It’s not all just writing essays and learning how not to drop babies whilst baptising them! Several Westcott students exhibited their creative theological work in the chapel this week, among them Cécile Schnyder, Emily Reynolds, Dwayne Engh and Carol Backhouse.
All photos by Maura Roni 2015; text by the artists themselves.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.
|The person I loved died long ago
The person I loved died long ago: a theological reflection on a piece of art made as a response to a pastoral encounter on an acute Dementia Ward.
‘Books were important on the ward. There were magazines but also picture books arranged by date…meant as a way of engaging people in discussions, possibly triggering memories and safely occupying people during their long, rather monotonous day.’
|The person I loved died long ago
‘I observed one day an elderly gentleman ripping out pages from a book. he was obstructed by a nurse who took the book away and put the loose, ripped out pages back into the book. Later that day another patient grabbed the book and the pages fell onto the floor. A while later they were picked up by a member of staff and put on a table. The tables was moved and so were the pages. An elderly man took a page and blew his nose with it. He then dropped the page on the floor and [someone else] shoved it with her feet under a settee. Later in the afternoon the page was picked up by a cleaner and thrown away.
‘I was struck by the journey of the ripped out pages, the abused books. We refer to someone being a closed book, we think of names being written into the book of life. There is a belief that smart people like books and so books stand for knowledge, reason and intelligence.
‘Is not society dealing with people with dementia like loose pages ripped from the book of reason / life?’
|A work in progress
A work in progress, Carol Backhouse
‘My grandparents built their home in Herefordshire after the war, and this was the view from their front window. In the distance are the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains; in the foreground is the town of Kington, with St. Mary’s Church nesting in the trees. The landscape speaks of journeys, as Offa’s Dye runs across it.
‘This ancient earthwork follows the English-Welsh border. Fifty years ago my grandfather set up the long distance footpath which follows its course through the Welsh Marches.’
Requiem for a Hospice, Dwayne Engh
‘I see the world through music. I often find my centre as well as the hope and peace of Christ there. It was therefore natural for me to attempt to explore the question of bereavement and self-care through writing short musical reflections based around the structure of a requiem mass. This evolved from praying on the correlation and interplay between the hospice experience, the original liturgical texts of the Requiem Mass and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
‘There is a strong argument to be made that music and the arts are a form of theology. While I recognise the referential limitations in such a semantically fluid art form…I argue music is truth-bearing in its own right and can express concepts words can not. The music contains more than I can articulate in a brief essay cognitively and critically, but of which I am aware and can communicate. Expressing my emotional journey through music is a form of incarnation theology that adds reflective value to my doing and making.’
Everybody Welcome (PowerPoint), Emily Reynolds
‘Over the summer a significant number of the congregation [of my placement church] attended an “Everybody Welcome” course; aiming to help Churches reflect on their welcoming style. During my placement I heard many people comment, ‘we are a friendly Church’, but there was also a genuine openness by the congregation to reflect and explore how this could be enhanced.
|from ‘Everybody Welcome’ prayers
‘To underpin the “Everybody Welcome” course, the incumbent organised a week of prayer devoted to the theme of ‘welcome’. I created two prayer booklets; one for morning and one for evening prayer, based on God’s abundant welcome and how we can share this with others. I also set up eight creative prayer stations throughout the Church, also on the theme of welcome…I also created a powerpoint, as the Church regularly uses a projector and screen for its Sunday worship.’
‘My summer placement was a city church in Cambridge…I was encouraged to think about a way to engage the congregation and the many visitors that came throughout the summer to look at the church….
The project needed to be accessible to people from all languages, backgrounds and faiths to participate in… It needed to be open to the congregation and enable a conversation about scripture and the Christian faith. An eight-week book-based writing project in which members of the congregation and I would be present in the church on two afternoons a week developed: there we would invite visitors and tourists to write out a sentence of St John’s gospel.
‘Upon explaining the project to visitors there was a strong sense of identification with the sentence given. There was no choice as such but people were asked to continue the story where the person before them had left it. Becoming part of something bigger than themselves seemed to engender oy and the fact that something was left behind after they left the church felt positive. Many people thanked us for doing this and a lot of people took a photo of their sentence or them writing it. The text itself became important. Some people remembered their Sunday school teaching; others approached the text for the first time.
This year Westcott House teamed up with Cambridge churches St. Bene’t’s and Little St. Mary’s for the feast of Corpus Christi.
|Photo: Fauzia Emmanuel|
Celebrations started off with a service of the Eucharist in St. Bene’t’s with Westcott’s own Will Lamb preaching. Led by a brass band playing hymns, the gathered crowd then processed carrying the sacrament down Trumpington Street (much to the delight of college residents and tourists!) to Little St Mary’s, where Benediction was held, followed by refreshments.
