Ordinands display creative theology in Chapel

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
Cécile Schnyder

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
Cécile Schnyder

‘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
Carol Backhouse

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.’ 

You can listen to Requiem for a Hospice by clicking this link


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
Emily Reynods

‘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.’

Emily Reynolds


The Scriptorium, Cécile Schnyder

‘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. 

The Scriptorium
Cécile Schnyder

‘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. 

Participating in the writing project gave people an opportunity to ask questions about the gospel, the Bible, the Christian faith more broadly. Who were ‘the Levites’? What was ‘Jacob’s well’? From theological questions such as ‘what is baptism?’, ‘who were the Jews in St John’s gospel?’ to big life questions: ‘My wife is sick’, ‘my daughter died’, ‘there is so much war/evil in the world – why?’
The Scriptorium
Cécile Schnyder
These were the moments when a small form of teaching or pastoral service took place. When I listened to questions and sometimes tried to answer, where books were suggested, a candle was lit, a prayer said. The gospel text became something that could be challenged and wrestled with. It became a living a sacred object to which I did not always have an answer.

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