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A voice for women in Pakistan
Education despite the oddsAfter completing sixteen years of school, rather than pursuing the career in banking her father had imagined for her, Naureen couldn’t stop thinking about the needs of the Christian community and, in particular, Pakistani Christian women. ‘I ended up teaching in a convent school with Irish nuns—engaging with the community, creating awareness about the right to education for female children, working for social justice, and exploring more about the marginalized Christian community. My experience at school as a teacher motivated me to dream bigger—I had to do something for my people, my own community of women—to be their voice.’
"I had to do something for my people, my own community of women—to be their voice."After eight years of teaching, Naureen decided to explore the Bible more deeply whilst considering issues of social justice. She began to make the two-and-a-half hour bus trip from Sargodha to Lahore to attend monthly biblical studies classes with a renowned Catholic scholar and priest who inspired her to learn contextual theology. When she finished the certificate programme two years later, he told her, ‘I see the spark in your eye—you should pursue further biblical studies.’ By now Naureen was 30, and living in a country in which most women would already have found a husband and embarked upon family life. In the midst of that societal pressure, she prayed to know God’s plan for her life. ‘I had a dream to do something for the local church, and for those discriminated against because of religion, and also because of the social economic class system. Here the social systems matter a lot—the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor. So many people are troubled due to low economic status and tortured in the name of religion.’ The priest encouraged her to study in Rome, but because Naureen had not studied Italian in school, she spent only six months there, completing a residency in biblical studies within an international community before looking online for options among English-speaking theological colleges. She found Trinity’s website, and after double-checking that the college offered housing on-site for single students, she applied to come. After a year's worth of difficulty in obtaining a visa, in 2010 Naureen began Trinity's BA (Hons) programme. At first, the adjustment was difficult, though Naureen calls it ‘good difficult'. Raised within the Catholic church, Naureen found herself for the first time among mostly Anglicans. ‘The differences helped me,’ she says, ‘because that made me rediscover my Catholic faith, do more study. I’d ask myself, Why do these differences exist? I started digging more, and that strengthened my belief, my doctrine. It was also a valuable experience because even now, in Pakistan, I’m working with the Anglican church here—the Church of Pakistan—and other denominations here. It was formational for me at Trinity to say the liturgy, to go to chapel, and to see that different styles of worship exist. Also, at Trinity, I could study in a place where women trained to be ordained—this helped me rethink and envision the place and role of women in the Catholic church and the overall status of women in Pakistani church.'
"If women like me were not doing this, then even more women would be fearful, and the people who oppose us will feel that they are in power."
Empowering womenNaureen returned to Pakistan from Trinity into the world of both human rights activism and the discipleship of Christians in Pakistani churches. In 2013, she met the director of a well-known nonprofit women’s rights organization, a Muslim woman, who asked her to consider joining them in their work. Naureen jumped at the opportunity and found her Christian perspectives not only acknowledged but welcomed into the group. The team began a campaign in rural areas, knocking on doors to teach women more about their economic, social, and political rights. Most rural women were not even registered for their National Identification Cards—which are necessary to open a bank account, to get a driver’s license, or even to buy a train ticket on their own. They had no legal identities apart from their male family members—their fathers, brothers, and husbands. ‘This is one of the means to control women in a patriarchal society,’ Naureen explains.
"It is so painful for me, to see women suffering, humiliated, condemned, beaten, dishonored in name of so-called traditions, cultural norms...'Naureen also worked in southern Pakistan, where women are not allowed to leave their homes without male family members. Every week for three months Naureen travelled there to speak with local communities, both men and women, to train them about basic rights and educate them on community peace-building techniques. ‘It is so painful for me, to see women suffering, humiliated, condemned, beaten, dishonored in name of so-called traditions, cultural norms, and still forced to live with the same men,’ she says. ‘Living in poverty, without proper food, basic health facilities, bearing a number of children, preferring a male child—these women maybe can’t afford even a sanitary towel. You speak with them, but then leave them in their home, where they go back into the same system.’ In her work for the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, a government organization, Naureen worked within the team to help provide shelter as well as a helpline for women trapped in domestic violence. These women face societal pressures not to speak of the abuse, in a culture where the police officials often don’t even believe that domestic violence is a crime but a private matter. Domestic violence in Pakistan is often fueled through child marriages, forced marriages, and many clerics willing to ignore the actual age of the bride when performing ceremonies.
Change through the churchesBeginning in 2014, Naureen began combining activism with work in the church. For a year she spent each morning engaged in activism and each afternoon using her theological training on behalf of the Catholic Bible Commission of Pakistan to translate theological books and articles into the local language, so they could be made more accessible. With the same group, she worked on efforts to help form and disciple lay people—to give gifted women as well as men the opportunities to study and to lead. Currently, Naureen is working for the Diocese of Raiwind as program manager to help the Diocesan Development Office. The Church of Pakistan has been offering training sessions focused on building the laity among eight dioceses. In the last six months, they have trained men and women to return to their dioceses and train others on women empowerment, community peace-building, and report-writing skills.
"Pastors and priests must bring up social issues in their sermons and be in the front line for social justice, releasing people suffering from social bondage."
Change comes slowlyAs the country’s 8 March 2019 women’s empowerment march generated both deep anger and praise within Pakistan, Naureen reflects on the nature of the work before her. ‘Some people don’t think women are human, but rather objects and personal property.’ she explains. ‘The constitution of Pakistan considers man and woman equal and promises rights for all. However, these rights are not accessible and exercised by women in most of the cases. That is very distressing for me. Women are fully human and deserve equal treatment. Biblically, we can talk about that in the churches—Jesus’ attitude towards women is an example for us. We can educate pastors in what they teach from the pulpit. Pastors and priests must bring up social issues in their sermons and be in the front line for social justice, releasing people suffering from social bondage.’ Naureen is thankful for her family and their support, especially for her husband, Haroon Gill. He is a school principal who doesn’t mind making meals or washing dishes for them in the midst of her intense schedule—within a culture that does not allow men to do so and which considers a working wife to be a humiliation to her husband and a ‘bad woman’. Instead Haroon invites Naureen to his school to run awareness and training sessions for the teachers. 'We see the change—gradually. We are hopeful. Some educated men have started talking openly on gender bias. Change would be there, but more efforts are required. We are doing our part. If women like me were not doing this, then even more women would be fearful, and the people who oppose us will feel that they are in power. I have strong faith in God—God of justice and liberty—the same God is at work through me and many others beside me. Throughout my journey, again and again Jesus’ manifesto in Luke 4 inspires and strengthens me: to those held captive by many social evils, we will bring the good news.’ Originally published through Trinity College News, our alumni newsletter, spring 2019.
Trinity College eNewsletter: Winter 2018
New Trinity VideoA taste of what it can mean to prepare for ministry in community. If you've never been here before, consider coming to visit us on 3 February, or schedule an individual visit.
What is a Pioneer?Meet some of the pioneer ministers currently training at Trinity. Learn more about why the church needs pioneer ministers and how Trinity hopes to help prepare them.
- The Reformation: Christ called the church to unity, so how do we memorialise a schism?
- Students engage with Orthodox Christianity
- Student blog: 'Living in the Kingdom of God is living in a paradox.'
Upcoming Events:3 February 2018: Open Day Open Day for prospective residential students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, email email@example.com or phone 0117 968 0254. 20 February 2018: Interview Day for nonresidential training
Join us to meet current full-time nonresidential students and Trinity faculty. Interview, and learn more about Trinity's mission and how studying with us could benefit your ministry. For more information, call 0117 968 0254 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forms for 2019 new DL students to complete
Alumni, Friends & Dioceses
DDO Newsletter, September 2017
Trinity offers new Pioneer FocusTrinity College is now offering a Pioneer Focus, for those students who have been approved as ordained pioneer ministers, or who will be serving in a pioneering curacy. The first pioneer cohort, which is facilitated by mission tutor Rev Dr Howard Worsley, currently includes eight students, who are a mix of residential and full-time nonresidential students. It meets twice each half-term, providing opportunities for students to engage with guest practitioners and share experiences and ideas with one another while engaging in pioneer opportunities within their placements. Students are also encouraged through the group's conversations to reflect on how what they are learning in classes will impact their pioneer ministries, and within classes are offered assessment options with a pioneering focus. Ordinand Michelle Taylor, who is preparing for a pioneer curacy in Bath and Wells Diocese, says the new cohort is 'really exciting--what I'm hoping for is shared ideas, to get to hear other people's stories, to bounce ideas off each other.' Howard describes the group's initial meetings as 'very electric, very alive.' For more information about how this programme could benefit your candidates, please contact our admissions office: email@example.com or 0117 968 0254.
