redcar in the North East of England memories came back to me of the hard years of the two great recessions in 1981-1984 and 1989-1994. The first recession was a so-called “blue collar” one with shipyards, coal mines and steel works closed down in all the formerly great and historic industrial areas of Central Scotland, the North East and South Wales. The second was quite different and was a “white collar” recession with many office workers, middle managers and professionals, for example, architects, put out of work throughout the UK. The first attracted national attention not least during and after the Miners Strike of 1984-1985. However, the second was less visible with a slower “after burn” of destructive force as the national economy recovered and boomed in the years following “big bang”.

In the first recession there were double blows to working age individuals. The 1981 Budget doubled VAT from 8% to 15% which brought the national economy to a shuddering halt and put many self-employed people – of whom I was one – out of work with no prospect of re-employment throughout the recession. Increases in direct and indirect taxes did for the rest of the economy.

The second recession which led to the closure of many corporate headquarters finished off white-collar professionals many of whom were never to work again although only in their 40s and 50s.

In the first recession I was more fortunate than many others because through my part-time work with the world’s first Small Firms Service inspired by the Bolton Committee’s 1971 report and started up by Harold Wilson in the mid-1970s, I was taken on to manage the Government’s response to unemployment in West Lothian, the UK’s fourth highest area of unemployment (TWA). Coal mining had been its traditional industry and on nationalisation vesting day in 1951 there were 31 collieries employing 12,000 miners. By the mid -1960s many of these had closed and in 1983 when I began work only two were still operational of which one – whose main shaft was named the Gallipoli shaft – had been sunk in 1915!

In 1964, as part of a national industrial dispersal policy, British Leyland were instructed to build a truck and engine building facility in the area and by 1983 this plant employed 9,500 – mainly men – that included over 600 engineering apprentices with a further 3,500 ancillary jobs in the surrounding community. I remember the local MP, Tam Dalyell, telling me that inside the plant was the largest concentration of machine tools in western Europe – 1400. The only problem was that Leyland had dumped their oldest equipment into the factory and most of the machines had manufacturers identification plates dating from 1953!

Between 1984-1986 all of these local jobs were lost, the level of adult unemployment rose to c.29% and unemployment amongst young people aged 19 was at c. 90%. Less than 5% of economically active people worked in smaller firms and one third of the adult population of c. 45,0000 out of a total population of 148,000 were without work or prospects. I remember going out of my office in my first week at work to buy a sandwich and being puzzled to see the number of young families pushing prams in the street during working hours. In retrospect I think that it was at that moment when I realised that the job on which I was about to embark was going to be more about prophecy than about national policy; more about action that economic theory and more about pastoral care than about personal boundaries although at the time I hardly knew the meaning of the word pastoral!

The role of prophetic leadership

The initial reactions of the community to the multiple closures that followed their announcement were those of shock and anger. This was closely followed by despair. It took a long time – around three years – for this to become the determination to create a new way for the community. I remember being asked by a redundant Leyland truck worker if I thought that he would ever work again. I responded that I believed he would not but that if what we were planning to do doing was successful, then his children and grandchildren would have good jobs. The community enjoyed a close knit culture – like many industrial areas –  and began to mobilise in a variety of ways. Much of this was related to temporary work schemes (the UK Govnt’s Community Programme was in full swing) but the resources available were quite inadequate to cope with the social and economic consequences of the situation and the large numbers of individuals needing support.

The most remarkable feature of the area that emerged was the quality of its leadership. At that time there were four layers of public authority in Scotland. These were: The national government at Westminster, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office in Edinburgh and the regional and local authorities in the community. It might be imagined that this would a recipe for inaction at worst and duplication of effort at best but because of the quality of the individuals involved at all of these levels – and in particular, those responsible for the planning function – the actions that were first planned and then implemented, were unprecedented in the modern economic history of Scotland when applied to a local community.

For example, the two Westminster MPs, Tam Dalyell and the late Robin Cook, lent their support and lobbied ceaselessly for what needed to be done. One measure that was proposed but was considered totally unreasonable by those in control, would be the re-opening of the passenger rail line into the city of Edinburgh that would provide access to jobs in the short term whilst local jobs would take longer to be created.  This was achieved when the Convenor (Mayor) of the local authority hired a helicopter and flew the Secretary of State for Scotland along its proposed route. The route was the only new railway line built in the UK throughout the 17 years of Margaret Thatcher’s government!

