One year ago I began in my role as the
Principal of NTC – it was daunting and exciting – full of new challenges and I
knew from before I began that I would be stretched and challenged in whole new
ways. As someone who loves change, loves thinking creatively and innovatively,
I wondered how well my being and person would within an institution! Of course,
I also bear a deep love for the college and the church and so I also began with
great hope – that it is possible for an institution to serve, to minister, to
be expansive in its vision, to cherish people and work in and to their best
interests, to be creative in supporting the margins, the people who may not
otherwise be able to study or work. I believe/d too that it is possible to be a
research-led, theory-into-practice-into-theory, community of learners who shape
and influence the world through those who come here and leave again into their
roles around the world - our graduates…
Alongside my hopes, I also suspected
that being in this role would teach me more than ever about the ways of God and
God’s people – or at least deepen my understanding in a lot of ways [that’s the
nature of change I think!] particularly in relation to what it means to love
God and one’s neighbour.
So – on reflection, what have I learned?
… I’ve learned that…
- God’s creative work in and through people is extraordinary and
- from the dynamic ideas of ministering to the community
around us, to the popping ideas of new courses, programmes, to the ideas
of our courses being designed with flexibility - so that anyone can access them
and learn more of God- it’s exciting!
- God’s faithfulness is historical and
present today – which gives great hope for our tomorrows.
That dependence on this faithfulness gives a great sense of peace in the
midst of any stormy events that come our way – from the minutia of the
administration of the college to the governmental decisions that seem so
baffling and (on occasion) exactly counter to the welcoming, gracious God
who says that a nation flourishes when it welcomes the strangers in – and
a nation should serve as a light….
- people who love God deeply and have
been put into places of authority are incredibly generous, welcoming,
supportive and that there’s a HOLY WILDNESS to the way people
are willing to partner, setting aside their own agendas (our own agendas)
to serve for the sake of the kingdom of God
- the college’s role within the city of Manchester,
and in our region of the North West is pivotal – and that
it IS possible for an institution to love a place and that as we think
about loving the region well we become more and more creative, enthused,
and expectant – it feels like God’s doing new things
- it’s wonderful to work in a place
where there are people, strong of character, opinion, sometimes difficult,
eccentric and all of whom are slightly quirky (Trying to be honest!) but
who delight in learning and teaching, love people, and will work to
overcome differences – embracing diversity, but listening, respecting,
seeking to love each other….
- God’s presence and peace, grace and mercy are
utterly at the heart of any and all Christian leadership – I’m only able
to lead with hope, peace, reliance, grace, welcome, hospitality, justice, forgiveness,
creativity, innovation, joy and love to the extent that I’m rooted in
Christ – so prayer, God-talk, Scripture, worship, rest, sleep, food, friendship
and companions on the way are vital…
So – I’m sure I’ve learned (and
relearned) more than I’ve recounted here – but that’s a flavour of the way the
college has shaped one of its inhabitants this year…
I look forward to what lies ahead!
Grace and Peace,
is an intense time in the life of the college. We have our Governors, our
denominational Assembly meetings, a visit coming up by the Quality Assurance
Agency and final documentation due for National Youth Agency revalidation
visits! Did I mention it was a big month?
We have also had thought-provoking discussions about a range of issues –
including what the life of Christ looks like in practice and in community. Partly provoked by emphases we’ve been wrestling with
as we develop new courses, new ways of enabling people to access education, and
how we continually support our students to be incredibly engaged in Scripture,
theology and the world around us as it is, and (dare I say it) as it will be. We’ve
been thinking about how we engage with training, equipping and
sharing in the formation of Christian leaders who are themselves (or will be) engaged
in negotiating the complexities of business, media, the Arts, culture,
economics, politics, religious life and a changing world. How do we connect with the challenges that emerge as we scan the environment around us and
foresee some of the trends that will touch and shape lives in Britain and beyond?