Upcoming Events4 November 2017 Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity--tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members, and find out what it can mean to study in community. 6 December 2017 & 21 March 2018 Save the date to join us for a DDO Day: tour the college, chat with our senior management team, meet current students, enjoy lunch in our community, and hear more about what's happening at Trinity. To book a place for either event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 968 0254.
Meet our Student Exec'We hope that the exec committee will be a vibrant, prayerful and creative team that enables our student community to flourish in its kingdom values.' - Student Exec president Thea Smith Learn more about our Student Exec and how they serve the larger community here.
Recent NewsMeet new tutor Rev Dr Helen Collins > Listen to NT Wright's open lecture at Trinity > Plenary week on gender and sexuality >
DDO Newsletter, September 2016
This autumn, we welcomed 63 new full-time students and 17 new part-time students to Trinity, a record intake for the college.Read one new student's thoughts as he embarks on his first week of theological college, and considers how God can use anyone, just as they are.
Upcoming EventsOPEN DAY, 12 November 2016 Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity - tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members. Please email admissions or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place.
It's Your Call, 10 December 2016
This event is aimed at 16-30s wondering if God is calling them to work for a church, serve in a pioneering ministry, or something else. The day will include prayer, workshops, stories, and opportunities to ask loads of questions. Find out more.Whether or not you have an ordinand at Trinity, you are always welcome to visit us: just call 0117 968 0254 or email Nicola Willcocks. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3800"]
Recent NewsTrinity's postgraduate research conference welcomes Rev Dr Walter Moberly. Rev Dr Howard Worsley on how to share the Bible with children.
Student Pastoral and Wellness Team
God is faithful through adoption: Revd Emma Swarbrick
Read the collected stories shared so far here.
Forms for new 2019 part-time students to complete
Welcome BBQ for new students
Click here to go to start a new application.
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Trinity College eNewsletter, Winter 2019
Trinity announces new principalWe are delighted to announce that the Revd Dr Sean Doherty will be our next principal. We made the announcement to students last week, with the opportunity to meet with Sean and his wife, Gaby, afterwards. Read more here.
Race and the ChurchDuring a plenary week on diversity, three Trinity students shared personal reflections on their experiences of race and the church. Read more here.
Other News Items:
- Trinity offers new 'dispersed learning' non-residential track.
- January spirituality retreat day, through the eyes of our students.
- What does Trinity offer pioneer ministers?
Coming up at Trinity
20-21 Feb: Church Leaders Course in Science and Faith
This two-day workshop run by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion is for for lay and ordained church leaders and for those in training from all denominations to enrich their understanding of the science-faith dialogue. For more information visit www.faraday.cam.ac.uk.
11 June: Open Evening for Part-time Programme
Join us at at 7.15pm to find out more about our Tuesday evening part-time programme. The open evening is for people who would like to complete a Foundation Award or Certificate in Theology, Ministry and Mission. For more information, call or email Jo Norman: 0117 968 0253 or email@example.com.
DDO Newsletter, June 2016
Did you know that all of our residential students are placed into highly intentional mentoring church relationships for the duration of their programmes?Read more here. Key facts:
- Students set goals for their own growth in a church context, experience different church traditions, gain experience in new areas of ministry, and serve and learn collaboratively with fellow students.
- Students help to select the church to which they will be assigned, based on the type of ministry to which God may be calling them and the areas in which they'd like to grow. They can choose to live in the neighbourhood (city centre, deprived, suburban, rural) where the church is located.
- Students are normally assigned to churches in groups. They meet as a group and individually with their mentoring vicar throughout their training. These groups also meet weekly with an assigned Trinity tutor in pastoral groups for further reflection and deeper growth.
- ‘My lack of experience is to do with leading and teaching. At the moment I’m working to set up a prayer ministry group and also helping lead Alpha discussions. I find it difficult speaking in front of people, but [Rev Tanya Lord] is very enthusiastic about having students there. This church has been very welcoming and gracious.’ - Jenny Buckler, pictured above, Bath and Wells Diocese
- 'What I like about this is that it formalises the church training experience. It provides a mechanism for reflection about what you’re doing. You get legitimacy immediately to stand up and lead and preach in a church.' - Ed Down, Oxford Diocese
- ‘I can see what it’s like for [a vicar] coming in, and significant change has to be effected for growth. I like how [Rev Andy Murray] respects and protects people. He’s a good guy to be watching—even at ministry planning meetings, everything will be biblically led from the start.’ - Sean Sheffield, Canterbury Diocese
Upcoming EventsEXPLORING ORDINATION, 8 October 2016 This day-long vocations event will be held in partnership with New Wine, CPAS, and the Bristol Diocese. More details to come. OPEN DAY, 12 November 2016 Prospective students can come and chat with our faculty, meet current students, and consider whether God may be calling them to study at Trinity. For more information, contact Nicola Willcocks or phone 0117 968 0254. Whether or not you have an ordinand at Trinity, you are always welcome to visit us: call 0117 968 0254 or email Nicola Willcocks.
Recent NewsRev Dr David Firth Joins Trinity's Faculty Is Your Church Developing Leaders? Emma Ineson Named Queen's Chaplain
Postgraduate Research Conference
Trinity News, Spring 2017
- From Ambition to Contemplative Mission: A Q&A with alumnus Paul Bradbury about how contemplative living provides a foundation for our participation in God's mission.
- Four Facts About Our Postgrad Programme That Might Surprise You: New technology, new opportunities, and a growing community of scholars who hope their research will impact the Church.
- Learning to Disagree: During a plenary week on the issues of gender and sexuality, students had the opportunity to disagree with the respect and generosity born of studying within a close-knit community.
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Watch our videos
What is 'Gathered Learning' at Trinity?How might it change you, as a person and as a Christian leader, to learn more about Jesus in the context of an intentional community? Find out more about what it might look like to prepare 'residentially' for ordination or Christian leadership through Trinity. You can click to enlarge the video if watching from a desktop. (1:56)
What is 'Dispersed Learning' at Trinity?Train for ordination in the Church of England by coming to Bristol for six block weeks a year, remaining embedded in your local context, and participating in weekly virtual seminars and pastoral groups with your cohort. You can click to enlarge the video if watching from a desktop. (2:31) To request a prospectus, arrange a visit, or ask questions about how what we offer might best fit your needs and circumstance, contact our admissions team: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 968 0254.
We want Christ's kingdom values to permeate every area of our lives, affecting how we live and work each day, how we learn more of God, and how we lead his people. Our students partake in a warm, vibrant community, which includes support for student spouses, an Ofsted-registered day nursery, and regular times for prayer, Eucharist, and meals together. You can read more about our vision and values here.
We offer undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate study options, including a certificate, diploma, BA (Hons), graduate diploma, postgraduate diploma, MA, and PhD accredited through Durham University and Aberdeen University. You can read more about our programmes here.
Growth in dispersed learning
God is faithful through prison chaplaincy
If you are a member of the Trinity community, past or present, share a story of God’s faithfulness from your life, so we can encourage each other: email@example.com.Read the stories collected during lockdown here.
Bringing together East and West
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From Ambition to Contemplative Mission
Q: What is your background in ministry? What experiences led you to consider writing this book?
A: I’m now working as a pioneer minister in Poole. I’ve been here eight years, having been invited by the Deanery to start something new in the centre of Poole that would be oriented toward connecting with unchurched people. I now lead a community called Reconnect which is about fifty to sixty adults and children. We gather in discipleship groups throughout the week and then at the weekend we gather for worship and also to connect with others. For example, on one Sunday a month we clean the local beach and advertise that locally. Members of Reconnect are also encouraged to use what they love doing to connect with others. So we have small communities emerging based on all sorts of things: creativity, walking, film, and brewing, for example.
It was the experience of travelling this pioneer journey that led into writing the book. It has been a very challenging journey personally for me. I had high expectations and ambitions when I started out and through the process of travelling this journey of mission I’ve learnt a huge amount for myself about what it means to be a leader of mission. I was finding too that so much of what I was learning seemed to be quite countercultural to the messages coming from the institutional church, particularly those around growth and how to go about it. So it felt increasingly important to me to write the book to add a different perspective that I think is crucial to the well-being of church leaders, but also the health of the church in general.
Q: What is 'contemplation'?