Tam Dalyell, already with a fierce-some reputation at weekly PMQs, would visit my office most weeks to enquire how things were going and did I have a question for next Tuesday afternoon at 2.15pm – Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland-  conveniently placed immediately before questions to the Prime Minister at 2.45pm! The railway initiative was also an example of co-operation with no regard for Party lines: London and Edinburgh were ruled by the Conservatives but the regional and local authorities by Labour.

At every level of public service, plans were made for both short and long term developments that included better road networks and motorway access points, an increase in industrial building of small and medium sized factories and offices; access to venture capital funds that could be drawn upon by local businesses and an increase in education and training provisions in local high schools and colleges.  All of these proposed activities were founded on a new vision for the community that was developed and promoted that would replace its former reliance on one way of work and life to provide a more diverse future. Whilst the initial focus of leadership was on key infrastructural improvements, the long term task was about  changing hearts and minds.

The focus for practical action

Whilst planning work progressed there was much to organise. I remember the Convenor (Chair) of the Planning Committee asking me how many months it would be before I would be in a position to open our offices to the public and offer advice to businesses. I replied that we were open for business on the day of my arrival and could the local authority help to promote the services we could provide? From a standing start of a total of three staff and a budget of £180,000, the agency grew in the next three years to a total of 19 staff and a budget of over £5 million a year. The programmes that were initiated included a woman-only enterprise programme, the first in Scotland, and work with young people starting up in business in addition to management services for existing companies but the main priority was to stabilise the local businesses that remained and to encourage new ones to start up.

The public authorities primary and secondary schools were of a high standard but entry to higher education was low as formerly there had been an expectation that the majority of young people would become apprentices in local factories or go to work in the public utilities.  These routes into work were now blocked. As a way to help young people adjust, we initiated a Soc.&Voc. programme for both students and teachers that was designed to introduce them to the economy in which they would be working in the future. After initial resistance, over 100 high school teachers participated in the scheme.  Similar changes were introduced into the curriculum of the local FE college so that young people would be able to participate in new employment opportunities when these should arise.

The voluntary sector in the area was already well developed but, for example, CAB became a key resource for the community. The local authority embarked on a major house improvement programme in its smaller settlements and community-based social agencies were very active in providing a wide variety of social and economic services.  These would now be called ‘social enterprises’.

The need for pastoral attention

Such was the high level of suspicion about the situation and the charge that I was a government lackey, it took me almost two years before I was invited to meet the Joint Shop Stewards Committee (JSSC) representing 19 separate union organisations inside the Leyland plant to discuss ideas about the alternative ownership of manufacturing operations. In addition to the 98 series engine being fitted into Leyland’s own truck range, it was also used in a number of other applications including JCB back-loaders. The hope of the shop stewards was that the plant could continue to produce the engine -although at a lower volume of production – by selling to other users. This led to one of the most sensitive car journeys in my life as the Convenor (Chair) of the JSSC and I travelled by car down to England and after an overnight stay in a nearby hotel, met with JCB’s leadership the following morning to discuss our proposal.   Although not successful, the experience changed the way I thought and felt about opposition to the changes that were happening to individuals and groups who found themselves in situations for which they were completely unprepared and illequipped to manage for themselves and for their families.

Such interventions occurred on a daily basis either in our own offices and workshops, at meetings with individuals and groups throughout the community and alongside those who were responsible for providing the resources required which involved public and private institutions in the UK and EU. In each of these settings there were opportunities for engagement both with those to whom I wished to explain and promote plans and activities and with those who were anxious about their future.


Thinking about areas that are currently being challenged by profound changes in industrial and employment infrastructure – let alone the additional pressures of global trade and competition – I wonder what the lessons for ministry might be for today.

First, my experience tells me that the most important feature for taking action is the quality of the leadership that is available locally and regionally. This demands an equally high standard of response from church leaders so that by their example, knowledge and commitment they can participate in all that needs to be done. I was at a meeting of clergy recently which was discussing the role of mission in the Parish. Each individual was asked to draw a map of their community networks. Most could not get much further than conducting the Remembrance Day service for the British Legion each year! Ministers need to have extensive networks of relationships already in place that canl anticipate trouble that might lie ahead.

