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.


‘Talent’: Pros & Cons

Michael Fass.jpgAn article by the Revd. Prof. Dr. Michael Fass, Senior Research Fellow at the Westcott Foundation, who will be a seminar for the Westcott Foundation this term:  Responsibility without Authority (Saturday 5th March, 10-4) – a day for SSMs, NSMs, and retired clergy who hold significant responsibility for the ongoing mission of God’s church.

In the last few months there has been discussion about talent in the CofE that has raised hackles.  What is ‘talent’ as an idea and what might its role be in the Church?

In secular language it is used to describe individuals with a ‘special aptitude or faculty’ and of ‘high mental ability’ (OED). Anyone thinking about this definition – and with a modest turn of mind – might feel that they did not meet this standard!

In the life of faith, there is the parable of the talents in which Jesus reprimands the individual who has done nothing with his talent except to bury it in the ground and condemns him to a life in the dark.

A talent group could have its place in both secular and faith organisation – think of Jesus’ selection of the first disciples – but it has come to be associated with the secular rather than the Church until recently.

leaderIn that part of the world called secular – from which a number of the current leaders of the Church are drawn – talent management has been used as way to identify individuals who can be helped to develop themselves into future leaders. To be fair, any human organisation, secular or faith-led, needs leaders in its own generation. I always keep in my mind the words of a wise person who said: ‘If the leader is not leading the organisation forward, then who is?’

However, it is one thing to have this idea of the management of talent – and of developing it – but quite another to identify those who should be included in its activities.

We all have our own experience of how this works and I always remember (when I had just failed yet another set of school exams!) my uncle’s salutary warning in his story about his head of class with every prize under their belt, bursting with potential talent and expected to go to the very top, ending up managing BAs landside operations in Singapore!

Does this mean, on the one hand, that those outside the magic circle of talent risk becoming bitter and disillusioned about their talents and, on the other, that those who are selected risk becoming arrogant and demanding?

There is no dispute that in this age of uncertainty when so many alternatives are available and so many different opinions exist, that the role of clergy is complex and that the use of talent development to meet these challenges is important, but should this be of, and for, the many or the few?

jigsawOne should start from the premise that each individual has talent and is talented in their own God-given way and that by Ordination these talents are enhanced, for the common good. We are all different in our ability, personality and motivation but we all share the desire to do something for God and His people. Does this mean that the talents of each and every clergy person should be developed with no special treatment of any individual or should the Church identify those with ‘special’ talent and, if so, what would these talents be and how could they be identified?

Would Jesus have qualified for the talent ‘pool’? He was from a small village (Parish!); He may have had some formal education in the synagogue but not much (no tertiary education then!); He went round with a thoroughly bad lot (no fixed abode or mobile billing address!) and came to a sticky end (no CV!). So, how can talent programmes cope with mavericks, non-conformists and those who do not travel traditional roads?

If talent pools are going to work, those responsible for selecting the individuals who will participate in them, would need to have advanced skills in appreciating the infinite variety of humankind and the ability to recognise those with a strong desire for change and doing things differently; the ability to think and act creatively; a dogged persistency to see things through and pursue their dreams and be hard-working and visionary. A tall order indeed!

In other words, those who might be rather difficult to deal with but who might be counted on to help the Church to find new ways of doing things. Are these the types who sit around the table at the Bishop’s Council?

Finally, is talent a function of age so that talent programmes are inherently ageist as they over-represent the younger age group and neglect the over-50s? We all know about this older group, who we are in danger of leaving too long in their posts so that they are at risk of becoming demotivated and unproductive.

If the resources used in talent programmes were re-directed into the mentoring and support of all front-line clergy would this have a similar effect as a talent programme? There is a sense in which a top-down talent programme suggests displacement activity as in: ‘We know we cannot reach all clergy so we will act on, and with, a few of them and hope that things will improve.’

The pros and cons of talent management are complicated but I always keep in mind the words of Hugh Lister, a radical priest of the East End of London in the 1930s, who said: ‘Here is your life, here are your circumstances & endowments. Now make the most beautiful thing of it you can.’