example, we know already that the city we are placed in, our beloved Manchester, alongside the wider UK, will see increased poverty and
stresses in coming days. We know too that there are enormous forces at work
around the world that demand our attentiveness and a response of Grace. The poverty
reports brought out recently: Monitoring
poverty and social exclusion in Scotalnd 2013 - (http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/monitoring-poverty-scotland-2013)
and The lies we tell ourselves, give food
for thought (written by the shared
brains of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church
of Scotland and the United Reformed Church http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf). These issues are not alien to the global church - poverty is where we are found. The realities of the issues effecting the globe, our world, our earth, demand
profound reflection and creative practices as a form of response. So… for us,
thinking about training, education, teaching and learning, and how all that we do relates to this world God loves and all the people in it, all those who He yearns to embrace, compells us to wrestle again and again with the shape of our teaching and
learning communities and (for those of us who teach) our own research. This is a good thing! For renewal is
part and parcel of the life of a college and the people within it!
So, this week in our chapel we paused
to think about how Christians engage in discourse about public theology & the issues we face. The
subtitle was ‘talking without shouting’! Based on Colossians 4: 5-6, ‘Be
the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every
opportunity. Let your
conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how
to answer everyone.’ We reflected in a dialogical way about ways to talk
about important – and often contentious issues. We talked about how to respect,
love, listen to Scripture, in the light of tradition, with reason and passion,
experientially, mindful of the future, engaged in community, thinking
personally and corporately, including practices of justice… and with a great
deal of prayer and humility. We yearn to live in Christ-like ways. That is our prayer
and our hope.
The Blog Spot:
Musings of the Principal
I was trying to think of words that have lingered on
our lips over the last months. The first word that leapt to mind was ‘Learning’.
The importance of learning how to be
a community of grace and learning together how to hold tight to hope and faith
in spite of the struggles, temptations, pains, and death that have come into
our midst. Learning together to linger over coffee and attend
to the details of one another’s lives, seeking to hear what each other is
suffering and be present to one another – in good and difficult times.
The death of one of our former students
– only in his forties – was a reminder to all of us of the preciousness of
life. But, more than that, Don (for that was his name), was a Christ-like gift
to our community throughout his time here, and to all those who he encountered.
He was a gifted student and yet he was someone who encouraged each and every
person he met, he always supported his fellow students in their learning and
showed real interest in their lives. He was a wonderful man. His learning was remarkable, but more, he
taught us greatly about what it means to live a life of integrity – and love
learning, demonstrating Christ to those he met. We have learned through his example
- in life and death - of the significance of faithful responses to God’s call
A further word that springs to
mind is the importance we’ve placed on ‘hoping’. We have been hoping for a season of delight, a
sense of God’s presence, God’s goodness; hoping for classroom experiences that
stretch and shape us, forming our characters. We have been hoping for faithful
experiences of worship and prayer, and hoping for experiences of depth of love in
community. Hoping for healing, for
funding, for building permission, for dramatic and ordinary ways God reveals
God’s self – hoping always for God’s presence to be revealed. I think perhaps
it’s unfair to call it ‘hoping’ for that implies uncertainty – instead, our
hopes have been realised – we are a messy, learning, lively, life-bringing
community – facing all of the challenges of life together can bring, from
suffering in our midst to facing disappointment, to hope being realised and
funding being secured - God is faithful to our hope – enabling us to be His
As we wind our way through the
Lenten season – from Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes, to Ash Wednesday and the
reminder of our mortality, to all that lies ahead of Christ’s Passion, we
reflect too on the ‘passion’ that is at our heart. A passion for God: for communicating
God’s love to a watching world, a passion to be his people, to reflect
Christ-likeness and to engage in mission. A passion for finding creative and innovative
ways of thinking theologically that is true to the faith we’ve inherited and
passionately believe in. A passion for serving the community that we’re located
in as we make plans for community service to local schools and streets. A
passion for serving the church together as we make plans for teams to travel
around the British Isles. We have a passion to
engage in practices of Justice, Peace and
Reconciliation demonstrated as we send teams of students and leaders to
reflect together in Jerusalem.