Second, there are many practical actions in which the local church can become involved. The  local church is often located at the centre of the community both socially and psychically and can be used as a focal point for those who would not otherwise meet or communicate with each other. Ministers need to draw up mind-maps of who and where the key sources of intelligence, power. leadership and resources can be found and identify the ways of influencing their plans and actions.

Third, the local church should also plan to provide resources in its own right and as a partner in the provision of services. In the second of the recessions the church in which I worshipped started up a ‘Crisis in Employment’ group for which I was responsible that provided CV writing, interview practice and personal support.

Prophetic leadership, practical action and pastoral attention are all issues about which the church knows a great deal from its accumulated wisdom over many generations and ministers  who are serious about the industrial and employment situations in which they and their communities face have a vital role to play in their resolution.

After many years of struggle and hard work, the area in which I worked between 1983-1992 now has over 45% of its economically active people working in smaller firms, an unemployment rate of less than 6%, a prize-winning local authority and a community that considers itself to be socially and economically successful. I make no claims for my part in these changes except for the privilege of having been a participant in them.

(This article first appeared in Urban Bulletin Issue No. 30 June 2016) .


A Conflict of Biblical Proportions? Scripture and the First World War

The centenary of the First World War has provided an important opportunity to re-evaluate its impact on religious faith and life.  Westcott House is one of a number of partners participating in a new project examining the influence of the Bible during World War I, as well as how views of the Bible changed as a result of the conflict.

German Bible with bullet hole
German Bible with bullet hole (Photo: Professor Dr Gottfried Geiler)

The Bible’s significance for people who lived through World War I may seem, superficially, an unlikely subject, but its influence was considerable. Many of the generation who fought in the First World War had studied the Bible at school and were more familiar with its contents than most people now. As a result, Christian nations on both sides were able to use it as a source of inspiration, motivation and propaganda. At the same time, conscientious objectors could use its message of peace to defend their refusal to fight. Wherever people stood in relation to the war, the scriptures offered a fundamental resource that could help them make sense of what they were going through.

Canadian picture of Jesus at Firing Squad of mixed European Soldiers
‘The Deserter’: Jesus faces a firing squad of mixed European soldiers (image credit: Boardman Robinson, via Wikimedia Commons)

The research project, entitled “The Book And The Sword: The Bible In The Experience and Legacy of the Great War”, is drawing together theologians and historians from around the world to look at this understudied area and for the first time attempt to pull together many potentially fascinating threads into a coherent narrative. From the controversial sermons of Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London; to General Allenby’s entry on foot into Jerusalem in 1917 in self-conscious imitation of Jesus; to the earnest debate among German theologians about whether or not the Old Testament really was bloodthirsty enough reading matter for the heroic German people; the project will aim to show how the Bible was a potent force that shaped many people’s wartime experience.

This Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project is being led by Andrew Mein, Senior Research Fellow in Biblical Studies at Westcott House, and by Nathan MacDonald, Lecturer in Hebrew Bible in the Divinity Faculty. You can see Nathan and Andrew interviewed about the project for our local TV channel, Cambridge TV, by following the link below.


A project like this is not only about the past. The First World War still looms large in our national self-consciousness, and is called to mind every year at Remembrancetide.  To look back at the way that faith and scripture worked for people a hundred years ago can help us reflect on our current practice: how did they hold together the seemingly impossible demands of national civic religion and the Christian witness for peace?

Soldiers hearing mass in the ruins of Cambrai cathedral, October 1918 © IWM (Q 9559)
Soldiers hearing mass in the ruins of Cambrai cathedral, October 1918 © IWM (Q 9559)

How might we draw on their experience to refresh our worship and preaching in a season that clergy often find challenging?  The Westcott Foundation will be offering an opportunity to explore these themes in a study on ‘Bible, War and Remembrance’ on Wednesday 5th October 2016, led by Andrew Mein, Nathan MacDonald, and Ally Barrett. Remembrancetide is challenging for those who lead worship and preach. How do we meet so many diverse needs and expectations? How do we both remember the past fallen and speak into the complexity of contemporary conflicts?  In this study day we will reflect on current practice of remembrance, and draw on the use of the Bible during 1914-18 to find new resources for theology and preaching.  Click here to email us and reserve a place at this study day or to find out more. 

In the mean time you can read more about the project here:


and here:


Stanley Spencer, Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing-Station at Smol, Macedonia, September
Stanley Spencer, Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing-Station at Smol, Macedonia, September, IWM ART 2268  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/25132


The distinction of λόγος- A Sermon by Arwen Folkes.