A: In the book, I start by saying what contemplation is not. A lot of people think that contemplation is a technique, a way of praying, one that some people warm to, others less so, and one that some traditions embrace more than others. In fact, contemplation is much deeper than that. It is a way of life, a way of seeing life and therefore ministry as taking place within the grace and the presence of God. The contemplative life begins with the premise that God is already present and active. It is therefore related closely to practices that enable us to listen and be attentive to that presence as much as possible. Our task is to listen, be attentive and participate in the flow of life that is the grace of God in the world. Too often we turn life into a very mundane affair in which we acknowledge God from time to time, but essentially we are ‘practical atheists’, doing life by ourselves, unless things go wrong. And too often we turn ministry into an enterprise, with huge emphases on vision, strategy, aims and objectives, targets and outcomes, and with prayer oriented toward asking God to bless our plans and our initiatives. But, as John V Taylor once said, ‘the chief actor in the historic mission of the church is the Holy Spirit’. He is already at work, he has already initiated God’s mission in our context. We need to catch up with what the Spirit is doing. So our key task is to try and listen to what the Spirit is up to and join in with him.
Q: What has moved you in your own life and ministry toward a more contemplative life?
A: For me, I guess there were two key movements. Firstly, prayer became increasingly mundane for me when I was stuck in an intercession paradigm. As ministry developed, I realised that praying for everything I was involved in, worrying that if I didn’t pray for it then somehow that bit suffered, was a strange theology of prayer. Increasingly I came to trust that God was already involved in things, and my prayer life shifted toward simply being still with God, connecting with and listening to the presence of God each day before embarking on what the day held. Intercession frequently emerged from this focus on stillness as I perhaps sensed areas that were the focus of God’s attention, not just mine.
Secondly, failure. There were things that just didn’t work, or which turned out totally differently to what I had hoped or expected. I wrestled deeply with the question of what difference all my activity and effort was making. Would it matter if I did nothing? What was the relationship between my activity and my relationship with God? Then I discovered a key insight that enabled me to find a middle way in which any action on my part sought to be a participation in the activity of God, an activity which he has already initiated. This middle way is constantly sought through contemplation, through attending to the presence of God, and asking how we can participate in what God is already doing.
Q: In your book you mention the four key movements toward a more contemplative life—can you describe them?
A: Firstly, from hurry to hospitality. Hurry is a sickness of the soul which emanates from our need to be in control and to feel indispensable. Letting go of that, we begin to learn that the life of God’s Kingdom comes to us and invites us to offer welcome to it. In that sense it’s a move toward an attitude of hospitality toward the life and mission of God.
Secondly, from anxiety to attentiveness. There‘s a great deal of anxiety in the church at present. This pressurises us into ill-discerned activity. The contemplative life invites us to embrace attentiveness to God as the basis for all our action.
Thirdly, from reactiveness to responsiveness. Richard Rohr said that the opposite of contemplation is not action but reaction. That is the kind of hurried, anxious reaction we make when under pressure. Contemplation is not about inactivity, but about activity based on listening to the Spirit and participating in response to him.
Fourthly, from utility to humility. When the role of the leader trumps the activity of God’s Spirit in mission then we begin to see ministry through a utilitarian lens—it is all about what can be achieved, how to get things done. Those who are good at getting things done become exalted in the minds of the church. We cast around for heroes who can save our little bit of the church. Contemplative leadership is, by nature, humble. It invites us into a journey of downward mobility where our interest is not on what we can achieve but how we can best serve what the Spirit is seeking to achieve in our context.
Q: How do you think becoming intentionally more contemplative has impacted you as a leader, and impacted your ministry?
A: Enormously! The subtitle of the book is ‘moving beyond ambition to contemplative mission’ and that was very much my journey. I was very ambitious and driven when I started. As I say in the book, I don’t think ambition is necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be brought under the will of God. At the beginning, my ambition was based around what I believed I could achieve, what I thought needed to be achieved, not necessarily what God was seeking to achieve. This ultimately led to near burn-out and a crisis in my identity as a Christian leader. Through that crisis, I began to understand and practice this new contemplative basis for ministry. Personally, I am much more content and at peace with the ministry I am carrying out. The constant feeling of urgency has gone, it is a day-to-day joy to listen to God and allow him to set the pace and agenda of my ministry. It has also impacted Reconnect hugely. We have found ways of practising contemplation in our decision-making. That has brought about some surprising decisions that have proved extremely fruitful. As a community we are now seeking all the time to listen, take our time and reflect on what God is inviting us to do. We are seeking to be a contemplative church.[gallery size="full" link="file" ids="4912"]
Paul Bradbury (Trinity 2004) is an ordained pioneer minister in the Diocese of Salisbury. He is married to Emily and together they have two children, Jacob and Bethany. He and Emily have planted a fresh expression of church in Poole called Reconnect. Paul also leads Poole Missional Communities, which is building on the experience of Reconnect to help inspire, support and train others in pioneer ministry. He works two days a week for Church Mission Society, supporting and advocating for pioneer ministers across the south of England. The rest of the time Paul can be found somewhere in Poole Harbour watching birds and foraging for mushrooms or at home baking bread.
(Reprinted from the Spring 2017 Trinity News)
Year-round contextual engagement
You may already be working for a church and want to stay, or you might be keen to look for a new church to form the context for this time of training. We will work with you to make sure that you have a supportive environment and good supervision from an experienced church leader, and you will meet with him or her (as well as with your Trinity tutor group tutor) for regular supervision.
Your church placement is important not just for the hands-on leadership experience it gives you, but because it forms the context for your assessed learning. You can use your placement experience very intentionally in order to gain particular experiences you’ve not yet had in ministry; you can also gain the experience of serving in a church environment different from the type of church from which you’ve come. You choose your church context in conversation with Trinity tutors in consultation with your diocese to determine what will best fit you, given your past experiences and your future calling.
Your practical experiences of ministry will inform your academic assignments for classes on topics such as leadership, worship, mission and pastoral theology, and vice versa – your placement church is the environment in which you’ll have the opportunity to put into practice what you’re learning in the classroom. Your learning in your placement will be supported by an opportunity to connect with your peers and tutors simply by logging in to a virtual classroom each week.
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DDO Newsletter, Autumn 2019
Trinity hosts an autumn DDO Day at collegeOn 23 October, Trinity welcomed fourteen DDOs, DDVs, ADDOs, and diocese support staff from around the country to come spend the day with us in Bristol. They met with their ordinands, chatted with faculty, visited classes, joined the community for lunch, and heard from the college's leadership. ‘We were delighted to welcome so many DDOs and others involved in discernment and nurturing vocation to our recent DDO day,' says Principal Rev Dr Sean Doherty. 'It was very much a two-way experience: as well as giving those present a chance to find out how things are going at Trinity, it also gave me the chance to hear their perspectives on matters such as encouraging an increasingly diverse range of people into ministry, changing training needs, and matching ordinands to title posts. I am thankful for such a strong sense of partnership between dioceses and us as a training institution.’ ‘Visiting Trinity enabled me to see for myself the quality of formation available,' says Blackburn Diocese DDD Rev Nick McKee. 'It was so good to speak freely with ordinands and to hear how they are being formed for ministry.' Read more from MA student Amy White.
Upcoming events8 February 2020 Prospective students and their families are invited to join us for an Open Day--they can meet current students and faculty and explore whether God is calling them to Trinity. 2 April 2020 For those exploring only non-residential options, join our dispersed learners during their block week at college to learn more about our DL pathway. Please email admissions or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place, or to arrange an alternate visit date.
Recent newsRecent renovations to Stoke House Welcome BBQ for new students Growth in dispersed learning
First year at college
It was a lot of hard work to get my essays finished in time, but all the work was hugely valuable. I had a number of excellent classes, one on the book of Genesis, specifically looking at chapters one to eleven. Another was on sacramental theology for which I did a really interesting essay on whether bishops are essential for the authenticity of the church. And my favourite module in my first year was a doctrine class exploring salvation; we read extracts from different theologians over the last two thousand years and were then able to discuss as a class many challenging topics around the area of salvation with guidance from the lecturer. I also had classes on some of the practical elements of ministry, such as pointers for conducting weddings and funerals that included a very helpful visit from a funeral director.
During study and prayer over the last year I have come to realise that my academic work is not separate from my spirituality. By that I mean that I am spending time with God just as much when I am reading a theology book or writing an essay as I am when quietly praying. My excitement as I study theology and learn more of God causes me to praise him and talk to him as I work; it is not separate from my devotion to him. In a way this is a re-realisation, as I had this feeling while studying chemistry at Oxford University. As I learnt more chemistry I discovered more of God, which led to a deeper engagement with him as well as the subject.