A passion to enable people to study in ways
that reflect on their practice – our new PhD in Missions – for practitioners, a
new MA in Urban Mission again, for those dwelling in urban centres, a new MA in
Theological Reflection, a series of contemporary issues classes that help
people in churches think about the range of needs they encounter… Our passion
for Christ, community, and holiness has been ever before us in the last month –
and effects our practices as educators, as a place of education – we are
learning together, in great hope, to be Christ’s.
The Blog Spot:
Musings of the Principal
I love the Christina Rosseti hymn: Love came down at Christmas and can think of no better one to
express the hopes we have for this season in the life of the Church…
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
That we celebrate and revel in the love and riskiness of the
unexpected advent of Jesus - God become
flesh – is a wonderful part of our faith!
In the kids club (‘Ready, Steady, Church!’) in my church the other night I told a story with a ‘wonder box’ – I wonder… I
wonder… trying to help the children think about Jesus & Christmas and its meaning. I’d hidden the baby from
the nativity in my pocket and when we’d built the whole nativity I asked them: who is missing? The kids all said ‘Jesus!’ and then I asked one little boy what
Jesus meant…? He said ‘Jesus loves me’. I found myself so moved and delighted –
a highlight moment of the year! Love as our token… His love as ours… His love
for all the world.. His love a plea, a gift, a sign…
The college at this time of year begins to empty out – of students,
of faculty, of staff… We are closed – but the run up to today, the 21st,
has been replete with blessings. A service of ‘light’, a neighbours open house
complete with a fire in the hearth and hot apple & cinnamon, a number of
festive meals… and now the buildings
will sort of go to sleep for a week-and-a-bit, and we’ll all return in the New
Year to … who knows what?! Almost certainly reflection,
thinking, praying, worshipping, learning, sharing, community-living, loving…
In the meantime, I pray that for all of you this Christmas
is FULL of grace, mercy and peace – the kind of peace that passes all
understanding, and the kind of love that Christ shows in coming amongst us, ‘love
all lovely, love divine.’
The Blog Spot:
Musings of the
has flown by! A month of thinking, praying, hoping, sharing, being graced with
good conversations and careful contemplations….
At least in part that’s because this month our Governors
met and I was able to meet with them for the first time as Principal. All kind
of things were on the table for discussion – from the mission, vision and
values of the college, to the academic and research life, HR and Operations
questions, to the more pragmatic issues of finance and audit reports. It was a
wonderful time of meeting, getting to know one another, discovering the various
and truly wondrous ways different people think and learn. I think that the
future is quite exciting – though with an enormous number of challenges and
I loved being able to share some of the stories of
our students – we’ve got an incredible group! From those physically present ~ a
mix of nations, backgrounds, genders, first languages, hopes, dreams and
callings ~ to those that we teach by Vidyo from a distance – in Nairobi and Beirut…
~ it is really quite amazing to learn of the variety of callings and to be
involved in helping people fulfil their vocations through our ministry here.
And it is a ministry! It’s funny, as someone who’s shifted this direction from being
the Pastor of a church (albeit in an unconventional church, with a creative and
engaged pastoral team), it’s been amazing to me how this place and its people
are as: quirky, messy, challenging, beautiful, open, prayerful and as much a community
for exercising grace. I think I’ve been
discovering that in new ways.