A Sermon preached by Arwen Folkes, Ordinand, on 18th May 2016. 

‘No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me’
~ Mk 9.38-40
May I speak in the name of….
When a business idea is born there almost always follows a process of strategic planning, writing a mission statement, and deciding who exactly it is for.  A brand or logo will then be designed to represent how the service or a product is to be understood by others.
Logos generally embody the values, definition, membership, appeal, and purpose of a concept. While some logos speak instantly others become significant as a service becomes more and more associated with it.
In particular, when it’s a logo for an activity, it often represents membership marking who belongs, and who doesn’t. It can become a badge of honour, a right to be earned or bought, and if particularly high-end the logo indicates a privilege.
In the first verse of this evenings Gospel it seems as though the ‘name of Jesus’ has come to inhabit the space of a logo; ‘We tried to stop them’ John says ‘because they were not following us’.
Stopped because they hadn’t earned the right to use the Jesus logo, because using the name of Jesus requires membership, earned rights, and followed tradition.
But, Jesus reclaims the right to decide who uses ‘his name’ and stops them in their tracks.
‘No, no, no’, he says, ‘my name is not a logo of membership … my name is the power of the λόγος of God’
Although linguistically similar, the term ‘λόγος’ is very different to the term ‘logo’. Where logo symbolizes an idea, logos is the idea; it includes the spark, the power, the movement, and the expression.
The second verse of tonight’s Gospel shows that Jesus himself believes his very name contains a power that transcends any mere linguistic representation. Within the very name of Jesus, there exists all that he says, does, breathes and becomes. The name is completely hallowed by his being and, he tells us, the one who uses it will find their purpose hallowed in return.
Such is the power of the name, such is the reach of the word, such is the λόγος of God … where humans use a logo to express the values of something, the λόγος frees humans to express the values of everything.
I wonder, therefore, how we facilitate the name of Jesus being known as logo or λόγος? The answer I think lies in being aware of the distinction.
A logo depends upon those who buy into it and creates exclusivity by placing parameters and definitions on who has the right to belong and use the brand. Indeed, legal structures exist to prosecute anyone deemed to have misrepresented the logo’s concept.
In contrast, the λόγος incorporates, builds, and integrates. It transforms, because it sees potential and nurtures it and it tries new things. As heard this evening it even works with those outside the tradition because it knows no bounds.
Where a logo says ‘yes’ but will frequently mean no, when the λόγος says yes, he really means it.
When we fully consider the name of Jesus Christ, I think we surely see that human boundaries are not the gospel message … because, the real message to be found is that the λόγος of God can gloriously and powerfully gift anyone who has experienced the call to use his name.
In the name of Jesus Christ.


What is the point?

A sermon preached by Rachel Revely, ordinand, on Tuesday 10 May 2016


Evening Prayer readings: Deuteronomy 31.14-29, 1 John 3.1-10

What… is… the… point? 
Now I am sure we have all thought that recently especially after midnight in the library. But that’s  also what I would be thinking if I were Moses in our first reading. What was the point? You spend nearly all your 120 years talking to non-flammable vegetation, risking sheep and limb dragging these people out of Egypt, wandering the desert for years, think of all the blisters, then what do you hear on your death bed after all your hard work “Soon you will lie down with your ancestors. Then this people will begin to prostitute themselves to the foreign Gods.”  … Excellent

I don’t know about all of you but I would be thinking what is the point? But not Moses. Although he is dying, and spoiler alert: his death takes all week.
Moses still cares about God, the people and his beliefs. Moses hears all the lord has to say and still witnesses to it. He preserves it as law and passes it down amongst all the tribes. Till the end Moses upholds the courage of his convictions. For me, Moses epitomises courage in the old testament, even though like many others he is a rather reluctant prophet but Moses is courageous and no matter the situation always witnesses to God.

Courage is crucial to our lives as Christians and in this Novena, we have been asked to pray especially today for the gift of courage. But what is courage some of us might say its the student who when faced with this  very question in an exam wrote: “this is” stood up and walked out.