Over the summer I began a full-time church placement in the Sodbury Vale Benefice. At Trinity we are placed at churches throughout the year, but being in the Sodbury Vale Benefice for a month gave the opportunity to experience more of the day-to-day life of a vicar which is not possible during the academic year when we are studying full time.
The placement proved to be an extremely valuable one. The benefice was made up of a large market town church, with three surrounding village churches. My first lesson was seeing how many miles a vicar racks up in a day driving between the different villages! On a Sunday morning the vicars are often rushing from one service to the next, making it hard to talk to parishioners for any length of time following a service. The vicar of the benefice was a female priest who was one of the first-ever women to be priested! She was fantastic and we had great discussions on the different issues that cropped up while I was working there. One of the key reflections was on balancing family life and ministry, in particular for women priests.
The highlights of the placement were deaconing at a baptism service where the babies were placed in the font with just their nappies on! Bowls of water were poured over their heads as they were baptised and both babies thoroughly enjoyed themselves! Another highlight was leading my first school assembly. That was a pretty nerve-racking experience as working with children is not my strong suit. However it went really well and the children asked some brilliant questions on what it was like to train as a vicar. I also helped at some home communions, attended meetings, helped at the mums and toddlers group, led prayers at a funeral, helped at the mid-week communion service, led my first sung evensong, spent a morning being driven around the Badminton Benefice (where Prince Charles worships!) talking with the vicar about rural ministry, and I got to wear vestments (the white robes) for the first time.
The fantastic month in Sodbury Vale Benefice was followed by our summer holidays. Then the autumn term began, with new students arriving and the familiar faces of friends who had been away all summer. I was very much looking forward to getting back into the routine of having morning prayer in chapel every day; I had been missing the corporate nature of our prayer life at Trinity. And of course I was excited about the different classes I’m taking this year; there is just so much to learn!
Alison Walker is a second-year ordinand from Hereford Diocese on the Graduate Diploma/MA programme. Prior to arriving at Trinity, Alison and her husband Paul spent three months travelling in New Zealand, Fiji, and Sydney for their honeymoon.
Summer church placement
God is faithful in the midst of depression
Read the stories collected about God's faithfulness during lockdown here.
If you are a member of the Trinity community, past or present, share a story of God’s faithfulness from your life, so we can encourage each other: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Usually your placement church will cover the majority of those costs, either by way of a grant or by paying you a salary for the work you do with them, and the rest of your costs might then be covered by a diocesan grant or other grant available from Ministry Division.You can get in touch with our admissions team, and they’ll be happy to talk with you about the financial implications of your training.
Trinity College eNewsletter: Autumn 2018
- New 'Green Team' formed at college >
- Student blog: When God speaks through community >
- Students learn through cross-cultural experiences >
This autumn and winter our Board of Trustees lead the process to select the next principal of Trinity College. Please join us in praying for God's clear guidance through this process and for those who would consider whether God may be calling them into this role.
9 February 2019: Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, email email@example.com or phone 0117 968 0254.
Trinity News, Spring 2018
You can download a pdf to read the entire spring 2018 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- Why is peacemaking so hard? Reflections on 'Blessed are the Peacemakers' from Tutor in Pastoral and Ministerial Studies Rev Dr Helen Collins.
- Finding Jesus in a hot meal: Bristol's Wild Goose Café provides unconditional acceptance and practical services to those who've become marginalised. Its ministry is also having an impact on Trinity ordinands.
- A new book honours John Nolland: A recently published volume honours Rev Prof John Nolland's contribution to the field of New Testament studies.
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Trinity News, Spring 2019
You can download a pdf to read the entire spring 2019 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- Meet Sean Doherty: As our new principal and his family relocate to Bristol, it's not the first time God has called them down unexpected paths.
- A voice for women in Pakistan: Alumna Naureen Akhtar is daily working to empower women caught in Pakistan's patriarchal systems.
- What did the first Christians say about Jesus? Do you ever wonder where the stories we read about Jesus in our Bibles today came from? A Q&A with David Wenham about his new book.
- If you are a Trinity alum, please take just a moment to complete this quick 5-question survey intended to help us think about ways in which we can support you in ministry and in your continuing education.
God is faithful to use churches during the lockdown
If you are a member of the Trinity community, past or present, share a story of God’s faithfulness from your life, so we can encourage each other: firstname.lastname@example.org.Read the stories collected during lockdown here.
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Quiet times and personal reflection
Why is peacemaking so hard?
Peace is both our potential and our destinySo what is this 'peace'? Well, perhaps it's helpful to set it in the wider narrative and context of scripture. In Genesis 1, that wonderful creation story of God having made a world which is good, harmonious, full of abundance and creativity, we see that at the culmination of the narrative, God rested. Creation rested. It spontaneously and joyfully enjoyed the wholeness and rightness of God's created order, of living in harmony together. It's a wonderful vision of creation at peace. We know that sin and disobedience brought fractures to that peaceful creation. We see Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden and covering themselves in their shame. We see God pronouncing a curse upon the serpent and declaring that there will be enmity between the serpent and the woman, between humanity and God's other creatures. We see that there will be enmity between men and women, as Eve is told, 'Your husband will rule over you.' We see broken relationships extending to the whole created order, as humanity have to fight with the land to make it produce food. And we see, ultimately, a fractured relationship between humanity and God as they are expelled from the garden and prevented from enjoying the closeness that they knew with God in the beginning. What began with peace and wholeness ended through sin and disobedience, fracturing relationships in every possible way. So, ultimately, that peace was lost. But we also know, praise the Lord, that this is not the end of the story. Even before the birth of Jesus, we see in Isaiah 11 a vision of the lion with the lamb, the child and the asp playing together—a vision of renewed and restored relationships in creation, a vision of peace. That prefigures the vision we see in Revelation 21-22 of peace restored, relationships healed and mended among every tribe and nation and language, as God renews creation and dwells with his people. We see from this sweeping arc of scripture that peace is both our potential and our destiny. Peace is what we were made for, it is what Creation was intended to be—at peace with itself and with its Creator. And we see that our destiny is for that restored peace, that rightness, wholeness, abundance, and blessed good life.
So, why do we struggle with peacemaking?If this is what we're made for and this is what we're destined for, why are we not very good at peacemaking, in the meantime? Well, obviously sin and disobedience continue to be rife in the world, in the church, in our lives, and thus we maintain these fractured broken relationships that came about from the Fall. But I want to explore two particular reasons why I think the Christian church struggles with peacemaking. The first is that, I think, we often misunderstand what we mean by 'peace'. When we talk about being peacemakers, we often equate peace with an absence of conflict. This is how the world understands peace. When we talk about wanting to see world peace, what we mean is an end of war, an end of fighting. That is a start, but it's far short from the vision that we've just outlined in scripture of the wellness, rightness, goodness, and restfulness of creation. That vision of peace is significantly different from simply not fighting with each other, yet so often in church this is what we settle for when we think in terms of peace. This can lead us to appeasement, which I would consider to be the disease of our church at this time. We don't want to engage in conflict. 'For peace's sake,' we say, 'just don't go there. Don't upset things.' The only other place in the New Testament where this word 'peacemaker' comes is in Colossians 1:20, and it refers to God himself when it says, 'God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or in heaven. He made peace through the blood of his cross.' The peacemaking of God that we are called to replicate is a peace that rolls up its sleeves and gets involved in the mess and brokenness—that risks the outcome of potential crucifixion. It is a peace that engages with the brokenness and the struggle. It's not a peace that says, 'Oh well, that has nothing to do with me, let's just keep everything nice and calm.' Peace is not an avoidance of conflict—that's a false peace.