The Revd. Prof. Dr. Michael Fass is a Senior Research Fellow at Westcott Foundation. This term he will lead a seminar for the Westcott Foundation:
Responsibility without Authority (Saturday 5th March, 10-4) – a day for SSMs, NSMs, and retired clergy who hold significant responsibility for the ongoing mission of God’s church. To book a place for this event, or on any of our other seminars, please contact us or use this booking form.

Nurturing Urban Virtues


An article by Professor Philip Sheldrake, who will be leading a seminar on Nurturing Urban Virtues for the Westcott Foundation (Wednesday 24th February 2016, 11am – 4pm).  To book a place, contact us, and for more information, click here.

Over 80% of the British population now live in urban areas. Since the 1960s British cities have also become more densely populated and radically diverse. A sense of “place” is vital part of human experience. It makes us feel connected to the surroundings and to other people, evokes a sense of belonging and provokes commitment.

Urban contexts have a special capacity to focus a range of physical, intellectual and creative energies precisely because they combine differences of age, ethnicity, culture, gender and religion in unique ways.

Sadly, for a range of reasons including increased mobility, many urban areas also nowadays suffer from a serious breakdown in a sense of community identity, mutual communication and neighbourliness. This has made a number of social commentators reflect on the importance of urban virtues. Can we identify the critical social virtues for our day and how may they be nurtured as a way of reversing an increasing sense of social fragmentation and of redeveloping what might be called a “civic imagination”?skyscraper2

A range of urban virtues have been suggested. These include:

  • the recovery of the value of casual conversation and active neighbourliness;
  • greater attentiveness to and respect for our surroundings (both the physical street or apartment block and the others who live in it);
  • a willingness to participate in a place and to become socially engaged;
  • alleyway2courtesy and mutuality;
  • confronting prejudice and exclusion;
  • mercy in its wider sense of kindness and compassion;
  • inclusivity and hospitality to those who are in any way “other” or different from ourselves;
  • cultivating reconciliation to counter violence or mutual suspicion;
  • passionately committing ourselves to a process of negotiating the “common good”.

If the Church is supposed to be “good at community” what currency do our local faith communities have to offer to the wider urban environment? How can local churches and people in urban ministry actively help to reverse the loss of community identity or neighbourliness? This demands reflection on key Christian values such as the pursuit of the “common good” and how to communicate this to people beyond the Church.
But, equally importantly, cycle2it also demands we take practical action, some of which may be initially uncomfortable to religious “insiders” such as the use of church space for neighbourhood activities or the replacement of vital local facilities (e.g. a Post Office) that are being shut down.

The study day at Westcott House on Wednesday 24 February will offer the opportunity for participants to reflect on how local Christian communities and people in urban ministry can better help to underpin civil society in our cities.
To book a place, please contact us.


Welcome to the Westcott Foundation

Westcott House, Cambridge, has long been a place of foWestcott Iconrmation, study, prayer and inspiration for those training for ministry in the Church of England. More recently, we have been delighted also to welcome more independent students, and exchange students from across the globe. Over the past few years we have sought to continue to nourish, inspire, and encourage those already in ministry (whether or not they originally trained at Westcott) in a lifetime of learning and growing, and in response to the changing patterns and challenges of ministry in a variety of contexts.Salford

At the Westcott foundation we therefore seek to inspire the renewal of the church, though its leaders and ministers. We draw on in-house expertise (including our own research fellows) and the wisdom of our colleagues and friends from the University of Cambridge and beyond to provide a range of seminars that are relevant and insightful, spiritually nourishing and theologically grounded.  You can read some of the comments on our past events here.

C0190_001This year the programme includes events as varied as the acclaimed leadership seminars to the National Gallery event (Passion and Compassion – in Preparation for Holy Week), and from the Urban Ministry seminars (Nurturing Urban Virtues and Building Community) to clergy retreats.

It also features Re-imagining Forgiveness and Reconciliation, the first event in what we hope will become a major strand of the Foundation’s programme reflecting on peace and conflict at the international, communal, and personal levels.

This season’s brochure, and a booking form, can be downloaded here – if you are a church leader or minister, whatever the context of your ministry, there will be something for you. And if there are aspects of your ministry for which it feels as if nobody has prepared you, or for which training and development is hard to come by, please let us know.

We look forward to welcoming you (back) to Westcott House, and helping to inspire and resource your ministry this year and in the future.