Last month, I said that one of the aspects of the
college that has stood out to me is the creative gift of Wesleyan thinking and theology – good news for all people. A further
aspect of the college that has powerfully resonated with me has been an
understanding of the role of the Holy
Spirit in calling and equipping people. All people, any people, male and
female who respond to God are able to be His servants, and representatives. For
me, that is a wide understanding – any Christian is called to minister, but it
is also a more specific understanding – some Christians are called to preach,
teach, serve, be set aside in unique ways – and I’ve been very thankful that
the Nazarene tradition is one that has – by its emphasis on experience, the
capacity of God to do what God wants, the notion that Scripture reveals that
the Holy Spirit is poured on all flesh, and in its tradition within the
Methodist and holiness streams (and what others are calling the ‘evangelical
stream’) – always enabled women to experience their calling and express it
within the church - both as Elders and
Deacons (and therefore preachers, teachers, leaders).
is a profoundly important matter for the church – highlighted in recent days by
the Church of England and its decisions on women as bishops. The crisis this has created, and the sorrow
(for many, on many levels) that has resulted has also led to a series of
reflections, some generous & measured http://steverholmes.org.uk/blog/?p=6755
some much less so. I’m not going to enter the argument here (per se), but
merely say that I am grateful for the tradition I’m within, and privileged to work
with people who have heartily enabled, empowered, supported, cared for,
nurtured and affirmed calling in men and women through the years. Significantly,
the first woman ordained in the UK
from a Christian church was Olive Winchester (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/celebration-of-first-woman-minister.17546859)
– she went on to be a lecturer and philanthropist in a range of settings. Her example
as a woman willing to risk all for Christ, be shaped by education, instil a deep
love for holiness in hundreds through her teaching and preaching is inspiring.
The Blog Spot:
Musings of the Principal
has flown by. Students entering into classes and wrestling with ideas that
stretch, challenge and shape them. Learning alongside each other how to live in
community, how to pray when your rhythms are disrupted, how to form friendships
and be someone who loves and is loved.
month has been marked by a series of events for our life – from the Work Day
where all the college community who are able roll up their sleeves and do
manual labour – a hold over from the original daily labour of the college of
planting vegetables and tending the buildings, our current work days give the
place a spit and polish before Graduation.
itself draws people together. Students return to NTC with all the feelings of
having moved on and yet somehow realising that this place has become theirs somehow: their family, their
friends, their community, their home. The bonds that begin with such fragility
twine around us and help us become one – we laugh together, cry together,
wrestle with deep truth together, discover mystery and communion, hope and
fear, and somehow, as we spend time together in community we become one. The
communion service was short and sweet, drawing us around Scripture and the
Table of Christ – and as we gathered in the chapel it’s hard not to hear the
echoes of the years – voices over time who speak of God and God’s love.
graduation banquet was a wonderful time of celebrating all of that: you can
even watch the song (careful, it’s to a Simon and Garfunkel tune and so can
become an earworm!) on facebook:
Nazarene theological College, http://www.facebook.com/groups/447876475241112/.
day itself was an almost to order day – clear, crisp, and bright. The service
of celebration for our graduations is always set in a worship setting – we want
it to be known that God is at the centre of all that we do. General Linda Bond
of the Salvation Army challenged all of us gathered together to realise that we
need our ambition to be Christ. Taken from Philippians, it was a message that rang true, I know, for
many. This year the service was also one of inauguration, formally charging me
with the role of Principal. As it was occurring I could not stop myself from
thinking of one of my favourite sermons by the master story teller Tony
Campolo, who talks about ‘Pharaoh had the title, but MOSES had the testimony’
and I felt challenged as I was charged by our church leaders to serve with
humility and Christ-likeness, to be a leader of testimony and good character. I
also felt humbled, I realise that I stand in the line of five Godly men, many
of whom I’ve known and admired greatly – as their successor, and yet as the
first woman that I am different, perhaps because of that I was especially mindful that
there are challenges that we face that are new, deep, real and yet, that God
who calls us is able…faithful... and at work in and through us by his mercy.
the Nazarene Church is like a family, (of over a million!), I also was humbled
and staggered by the others who had come especially for the day – from all over
the UK and all around the world. I felt loved and honoured, and more than a
little overwhelmed at times at how God’s love draws people together. I felt
like family to so many – and I know that for many of our students that is an
element of NTC that they say they love…
on the Sunday following I had the chance to join with two different church
congregations in worship and it helped me (re)discover that THIS is what we,
the college, exist for. To support, equip, enable, grace, leaders and pastors,
preachers and teachers to serve the world through the church. To minister
through learning, shaping, forming women and men for service that the world may
know…that God’s grace can be revealed through his church to all people.