"The peacemaking of God that we are called to replicate is a peace that rolls up its sleeves and gets involved in the mess and brokenness—that risks the outcome of potential crucifixion."Again, in Isaiah 11, this Messianic figure—this Prince of Peace we're told in Isaiah 9—comes to bring this vision of creation living harmoniously together. How does he do this? Through judgement, striking the earth with the rod of his mouth, slaying the wicked. This is an active type of peacemaking that isn't afraid to risk the potential danger that comes to the one who engages with it. Jesus says in Luke 12:51, 'Do you think I've come to bring peace to the earth? No, not peace, but division.' I'm not saying that we ought to pick fights, to start conflicts in order to make peace. But it's about recognising that the gospel is divisive. Jesus causes conflict because he wrestles with our self-enthronement, our sinful desire to be in charge of our own worlds—that causes conflict. Peacemaking is about recognising conflict and not running away from it; it's about engaging with it, taking some of the responsibility upon ourselves, even if it is nothing to do with us. Being peacemakers means identifying with those who are at loggerheads with one another and seeking to make peace in that context, just as God did through the blood of his cross. He engaged in the fray in order to see that peace realised. True peace often means engaging with conflict in order to see the fullness of the vision of peace for which we are destined. A second reason why we struggle with making peace is that we tend to associate peace with homogeneity—sameness. As long as we all agree, then we're at peace with one another. We tend to think of peace as 'order'. And this is, again, never truer than in our churches, where we can become cozy clubs of sameness, and because we all agree and get on, then we think we are inhabiting the peace that God spoke about. But actually, I want to say that this vision of sameness is again a false peace. Peace is about seeing justice restored. It is about wrestling for the fair distribution of power so that no one group is oppressed by any other group. To be peacemakers is to hear the voice of the stranger, to engage with the position of the other, to understand their experience, to see how maybe even my life choices and the way that I live cause them not to be at peace. Where there is an absence of peace for any, there is an absence of peace for all. When we look back at Genesis, I don't think the harmony and peace of right relationships also meant a complete sameness of perspective and outlook. And similarly when we look ahead to the vision of Revelation—I don't think that people of every tribe and nation gathered worshipping before God means everyone agreeing about everything. Peace is recognising that there will be differences, that this is how God created the world, this is what he pronounced as very good. It's about genuinely hearing those differences, engaging with them, seeking out the voice of the stranger in order to allow our world to be expanded, and recognising each other as fellow brothers and sisters before our differences of opinion.
Becoming peacemakersThis can all feel overwhelming. How on earth do we become peacemakers in a world so full of fractured relationships? Stanley Hauerwas, in The Peaceable Kingdom, talks about 'the grace of doing one thing'—what is the one thing that you can do today that will bring God's peace closer? What's the one thing that you can do this week to see this wholeness, rightness, fullness, and presence of God realised in peaceful relationships in your life? Imagine a church where, when someone offended you, you didn't immediately go to all your friends and moan about it, but then think, 'I'm not going to do anything for peace's sake—I don't want to cause problems or rock the boat.' What if we participated in a church where when somebody did challenge or upset us, we were able courageously (but humbly and graciously) to address it with them, face to face, and not bring everyone else in? What if we were in a church where when we witnessed division between people we didn't just think, 'Well, that's their problem—let's gossip about it because it is quite interesting,' but we risked the rejection of getting involved, of trying to make peace to re-establish harmonious relationships. What if we were part of churches that weren't afraid to challenge deeply held practises, to risk the stranger coming in to change what we do, in order to realise peace and be this family of God we see envisioned in Revelation? What one thing might God be prompting you to do today? Are you aware of an absence of peace, of rightness of relationship, of wholeness, of the presence of God somewhere in your life, or in your church? What is the one thing you could do to live that imagined future that we work towards? Blessed are those who risk the temptations to appeasement and order and cozy sameness, who are willing to roll up their sleeves and engage in the conflict and struggle for peace, motivated by a vision of a creation fully reconciled to its Creator, in wellness and goodness and life. Blessed are they—for to them, God will say, 'That's my boy. That's my girl.' Amen. Rev Dr Helen Collins is Tutor in Pastoral and Ministerial Studies. Her PhD, which she completed at Trinity, was a practical theology study examining the experience of charismatic worship and motherhood.
Listen to the entire faculty sermon series on the Beatitudes by clicking here or by visiting Trinity_College_Bristol on SoundCloud.This article originally appeared in the spring 2018 Trinity News.
God is faithful during difficult times
Tutor groups and prayer triplets
Trinity's COVID-19 update (Nov 2020)
Four facts about our postgrad programme that might surprise you
New technology, new opportunities, and a growing community of scholars who hope their research will impact the church.
God is faithful through life's upheavals
Pioneers at Trinity
Are you an Ordained Pioneer Minister (OPM) or looking to train as a pioneer?
Become a stronger bridge for those outside the church, whilst building bridges of support with fellow pioneers in the Trinity community.
1. We recognise the unique needs of pioneers. As you'll often be working outside normal support systems and structures, it is critical that you are well prepared.
- We offer a strong foundation of Bible and theology on which to build your current and future projects.
- You have the option to train within our residential community (train within an intentional community whilst living in the Bristol area or on-site if you are a single or commuter student) or through our non-residential dispersed learning (DL) track (come into college for six block weeks a year while remaining in your current context).
- Connect regularly with fellow pioneers through gatherings led by Trinity staff with experiences of Fresh Expressions and church planting, with external experts, and with our pioneer associate team member—sharing experiences and wisdom while also receiving external input focused on aspects of entrepreneurial and pioneering approaches to mission ministry. Our pioneer meeting times will take place during DL block weeks so that all of our pioneer students can participate. Beginning in 2020, our Tutor in Missiology, who is responsible for pioneer development at Trinity, is joined by an Associate Pioneer Missioner and by a new student leader who will serve as Pioneer Student Rep.
2. Pioneer modules within the undergraduate programme include:
- Mission Entrepreneurship: Principles—encourages you to relate social entrepreneurship to mission and introduces you to the principles, history, and practice of entrepreneurship through its study in the social sector.
- Elements of Ministry and Mission in Context—introduces you to key terms and themes relating to Christian ministry and mission in the church tradition / vocational context for and within which you are being prepared.
- ILCP B for Creative Communication—encourages you to integrate your current learning with your preferred style of communication.
- Mission and Apologetics in Contemporary Culture—enables you to analyse cultures and subcultures, to think missionally about the relationship between the gospel and contemporary Western cultures. Equips you with the apologetic skills needed to engage with people in contemporary cultures and enables you to develop appropriate strategies for missionary engagement with contemporary cultures.
- You will also be offered assessment options within some of your classes with a pioneering focus.
3. Modules within the MA course include:
- Reflective Practice: Mission and Evangelism—supports students in their ministerial development by engaging with the forms of theological reflection that underpin reflective practice in a ministerial / professional / vocational context.
- A dissertation module (either undergraduate or postgraduate) which could be focused around a theological exploration of particular aspects of pioneer ministry.
4. For your context experience, we can help place you in a pioneer context.
5. Are you an ordinand who will likely serve in pioneering contexts without an official 'pioneer' designation?
If this is you, you can still join our pioneering cohort for the teaching and learning sessions.
For more information about training as a pioneer at Trinity College Bristol, call or email our admissions office: email@example.com or 0117 968 0254. Read more about some of our recent pioneers here.
DDO Newsletter, January 2018
Have you seen our new video?A taste of what it can mean to prepare for ministry in community at Trinity. (Click on the image to watch it, or visit http://bit.ly/2AP1J1C.)
Upcoming Events3 February 2018 Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity – tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members. For more information, email admissions or call 0117 968 0254. 20 February 2018 Interview Day for non-residential training: meet current full-time non-residential students and learn more about how studying through Trinity could benefit your ministry. To register, call Sue Gent on 0117 968 0244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 21 March 2018 Join us for a DDO Visit Day, when you can see Trinity first-hand, and learn more about what's happening now at college to prepare our ordinands. For more information, email admissions or call 0117 968 0254. [gallery size="large" ids="4823"]
“I began to see that living in the kingdom of Jesus is living in paradox. Jesus transformed the very nature of this world through his redemption and reconciliation and yet there is still pain and longing in this world. The kingdom is the paradox of the now and the not yet.”Read more from second-year pioneer ordinand John White, Guildford Diocese.
Recent NewsOrdinands engage with Orthodox Christianity > Ordinands participate in Vatican cricket initiative > The Reformation at 500: How do we commemorate a schism? >
DDO Newsletter, January 2017
The School of Leadership completes its first year, and continues to set Trinity apart as a college responding to the challenges of our current mission context. Read more here.Upcoming Events Open Day, 4 February 2017: Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity - tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members. Please email email@example.com or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place.
DDO Day, 30 March 2017: Join us for a day to experience worship, pastoral groups, chat with students, sit in on the School of Leadership, and participate in a Q&A with Emma Ineson, Howard Worsley, and Sue Gent to learn more about Trinity's vision as well as academic and practical training opportunities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.'[At Trinity we] daily choose to live out the values Jesus shares in the Beatitudes, remembering that his Kingdom is always bigger and bolder than we dare to imagine--and that it is lived out in community.' - Helen O'Sullivan, ordinand from Winchester Diocese. Read Helen's reflections on what it means to study in community here.
