I consciously believe, that right now in the life of the Church, God is opening up many opportunities for ministry in the Church of England. Theological colleges have a critical role to play as it seeks to equip leaders to embrace these opportunities.
We often do not engage with what God is doing in our midst because we lack the confidence to embrace God in the public square. We grow up thinking (and sometimes we are taught) that faith is private (between us and God) and with this, we lose confidence and the language of faith needed to express ourselves fluently in our relationship with God and the Body of Christ. It is troubling that this lack of confidence is not just present amongst the laity but can also be witnessed amongst the ordained. I want us to become so confident in our faith so that it is reflected in our fluency in talking about matters of faith and life.
Our colleges need to be places where the whole person is equipped, for the whole Body of Christ to be engaged in ministry – lay and ordained. Our colleges must be places where people are committed to be Disciples of Christ, ready to be always learning and sharing their learning in a way that is also confident and fluent.
My four priorities that I am sharing in the diocese, I believe to be also relevant priorities for theological education.
Firstly, enabling a deepening of the prayer life of those engaged in theological education. After all, this is the one area recorded in scripture where the disciples themselves are saying, “Teach us how to pray.” Perhaps they saw the difference prayer was making in Jesus’ life and wanted to learn more of it so that it could be real in their lives too.
Secondly, the studying of scripture. It is vital, that no subject area, whether it be Old or New Testament, Church History or Ecclesiology is taught simply as an academic learning pursuit, but is studied in relationship to the meaning that it gives to our lives today. How does what we read informs how we live with our fellow human being (be they Christian or not).
Thirdly, generosity – In 1st John 3 we read, “God has lavished his love upon us.” This speaks of extravagance. We need to learn what it would be like if we pattern God’s extravagance and learn to lavish equal generosity towards God and towards humanity. What a different world we would have today.
And fourthly, theological colleges should be equipping the people of God, both lay and ordained to become confident and fluent in telling others about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
St Augustine’s College has a unique role to play in equipping disciples, lay and ordained, in building up the Body of Christ so that God’s Church can flourish. I hope that if you choose to study here, your experience of formation will give you that confidence and fluency to talk about your faith in your future ministry, whatever form that may take?
The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover and the Bishop of Canterbury
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