Having arrived at Westcott in September 2019, I have certainly found myself overwhelmed by what is on offer for formation! From spirituality talks and theological conferences to silent and prayer days. It is difficult to maintain a healthy academic balance while here that is for sure. One constancy to the academic side of our priestly formation however is the pathway’s we are on. I am currently on the Durham Common Awards pathway for a BA in Theology, Ministry & Mission.
This pathway is highly contextual, with a focus on practical theology aimed at preparing us to minister and pastor in today’s increasingly globalised and challenged world. Classes include sessions on pastoral theology, theological reflection, Christian worship and Christian doctrine. The skills these give us are immense and theological reflection plays an important part within the assessment of these courses. This enables us as ordinands not just to think about academic theology but also to apply it to our own Parish placements and how theology meets the real world. This also gives us a chance to be self-aware and critical within formative assessment.
Classes on the Old Testament and New Testament enable us to explore God’s word in new ways and open us to new interpretations. There is also the chance to study biblical languages – Hebrew and Greek – which provide not just a challenge but further enhance our appreciation and study of scripture. All Durham classes are taught by Cambridge Theological Federation professors, who bring their own skills, scholarship and traditions in order to enrich our learning. Whilst I do this pathway with other Westcott ordinands, we are joined by fellow Anglican ordinands from Ridley Hall and those training for ministry in the United Reform Church.
To say this academic pathway has been vital for my own priestly formation is an understatement. Having come with little formal theological education, the Common Awards BA has opened me up to a better understanding of scripture in a way that’s critical and engaging. The chance to meet and discuss with ordinands who hold different views to my own, not only forms us, it forms the future of the church in ensuring respectful and open dialogue between future priests. Naturally, this prepares us for the variety of views that is held within the parishes we will eventually minister to. The practical theology and chances for reflection have helped us to reflect on and make sense of where God is working within our lives and parish attachments. This opens up avenues for God to work within and through us, all while giving us a chance to see God in those we are ministering to. Naturally there is a level of rigor to studying a full time degree on top of our spiritual and ministerial formation. Trying to achieve this balance is formational in itself, and I have found that even in the little things like personal administration and punctuality, I am growing more efficient.
My own ministry continues to be shaped by my academic formation. The practice and application of pastoral theology is a common occurance within placement, and gives you a confidence and trust that you will do right by those you are ministering to and to the God who has called you to serve him. Studying Hebrew myself, I have discovered an immensely joyous life and meaning within the Old Testament I had not seen before, this then gives us as preachers the chance to open up scripture to our placement congregation in a new and
lively way. From this flows deeper engagement, appreciation and enrichment in our spiritual lives. The space the course allows for personal prayer, meditation and study beyond the academic syllabus has been invaluable for my ministry. With the course engaging you with God academically, this space allows you to simply be present with God in your own way – this is our anchor at Westcott and of course in our ministry beyond.
As Ordinands on the Common Award pathway we undertake placements within a parish context. This puts us at the heart of ministry and Cambridge offers a unique and challenging place to learn and be formed. In these placements we deacon at the Eucharist, lead Morning Prayer, preach at least twice a term, help run children’s ministry and engage in pastoral care. There are also community initiatives like the Cambridge Churches Homelessness Project and Church community lunches to sink your teeth into. All of these provide unique encounters with God’s people and encourage us to step outside of our comfort zones as ordinands, taking part in aspects of priestly ministry that we may have never done before.
Westcott is an incredible place to pray, study and work in, and the Durham award is a pathway where I have found growth, discipleship, richness and joy. I can recommend it to everyone!