DDO Newsletter, Winter 2019
What does Trinity offer pioneer students?[gallery columns="2" size="full" link="file" ids="7487"] "Trinity trains you for ministry in a holistic and in-depth way. My time here has been invaluable." - Lucy Howarth, pioneer minister. What does it mean to join a pioneering cohort at Trinity? Read more about pioneer ministry at Trinity >
Upcoming events3 April: DDO Day Join us at college to get a taste of life within the college community, schedule meetings with your ordinands, find out more about dispersed learning at Trinity. 4 April: Non-residential training interview day Send your prospective ordinands considering training without relocating to learn more about dispersed learning at Trinity. To register for either event, contact email@example.com or 0117 968 0254.
Recent newsStudent blog: When God speaks through community. January spirituality retreat day, through the eyes of our students. During a plenary week, Trinity students reflect on race and the church.
New book honours John Nolland
This spring, Bloomsbury T&T Clark published a volume for its Library of New Testament Studies titled The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context in honour of Trinity Tutor in New Testament Rev Prof John Nolland's contribution to the field of New Testament studies.
This collection of essays from top New Testament scholars was edited by Trinity postgraduate research alumnus Rev Dr Aaron White and Trinity associate faculty members Rev Dr David Wenham and Prof Craig Evans. In an interview, Dr White explains more about the book and its genesis.
Q: How did this book come about?
A: The journey of this volume began with my admiration for John as a pastor, a scholar, and as a person I simply enjoyed spending time with when we talked about my dissertation and other topics. I remember one day having a conversation with John and realising that it would soon be his 70th birthday. In our field, important stages of one's career or birth dates are marked with honorary volumes such as this one. Upon realising this, I spoke with Dr Justin Stratis, the director of the postgraduate programme at Trinity, and Prof Steve Walton, a fellow New Testament scholar [and new Trinity associate faculty member] about the prospects of this volume. Justin and Steve were excited about the idea and encouraged me to reach out to a couple of coeditors. It wasn't hard to find scholars who were interested in this project for John, and soon David Wenham and Craig Evans had joined me as coeditors. We began work in December 2015.
It was our goal all along to present the book to John during the New Testament study groups at Tyndale House in his 70th year. We chose this particular event because John influenced many of us through his leadership as chair of the group, and we wanted to surprise him with this volume while surrounded by those who love him. To our amazement, David, Craig, and I were able to make it through most of the project and present it to John without him knowing beforehand. John was not aware of the project until our presentation at Tyndale House in July 2017, where he was joined by his wife Lisa, his son David, and his daughter Elisabeth. David Wenham and I presented the volume to John (Craig was unable to attend), and the current chair of the New Testament studies group Ian Paul prayed for John in thanksgiving for his ministry and career up to this point. The book was finally published in March 2018.
Q: In what ways does the book honour John?
A: First, it is evident simply by looking at those who've contributed to this book that John has made a profound impact and continues to do so in the field of New Testament studies. You'll be hard-pressed to find a volume full of so many high calibre academics who are also known for being part of the ministry in some way. Among contributors who were John's former students (including Craig Smith, Yong Bom Lee, Thomas Hatina, and Douglas O'Donnell) many are ordained as well as published scholars. In addition to these former students, one will find scholars in this volume (such as NT Wright and David Wenham) who have also served as ministers in the church, and many of the other contributors have been or currently are teaching future vicars and pastors at training colleges and seminaries. This is an important point because it clearly reflects John's passion for scholarship not to be an end in itself, but to have a practical impact on the world for the sake of the gospel.
Second, I would say that the theme of the book is meant to reflect the emphasis of John's scholarship. As David, Craig, and myself looked for a cohesive team of contributors, we realised that in John’s scholarship was an honest, thorough, and believing search for who Jesus was and is, and how that impacts our understanding of Christianity and its outworkings. Among his other published works, John's 3-volume commentary on Luke and his single volume on Matthew are two mainstays in New Testament scholarship and biblical commentary. What we hoped for in this honorary volume for John was a collection of essays inspired by John's erudite and clear-thinking scholarship, all with a focus on how the earliest believers might have seen Jesus and his ministry. The result of this is a volume full of cutting-edge research that includes approaches to memory research, some on intertextual inquiry, literary criticism, and others on the historical backgrounds of the New Testament. In total, the volume offers compelling articles that give a clearer picture of who Jesus was and what his ministry was about during his time on earth. We did all of this with the hope of honouring John and reflecting and interacting with the primary concerns of his scholarship.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about the book's contributors?
A: The calibre of scholars with which we were able to fill this volume shows the reach of John's influence throughout biblical studies, and the admiration many people have for him and his work. The contributors teach and live around the world—in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, South Africa, the US, as well as the UK.
In the introduction to this volume, we put together a helpful guide as to what each of the eighteen contributors brings to the volume. For example, Rainer Riesner discusses the latest archaeological and historical evidence surrounding Nazareth. Eeva John looks at Luke's portrayal of Jesus as a teacher. Armin Baum considers the much-debated question of the genre of the gospels. Darrell Bock explores one particular part of the central section of Luke, pointing out themes of authority and accountability. Robert Brawley looks at the characterisation of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts, finding Luke's portrayal of their relationship with Jesus to be more positive and less confrontational than has often been recognised. Roland Deines offers a comprehensive and insightful discussion of the generally neglected subject of the Holy Spirit in Matthew. Each contributor (according to what I am familiar with concerning each of these scholars) has set their strengths to work in order to interact with John's scholarship and honour his example.[gallery columns="1" size="full" link="file" ids="6224"]
Rev Dr Aaron White is an associate pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Quincy, Illinois, USA. He completed his PhD at Trinity College Bristol in 2017 on the use of the Minor Prophets in the book of Acts in a dissertation titled 'The Prophets Agree: Jesus, the Day of the LORD, and the People of God According to the Lukan Reading the Greek Book of the Twelve Prophets'.
This article originally appeared in the spring 2018 Trinity News.
Writing a Research Proposal for Postgraduate Study (MTh and PhD)
A good research proposal should not merely articulate a general topic of interest, but rather demonstrate a candidate’s ability to conceive their research in terms of a viable project. Your proposal should therefore include the following elements:
- A clear description of the proposed thesis topic, indicating the precise research question you will investigate over the course of your work.
- An account of how the proposed topic fits into the existing field.
- A description of the methodology to be used to pursue the research question (e.g., study of written sources, social surveys, fieldwork, etc.).
- An account of why Trinity College is suited to the proposed research.
- A brief, provisional outline of the thesis.
- A representative bibliography of the types of sources you plan to consult in the course of your research.
Proposals should be no longer than 1500 words, not counting the representative bibliography, and your name ought to appear in the upper right hand corner of each page of the document. The proposal should be submitted with your application alongside other supporting documents.
Accepted candidates will not necessarily be bound by the proposal that accompanied their application. Its purpose is to reveal something of the applicant’s preparation and insight. During the first months of work, research students often adjust their proposals in consultation with their supervisors.
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Poverty in the Early Church and Today
Q. Can you explain the book’s approach, and why this conversation is important?
A: The idea for the project came out of an after-church conversation about the lack of engagement between the early churches’ and modern Christians’ responses to people in poverty. Christians (rightly) want the modern world and the world of Scripture to speak together, and we recognised that engagement with real depth which respects both the ancient and modern settings is rare. This thought led to a conference sponsored by the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St Mary’s University, Twickenham (London), and two Christian agencies working in poverty alleviation, Tearfund and Caritas (Diocese of Westminster). The conference was focused on a series of creative conversations between experts in the earliest church and experts on Christian engagement with poverty today. Thus our writers/speakers studied the causes of poverty, benefaction, patronage, fundraising, the dehumanization caused by poverty, the category of the ‘undeserving poor’, and the responsibilities of church and state for people in poverty. The whole volume also includes a discussion of theological understandings of poverty, a case study of a Christian university and its commitment to engaging with people in poverty, and two responses to the whole collection—one by a biblical scholar and one by a scholar of contemporary society. We think this models a way of doing Christian thinking and reflection today which can be transferred into many other areas, as well as informing Christian responses to poverty today. The speakers were paired, each pair focusing on the same theme from these two perspectives, and the book contains revised versions of their talks and responses to each other, to convey some of the back-and-forth of the conversations.
Q: As the various authors contributed their expertise and perspectives to this conversation, were there any emerging themes?
A: One is that there really is value in conversations like this, which go beyond superficial ‘applications’ of the Bible to today. It’s all too easy to jump too quickly from the ancient world, with very different issues and concerns, to our modern world rather than doing the ‘hard yards’ of careful thinking and listening to people in poverty, and those living and working among people in poverty.