Noble then gave The Didsbury Lectures. He is a pre-eminent systematic
theological in the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan world, and through
his lectures on Christian Holiness and the Trinity (which you can watch on line
until mid November and then buy in book form from Wipf and Stock ) we were
reminded of what it means to be those in the Wesleyan tradition that emphasises
people these last months have asked what has stood out to me, and that is it really.
That I am a Wesleyan and that NTC is a college that emphasises that God is for
all, that good news is for all, that the atonement is for all, that our
cooperation in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is
enabled by the Spirit. That the Spirit compels us, goes before us, works within
us so that we can be men and women, people, who love to such an extent that God
is our hope, our centre, our aim. The optimism of grace, of God’s love for the
world, of creative and dynamic hope that refuses to accept that God is limited
or prevented from truly transforming us is part of NTC’s sense of being…And I
feel so privileged to be a part of that.
last night, on a COLD and FROSTY night, NTC partnered with Retrak, http://www.retrak.org/ and students, scouts,
police officers and young people all slept outside all night in a sponsored big
sleep. My observation would be that they didn’t sleep much! But… I know that at
least 4k was raised which will be matched by Difid…so what a wonderful labour
been a BIG month!
May God be with you,
The Blog Spot:
Musings of the Principal
It feels like the air changes - students arrive and there's a
quiver of anticipation... The books are eager to be picked up, leafed through,
cherished and read. The classrooms sense that soon there will be conversations,
debate, rigorous learning, new information, new awareness and minds
stretching-aching-growing... The cafe braces itself for NOISE, encounters of
grace, forgiveness, laughter, jokes, joy. The chapel opens its pores to
facilitate the worship-rising, prayer-saturated, deep-thinking-hope-bringing-Word-engaging
It's a new term!
This time of year sees the efforts of the
summer coming to fruition - all hands are on deck! Everything is prepared -
from bedrooms to handbooks, staircases to placements. The Academic and finance
offices have registered nearly all our students, arrangements for fees have
been made, faculty has met, syllabi are ready, reading is done... and college
life's about to begin in a whole new way. The skeleton that we’ve been
strengthening over the summer is going to have flesh, and breath, and new life!
What will happen? What new things will enter? What traditions will be cherished
and recalled, brought to mind for a new generation? What practices of mercy,
generosity, kindness, grace, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation will
become woven into people’s lives?
Students have arrived from all over the world -
thanks to the hard work of the team here, we are highly trusted sponsors, and
the QAA is satisfied that our regulations, our intimate community is a place
where we know and nurture students. And so we have students from Argentina, India,
South Korea (to name but a
few) studying alongside students from across the UK
and Europe. It’s an exciting blending of
thinking and cultures, graces and gifts. And the stories they can tell! I am
always fascinated and delighted by the ways God has drawn people into his
Of course, there’s also the faculty – over the
course of the summer people have been in Jordan, Australia, Spain, Greece,
Canada, the USA, Belgium, Russia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Greece, India ~ some on
holiday, some working, teaching and learning… Wherever we’ve been it’s good to
come HOME and refresh ourselves for a new semester of cherishing the
opportunity to teach and learn. We’re also buzzing with ideas – new ways of
being, becoming better than we currently are – always seeking to stretch
ourselves to be a place of excellence in service for the kingdom.
And, I know I’ve mentioned this before but we
have new people on the NTC team – Joseph Wood our registrar (who passed his PhD
viva on Monday and is working on revisions!), Graham Meiklejohn our PR and
Marketing strategist, Sheila Strong our finance manager, Rachel Varguhese our
receptionist and bookings officer, Michelle Robinson our Alumni development
officer – fresh and new ideas flowing into our life together. We also said 'goodbye' to Robin Smith who's embroiled (?) in a PGCE course to train as a teacher for RE in Secondary Schools - although we'll really miss him, he will be a wonderful teacher!