Whilst others could say it is drinking the mystery ascension day cocktail in the bar. Courage comes in variety of forms. Courage is often something someone else has or needs, we can make it a facet of the other something distant and far away. We don’t need courage, why would we? Surely, we are safe! But that does not acknowledge that we are all given courage through the saving power of our God.
In our second reading John says that sin doesn’t have the power of fear over us because we know we God but this can appear like arrogance and starts to build up a dichotomy that if you sin you are not saved and if you are saved then you do not sin. However, we all know its not as simple as that. 
What I believe we see in our second reading is the courage of God that is imparted to us, through the cross. We do not and should not have courage in ourselves alone but have courage in ourselves through our saviour.  Jesus is the foundation of our faith. He is our stronghold in who we find courage and safety.
But in this week of prayer for evangelism and mission we cannot just rely on safety and ignore our God given courage. The nineteenth american theologian William Shedd once said “ships are safe in harbour but thats not what ships are for” and I think this analogy is true for us as well. We are not just supposed to sit in safety. Taking our gift of courage from God we could go out empowered by the gospel. This is part of God’s plan for us. We even hear it in our psalm for this evening “Send forth your strength O god and establish what you have wrought in us.” And what god has wrought in us is established through the power of his gospel. Moses died before he could cross the Jordan but he died as he lived being courageous and listening to God.  This is what we should all strive to do for the rest of our lives… 
Because fundamentally… that is the point.

Annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Written by Philip Murray, Ordinand. 
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Lk 1:38
On entering the Shrine Church at Walsingham, pilgrims come immediately to the Annunciation Altar. There, in bright white and Marian blue, that tremendous moment at the beginning of the Incarnation is depicted in still simplicity. The Angel Gabriel kneels in petition; the Blessed Virgin Mary sits in quiet humility; the Father looks on expectedly, surrounded by the heavenly host who wait in nervous excitement on her word. “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum” pilgrims read on the Altar—the angel’s first voicing of those words uttered by countless Christians ever since. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. And on reading these words, pilgrims can’t help but think of Mary’s reply: the proper prayer of all who, like her, seek to follow her Son: “be it unto me according to thy word”.

These words, of course, have a particular significance for those preparing to take Holy Orders in the Church. Mary’s unhesitating acceptance of God’s call on her life, her complete self-giving in service of God’s plan for his creation, is the ideal that guides all of us in formation for the diaconate and priesthood. It was appropriate, then, that the Annunciation Altar was where pilgrims from the House gathered at the beginning of our pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The pilgrimage was, in a sense, already well under way. We had made the not-very-long journey across the Fens, the many verses of the Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn sung with gusto on the bus (Ave! Ave! Ave Maria! still rings in our ears). We’d visited the Slipper Chapel at the Roman Catholic Shrine, and availed ourselves of the plenary indulgence offered to all pilgrims crossing through the Mercy Door during this year’s Jubilee of Mercy. We’d walked the Holy Mile to the Anglican Shrine, many of the braver members of the House barefooted. But it was at the Annunciation Altar, as S. Luke’s account of the Annunciation was read, that our spiritual pilgrimage got properly underway.

Walsingham is a microcosm of the Church, a place where a myriad of individual Christian vocations are woven together into something that supports and guides all those seeking to follow Christ: the Lady Richeldis de Faverches, asked by the Blessed Virgin Mary almost a millennium ago to build a replica of our Lord’s childhood home; Fr Alfred Hope Patten, called to rebuild the shrine in the 1920s and 30s after its destruction during the Reformation; the priests and deacons who have ministered at the shrine from that time since, singing the Mass and offering pilgrims the healing waters of the well. And so our pilgrimage to Walsingham gave us the opportunity to bask in this same spiritual atmosphere, as we sought to draw closer to God for guidance and support in our formation. In the Holy House we were reminded of the humility of Christ; at Mass we were shown once again of his generous, sacrificial giving; in Benediction we dwelt on his on-going presence in the world; at the waters of the well, we were shown the healing that only faith in Christ can bring. All of these are things that we, as men and women who—God willing—will one day be ordained, will be expected to model, as we serve as a reflection of Christ in the communities to which we’re sent.

Walsingham, then, is chiefly a place of vocation: the vocation of Mary, who’s unwavering Yes to God forms the very basis of our faith; the vocations of all Christians who’ve made pilgrimage to Walsingham, aided by the prayers and example of Mary, Mother and Model of Vocations as they seek to follow her Son. As we came away from the Shrine, we too were refreshed in our own vocations. Through a day of prayer, communion and frivolity, we were made more able to say, with Mary, “be it unto me according to thy word”.