That said, we also recognised a number of areas in common between the ancient settings and today, not least that poverty is a huge reality in both. Global inequalities today powerfully echo those in the ancient world, although today, generally, rich and poor do not live as close together as in the ancient world. Christian concern to support people in poverty requires careful listening to the needs of those people, and we were greatly helped by Tearfund’s insistence on providing the kind of support people on the ground in poverty situations think is needed, rather than a patronising ‘we know best’ approach which sometimes characterises western Christianity.
The political impact of Christians, when they put their minds to it, is a further theme. It is striking to put Christopher Hays’ essay, written out of his Colombian context, alongside that of Stephen Timms, MP. Both are passionately concerned for the churches to engage in the political process so as to press the ‘powers that be’ to do better at alleviating poverty nationally and internationally. Hays shows that the early Christians actually shamed Roman rulers into providing for those in poverty, and Timms highlights the Jubilee 2000 debt-forgiveness campaign which was initiated and led by the churches.
We want people to move on from a romantic view of engagement in alleviating poverty to getting their hands dirty with action for change, in both western countries and the developing world.
Q: What are some ways in which this conversation might challenge and redefine the church’s thinking about poverty and benefaction?
A: The book is not intended to produce simple ‘The early Christians did this, so we today should do this too’ solutions, but rather to place the ancient and modern practices, contexts, and issues side-by-side in order that they will mutually inform each other. So we hope our conversation will promote other conversations, and real listening by western Christians to our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world. In other words, it’s the relationships which are critical to progress. For instance, my former church at Histon, near Cambridge, was twinned with a church in Kigali, Rwanda, through our diocesan link, and visits from each church to the other enabled real learning to go on from both sides. Our fellow Christians from Kigali opened our eyes to the generous hospitality which they gave to a team from Histon, far beyond what would be expected from people much poorer than Cambridge folk. We also learned a lot about what they needed to be Christian witnesses among their community, not least following the genocide in Rwanda in relatively recent times. How about getting your church’s children corresponding with children in other parts of the world, so they can teach the adults about what’s going on?
Q: Overall, what do you hope the conversation might accomplish?
A: We hope the book will have a great impact by exposing people to the realities of engaging with people in poverty (and you’ll notice that I speak that way, rather than of ‘the poor’—it’s vital to remember that we are talking about people). The book’s discussion of the causes of poverty in the ancient world and today, for instance, is vital—the assumption that people are poor because of their mistakes and choices is widespread, and it’s wrong! You need to know what’s really going on in order to address the situation’s causes rather than only skidding across the surface of the issues. The conversation between biblical scholar Myrto Theocharous and families worker Ellie Hughes about the way poverty dehumanises both people in power and people in poverty is very striking, pointing beyond a superficial view that rich people are OK and should help poor people to a true, biblical perspective that we are all in need and all damaged by the effects of sin in our world. We want people to move on from a romantic view of engagement in alleviating poverty to getting their hands dirty with action for change, in both western countries and the developing world. Specifically, the biblical material is captive to no political ideology, and should open up debate and questions which transcend party-political divisions, calling rich Christians to a simpler lifestyle and a more generous heart which is ready to give time and expertise as well as money.
Q: Can you tell more about what will happen to the book's proceeds?
A: The proceeds from the book are being split between Tearfund and Caritas (Diocese of Westminster), both Christian agencies engaging in poverty alleviation, and working alongside people in poverty in the UK and worldwide. We’re delighted that Bloomsbury T&T Clark, our publisher, have collaborated with the website Knowledge Unlatched to make a PDF of the book available freely to anyone. We were keen that this should be so for people in the developing world, and we’re very pleased indeed that it is available to people everywhere. The details are available on my blog: http://bit.ly/2pzlBFT.
Rev Prof Steve Walton is a part-time tutor in New Testament at Trinity and research supervisor for some of Trinity's postgraduate research students. His major current research project is the Word Biblical Commentary on Acts. An ordained priest in the Church of England, Steve is Secretary of the British New Testament Society and has served on the steering committees of the Society of Biblical Literature Book of Acts and Biblical Lexicography sections. He blogs about New Testament studies at http://stevewalton.info.
Posted November 2019
- Two-and-a-half days in personal study a week, plus half a day spent in seminars and with your tutor group, accessed either in college or virtually.
- Two days plus Sundays in context inclusive of supervision time with your church supervisor. Clear expectations are given to supervisors in relation to your engagement in context.
- You have one day a week for rest from the programme.
DDO Newsletter, February 2016
Did you know about our new School of Leadership?This autumn, Trinity College has unveiled a School of Leadership, run in partnership with CPAS, an Anglican evangelical mission agency. Key facts:
- The programme takes Trinity College students through topics in four areas: leading yourself, leading others, leading change, and leading mission.
- The autumn term’s sessions included ‘Leadership, ministry, priesthood: a biblical view’, ‘Understanding who you are as a leader’, and ‘Developing Christ-like character’.
- The primary teachers for the programme are Rev James Lawrence, who is Leadership Principal at CPAS, and Rev Ian Parkinson (pictured above), Leadership Specialist in Theological Education at CPAS.
Upcoming Events20 February 2016 Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity – tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place. 21 April 2016, 7:30pm This event for those in their 18-30s explores the what, why, and how of ordination in the Church of England. It will include stories from younger ordinands and opportunities to ask questions. Held in partnership with the Diocese of Bristol and CPAS. More info to come!
Recent NewsTrinity alum ministers to those on the margins in Leeds. Doctrine tutor Justin Stratis challenges the way in which we explain the gospel. [caption id="attachment_2905" align="alignnone" width="264"] 'Trinity is a place where I've found grace to be really me, and yet facilitated to develop more into the person God has made me to be. In the debate and worship and learning and laughter and tears, God is forming me for whatever Kingdom work He has for me next.' --Dr Sarah McClelland, ordinand from Winchester Diocese[/caption] The DDO Newsletter is published three times a year to help connect the dioceses with recent happenings and current information from Trinity College. We welcome any thoughts, opinions, questions, and feedback that could help us better serve you and the candidates and current students you advise: email@example.com or 0117 968 0205.
Finding Jesus in a hot meal
Bristol's Wild Goose Café, a Crisis Centre Ministries project led by Trinity student Jonnie Angel, provides unconditional acceptance and practical services to those who've become marginalised. Its ministry is also having an impact on Trinity ordinands.
At the beginning of 2011, Jonnie Angel was an operations director for a property management solutions corporation with an estimated worth of over a billion pounds, overseeing the delivery of contracts. By the end of 2011, at the age of 46, he had been made redundant. In what became a year of loss for him, he also lost his home.The next several months became a time of reflection for Jonnie. ‘God spoke to me about being real,’ he says. Though Jonnie had been a Christian since his childhood (his father is former Trinity New Testament tutor Rev Gervais Angel), he explains, ‘I was very much doing stuff for God out of my own agenda. There was a lot of denial of reality in my life.’ He realised he’d been caught in a mindset focused on achievement and success, about looking a certain way in front of others. Now he prayed, ‘Lord, not my will, but your will’ and determined to follow in whatever God had next for him.
It was whilst attending an evening church service that Jonnie first encountered the Wild Goose Café, as he listened to its general manager describe its work in Bristol. Through Crisis Centre Ministries, the café fed those without homes, rough sleepers, people caught in addiction, and others who’d found themselves in places of need, sometimes simply the need to find friendly faces.
Jonnie decided to volunteer one or two nights a week at the Wild Goose during his time off working, and soon was duty manager one night a week. As he invested time at the Goose, Jonnie found himself caught between two job possibilities: a part-time estate management job and an opening at the Wild Goose for an assistant manager. Again, he prayed, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? Whichever comes up first I’ll take.’ In July 2012 he became the Wild Goose’s assistant manager, and in 2014 he was appointed project leader for the Goose.As Jonnie’s new role put him regularly in the position of needing to speak in local churches and schools about Crisis Centre Ministries and issues around homelessness, he began to seek out a deeper level of theological learning as an independent student at Trinity. After completing the Certificate last year, he’s now in his first year of the Diploma. ‘I want to challenge people’s perceptions,’ he explains. ‘I’m being equipped through study to do that. All of my classes have been relevant. I want to think more deeply about what the church is doing for the poor, and understanding the metanarratives in scripture has enabled me to understand this better.’
At the Wild Goose, Jonnie has recognised practical ways in which his previous job, which included public sector work, prepared him for this new endeavour. He also began to see a benefit to his troubles in 2011. ‘Ten years ago, I was one of the people who would have walked down the street, feeling comfortable to judge other people’s situations,’ he says. ‘Though I’ve not had addiction, I understand now that sense of loss, of being stripped of everything, the pressures around housing. The things I’ve been through give me a real empathy to understand other people’s stories.’