Over the summer we’ve had plenty to pray
about, to discover in whole new ways how to depend on God – from the carpark
(sounds mundane, but it’s not in a good state!! Hopefully it will be soon….) to
visas for students, from our finances & fundraising, to health needs within
the community. We have had a lot of laughter and some tears. But here we are. September.
Thankful for God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy poured into our community.
In big picture terms – there’s a lot afoot –
First there is Graduation, where we celebrate the acheivement of our students - this is always a joy-creating-sorrow: we will miss the students who have left us! But, we celebrate with them all that graduation symbolises - of perseverance, grace, strenght of character, growth in learning, capacity to think in new ways about the world and God's presence, alongside their development as their character has been shaped in new ways by God.
This year is also a celebration of new things, and (it feels a bit odd to write this), people will pray for me as I formally am given over to the role of Principal - I'm hugely aware of the honour and the challenge - and feel increibly humbled to have been trusted to serve the college I love like this.
The Whitworth Hall is the venue, 11.00 am (much earlier than usual!), followed by a light lunch where we have the opportunity to talk to each other over delicious scones & clotted cream.
Other big things for us - a
new learning centre collaboratively developed by NTC and EUNC, new MA streams
coming into being, an off-site course in Christian Holiness taught in Glasgow, a new series in the spring on Theology & contemporary
issues for thinking Christians – including Theology and Special Educational
needs and Theology and multicultural churches…A lot is happening - so watch this space… !
Grace and Peace to you all,
The whirlwind of the summer continues, with pauses here and there where we hear the still, small Voice.
People from NTC continue to be all around the world - either working, or speaking, or in meetings that set direction for theological educaion in the Church of the Nazarene.
So - people have been (or are) in:
- India for the Nazarene Youth Congress of the Eurasia Region
- Australia for writing and research
- Canada to speak at a 'camp meeting' like soul survivor, only all ages
- USA for meetings on Global Theological Education
- USA to preach & meet up with people who've been at NTC in the past and are our supporters
- Various places across the UK
We also said goodbye to our second work and witness team -once again they did an incredible job - along with refurbishing things, they also introduced many of us to the delights of Cinnamon Buns to die for, and various cookies that demand to be eaten in groups of three... :-)
By September, for returning students and visitors, you won't recognise the place! If you're coming into the buildings - the ground floor and second floor of the White House Administration Building has a new look... Beech Wing is completely finished, there's new shelving in the library Manchester Wesley Research Centre....
We also have a new face of reception - alongside Rita Stuart (one of our longest serving members of staff, whose voice many people associate with NTC) we have Rachel Varughese, who is a wonderful part of the team.
The background work of the college continues - applications processed, interviews for students (what a great group!), arranging of placements, writing handbooks and classes. Thinking about our future as we move towards teaching more and more in video conferencing, e-learning and using other forms of creative delivery.... And as we move off-site this year - for classes in Christian Holiness in the Autumn term up in Glasgow.
Reading too is a part of the summer for faculty members, here are some of the books on my desk:
Square Peg: Why Wesleyans aren't Fundamentalists, edited by Al Truesdale.
small faith GREAT GOD, Tom Wright.
To Change the World, James Davison Hunter.
Teaching and Christian Practices, David I Smith & James K.A. Smith.
What Money Can't Buy, Michael Sandel.
We're also planning for Chapel, for Pastoral Care groups and for life-together in community. It's hard to describe how anticipation builds at this time of year - We begin to think, what will we face together? What will come upon us that is a gift of grace that we couldn't have dreamt of, asked for or imagined? What minsitry will emerge into someone's sphere? What will stretch someone into more Christlikeness? How will this year further transform us into agents of God's grace.
So, Grace and Peace to you all -
ps. Don't forget Graduation - the 20th of October, 2012, at 11.00am at the Whitworth Hall...