Thanks to all the members of Westcott, St. Bene’t’s, and Little St. Mary’s for their help in making this public act of witness go smoothly and beautifully.
|We were even featured in
‘A Cambridge Diary’ (!)
On Monday 1 June, Westcott welcomed Ed Foley, Capuchin, Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality and Professor of Liturgy and Music at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to lead a lecture and worship as part of the Easter Programme. His talks centred around Liturgy, Evangelism and Public Theology, and the necessity of shared ground between these three things.
Drawing on his decades of work as a liturgist and presbyter in numerous places – currently Old St Pat’s in downtown Chicago – Foley shared many stories and challenged students to think outside the traditional boxes when it came to liturgy. He believes that such an exploratory spirit is especially important in our highly technological age when, ‘everybody outside the church is interpreting our symbols, correctly or otherwise’. What is required of priests, therefore, is a degree of bilingual ‘symbolic competence’ in which they can speak with theologians and parishioners alike, make connections between the tradition and the everyday. ‘Liturgy was the church’s first practical theology’, Foley urged. ‘Before the gospels, before any of the New Testament existed, what did the earliest Christians have? Eucharist. They handed on what had been handed on to them. That is liturgy, and it was profoundly practical – not something exclusive or obscure’. The early church ‘could be described as a community doing “grief work”; learning to build a living memory of the Saviour who they have, in a sense, lost.’
And what is this grief work of the Eucharist? It is ‘the church born around the table…which always requires the presence of the outsider’. Jesus’ radical decision ‘to eat with the wrong people is the psychological reason that got him killed’. In our day, those outside the church are also ‘dangerous for us to have fellowship with in many people’s eyes, but that doesn’t make it any less important to do so’. This inclusion of the social, political, or religious outsider is what Foley finds central to ‘public theology’, and central to Christianity’s ability to be allies with others in living into a better world together. Seeing the sanctuary as the ‘new aereopagus’ (John ch. 17) is a good image for the Church of England, which is in some ways becoming again a missionary church.
Foley spoke warmly of the sacrament of reconciliation and of the occasional offices as primary opportunities for the church to engage with the people who show up and who deserve spiritual respect for their own beliefs, even whilst we would maintain our own deeply Christian standpoint. These parts of the church’s mission not only help to reach those who were once church-goers but have stopped, but also those who have not been used to church but drawn to the it by its symbols and ‘ways of making meaning, of ritualising people into family’.
Unless our churches can do ‘address people in their humanity and recognise that this sometimes leads to divinity but sometimes not’, Foley said, our liturgy is not public theology as such, and risks becoming obsolete. Rather than the ‘font and summit’ of the church’s life, could we not think of liturgy as the fount and catalyst for the church’s life in and beyond the church doors?
On Thursday 28 May our Community Eucharist preacher was Jesse Zink, a tutor at Westcott and Assistant Chaplain at Emmanuel College. You can read his sermon below.
|Jesus and Nicodemus | Henry Ossawa Turner|
Whilst some Westcott students are deep in exams, others, including some research students and those on the Common Awards Pathway, have been taking part in a programme of talks, workshops and other events during the past few weeks. Put together by tutors Alison Grey and Eeva John, this ‘Easter Term Programme’ has been organised in direct response to students’ requests to use the down time at the end of term for more exploratory learning. Similar to the January Intensives but much more varied, the Programme has included sessions on:
- A taster course in Biblical Hebrew with Heather Leppard
- An Introduction to Apologetics with Jeff Philips
- Exploring Rural Ministry with Alison Fulford
- A reading group on Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son
- Christian Ministry in the light of Hindu Spirituality with Ankhur Barua
- Lyric Poetry and the Life of Faith with Dom Thornton
- Liturgy & Public Theology and Liturgy & Evangelism workshops with Ed Foley
Feedback for the sessions has been widely positive, with students reflecting on the flavour that each of these sessions and topics had given their theological study. In the ‘Lyric poetry’ sessions, attendees were encouraged to pick a poem by the poet of the day (including R. S. Thomas & Gerard Manley Hopkins), to read up on it a bit, and then bring it to the group to be explored together. Literary background and form, the spirituality of the poets and their worldview were all topics of discussion. One student commented that she had come to the sessions as a complete novice to poetry but had left ‘with a much greater ability to appreciate lyric poetry’ thanks to ‘Dom bringing his love for poetry and generally sharing it with us’.
After hearing from a wealth of stories from Alison Fulford in the Exploring Rural Ministry session, students were split up into two groups. One was tasked with planning an agricultural service, the other with working out a term-rota of preachers and presiders. ‘It was great to start getting our heads round how complicated but exciting rural ministry can be, and to hear Alison’s stories was very encouraging,’ reflected one of the ordinands.
Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 of the Easter Programme posts!