Returning to Queens: Shaping up to the challenges

training-churches-240x261The Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education (Queens FETE as coined by me) is a thriving, busy and lively place for theological education, ministerial formation, research and training of the laity. It is one place where one can experience “numbers” shock with the exceptionally large student body. It was great to return to place where I taught for just over six years, but this time as a moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church. It was a delight to meet with staff and students and to preach at their evening communion service on Tuesday March 5th. The welcomed I received made me feel like returning “home”, though both “home”, that is Queens and I have moved on!

Much has changed here. Besides the few familiar faces of colleagues, many were new. Much improvement and rebuilding work have been done to the offices, accommodation and teaching rooms. And the Library of Queens continues to grow, and dare I say, is one of the best theological libraries in the UK with its collection of books and journals. TheDSCN1633 impression I get is that of change, growth, and overflowing. I was delighted to especially see and hear about the growth of the Centre for Black Ministries and Leadership. It was a piece of necessary work I was very much involved in (the early stages), working with the Black Churches to become involved in all areas of the life of the institution. These developments, of course, are down to the excellent leadership of a strategic thinking Principal and his team!

Growth and changes, of course, bring both new opportunities and fresh challenges, alongside the new demands of a dynamic landscape for training for ministry today. And while I am confident that Governors, Principal and staff will respond well and rise to meet these, it would be important for us to continue to hold Queens, and all who shape and are shaped for the ministry of the way of Jesus there, in our prayers.

In a packed out chapel, worship was led by the Revd Lynette Mullings. Lynette is an ordained minister of the Wesleyan Holiness Church and Leadership Development Officer for Minority Ethnic Anglicans and Ministry Development Officer for Black Majority DSCN1643Churches in the UK. I was warmly welcomed by a former colleague (Helen Cameron) on behalf of the Principal who had to be at Cliff College that evening. I was invited to preach and share in the celebration of the Eucharist. In my reflections, I worked my theme of generosity and abundance drawing on the readings (Matthew 25:1-13 and Amos 5:18-24) to reflect on the Jesus Way of Gladness and Generosity and the implications for formation for mission and ministry.

I noted: “Our calling is not to hoard the oil (a gift) of gladness and generosity nor its fruits. Nor are called to fill our lamps because we are afraid we are going to get locked out of God’s embrace. And we are not called to stockpile oil and turn everyone else away. Rather, our calling is to communicate our sense of deep joy, expansive generosity and hope, in spite of the evidence around us…”  Hence, my challenge to teachers and ministers/theologians in training: “Can we speak a word of hope that imagines a world where transformation is possible, where all of creation is mended and restored, where the exiles can find a home and all live in peace together – a word that overflows in and with the wastefully extravagant and generous love of God in Christ?” And, what then will be the new shape(s) that ministerial training will have to take? How will our teaching, learning  and practice embrace such a word that it becomes a habit, as we live it into realising God’s promise?

Gathering around that familiar Queens table to celebrate and share in eating bread and drinking wine we were all reminded of the new kind of economy at work in our fractured lives. Perhaps, the new shape of theological education and ministerial formation will spring from the Eucharistic shape we learn and practise at the table: taken, given thanks for/blessed, broken, shared/poured.

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