A café building community
According to Crisis Centre Ministries, ‘The number of people sleeping rough has doubled since 2010, with Bristol now having higher rates of homelessness than anywhere outside London’. Simultaneously, the homeless services offered through the government have been cut by 45 percent between 2010 and 2015.The Wild Goose Café, which purchased its current location on Stapleton Road in Bristol after millionaire Dawn Gibbins posed as a volunteer at the Goose for the TV series The Secret Millionaire and then donated £125,000 to grow the ministry, now provides 500-600 plates of food each day. ‘We enable the church to be able to serve the most marginalised and vulnerable in Bristol,’ Jonnie says, as he mentions the 400-450 volunteers from various Bristol churches who staff the café every week. In addition to providing breakfast and lunch four days a week and an evening meal six nights a week, the Goose hosts advisory sessions about housing, finance, employment, health, and citizens’ rights. They provide weekly medical clinics for street drinkers, help people with their appointments and forms, and offer fresh clothes, toiletries, showers, laundry, sleeping bags, and more. In 2017, the Love Britain + Ireland Awards recognised the outstanding work of the Wild Goose, as a charity that puts 'Christian faith and love into action within your local community'. ‘Through providing food, we’re also building relationships with people,’ says Jonnie, ‘We accept people unconditionally—they can walk in and leave without talking, or they can come in and ask for support. Some call us a community café—it has that feel. We have a self-managed chess club, and someone sometimes brings a guitar in to play and teach others as well.’
Future vicars at the GooseJonnie has increased the number of students completing placements at the Wild Goose to sixteen, and while some are medical students from Bristol University, the majority are Trinity students. All Trinity ordinands must choose a community placement to complete in their first year, in addition to a church placement that lasts for the duration of their programme. Community placements help diversify students’ experiences of mission and ministry, while also helping students to engage with people who are different from themselves, to think theologically about what ministry looks like in a ‘secular’ context, and to think about what role the church might play in partnership with other organisations. Several current Trinity students have completed placements at the Wild Goose, many of them continuing to volunteer there, even after the end of their placements. ‘My spirituality is very much worked out in practical service,’ says ordinand Jon Holder, who came to Trinity two years ago after helping lead a youth outreach programme at an estate in Oxford. Just two weeks into his programme at Trinity, he began volunteering weekly at the Goose not only for his community placement but throughout his programme. On the nights he serves as duty manager, he manages a team of eight to ten people, oversees the food preparations, prays with the team, serves hot food, tea and coffee, cakes, and fruit, and chats with that evening’s guests. ‘A few people I know quite well by now, and I’ve been able to have long conversations over several weeks with people. One guy I bought a Bible for, and he is reading it now.’
Many of the Trinity students who’ve volunteered at the Wild Goose leave the experience affected not only by the opportunity to serve but by the experience of seeing the local impact that can happen when churches work together. ‘It’s been powerful to see people from lots of different churches coming together to volunteer,’ says ordinand Dave Edmondson, who completed his community placement at the Goose and who continues to volunteer fortnightly. ‘If one church opened its doors one night, and another church opened its doors another night, it would not have the same level of impact. It’s great to see lots of different denominations come together to serve like Jesus did. When churches come together they can do incredible things.’
And as Jonnie Angel found God disrupting his preconceptions with a new empathy and the ability to see others with new eyes, similarly the students can find their interactions at the Wild Goose disrupting some of their previous ways of thinking, changing them, and raising questions about how they might seek to conduct their future ministries.‘I’ve realised that people are just one relationship breakdown, one bad decision, one spiral from being on the streets,’ Dave says. ‘It highlights the importance of being there, of listening. And, in thinking about doing pastoral care, how do you do that in this situation? With people going through horrendous things, whether that day or long ago—how do you do that? And, if the one or two hundred guests of the Wild Goose walked through the doors of my church, what would the reaction be? I haven’t got an answer for that one yet.’ Ordinand Elliot Swattridge has found his time spent volunteering at the Wild Goose personally formative, as he’s needed to face his own nervousness in advance of going each time. ‘I’d feel a good deal of anxiety before going to volunteer, thinking about all the people there, and imagining standing around not knowing who to talk to first and what to do next. Yet, it is in this struggle that God has worked most in me. And then, as a result, I’ve stumbled into so many conversations with guests who are in horrendous life circumstances, yet just say how they feel God somehow working in their lives in a way they can barely put into words. God is clearly at work in these people, and it is a privilege to be used as even a little piece in the puzzle.’ ‘Being in a predominantly white-middle class church placement, it has been important to stay in touch with the realities and experiences of some of the most marginalised people in society,’ says ordinand Sam Rylands. ‘When we talk about “serving” in the church, it’s used to mean joining the tea and coffee rota, or the kids’ team—and these are great things, but that’s serving the church. The church is called to serve the world, and the Wild Goose is a really good example of the way the church does that.’ ‘When you are dealing with a homeless man throwing up everywhere, and you’re cleaning it up and covered in it, you can reflect on Jesus, and on what he would have done,’ Jon Holder says. ‘For me, that’s what being a vicar is—caring for the people God’s put in front of you.’ Article by Melissa Stratis; this article appeared originally in the spring 2018 Trinity News.
DDO Newsletter, Winter 2020
Watch our new dispersed learning videoTrain for ordination in the Church of England by coming to Bristol for six block weeks a year, remaining embedded in your local context, and participating in weekly virtual seminars and pastoral groups with your cohort. Watch here: http://bit.ly/2UPywkE.
Hear from our studentsOne couple, two training tracks Ordinands Sarah and Jonathan Lee chose Trinity so Sarah could train residentially and gain the space needed to reflect in community on her Christian practice, and so Jonathan could train non-residentially for more hours in context after twenty-five years as a barrister and part-time judge. Read their story here.
Recent newsResidential students participate in spiritual retreat day > Trinity College and Bristol Housing Festival launch competition for ideas for new student accommodation >
Forms for new 2020 students to complete
Trinity News, Autumn 2017
You can download a pdf to read the entire autumn 2017 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- The Reformation at 500: Doctrine tutor Dr Justin Stratis considers what it means for us to memorialise a schism in the church.
- What is a Pioneer? Why the church needs pioneer ministers, and how Trinity hopes to help prepare them.
- Reading Revelation: How comfortable are you to teach and preach the book of Revelation? A Q&A with Tutor in New Testament Dr Jamie Davies.
Amy White: teaching lay leaders the Bible
Trinity News, Spring 2016
You can download a PDF of the spring 2016 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- Hear from five of our full-time residential ordinands about how living in a Bristol neighbourhood while gaining intentional experiences in a local church under a mentoring vicar will help prepare them to better lead their own congregations ('Residential' at Trinity: When moving to college means living outside of your comfort zone).
- The key teacher for our School of Leadership Ian Parkinson explains why developing leaders is one of the best ways in which vicars can spend their time ('Is Your Church Developing Leaders?').
- How can we best share the stories of the Bible with children? A Q&A with Trinity missiology tutor and vice principal Rev Dr Howard Worsley ('Sharing the Bible with Children').
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Connect: Who we are
- To provide opportunities for fellowship for partners of those in full-time study at Trinity College.
- To provide support to one another, sharing our lives together and seeking God’s transformation in our lives.
- To be a means by which our members can be equipped for their future ministry, and develop their own unique callings.
How is Connect run?
Connect can only operate with the help of all its members (not just the exec)! There will be many opportunities to get involved in the running of Connect over the coming year with a range of tasks. This may be setting up a room for a meeting, giving someone a lift to an event, baking a cake, bringing snacks for children, helping organise a social, tidying up at the end of a meeting, running a children’s activity, helping to plan our programme of talks each term, helping to run a home group, leading worship, helping with prayers…the list goes on! There will be something for everyone so we look forward to you getting involved! We have found in the past that the more you put into Connect, the more you get out of it.
Autumn 2020 COVID update and risk assessment
We want to uphold the quality of the formation and education we provide, while operating within the parameters of what is safe and healthy, with flexibility to ensure everyone can participate. Our plans are based on our reading of the government guidance regarding the reopening of higher education buildings.
As we adapt and remain flexible to both our circumstances and our students, we recognise that these are challenging times for all of us. We will keep all aspects of these arrangements under review and won’t hesitate to make changes as needed, and as government guidance changes. If needed, we have the plans in place to switch to online provision without interrupting our activities.
We appreciate that we will all be making sacrifices in order to keep one another, and especially those who are most vulnerable, safe. Yet we know that God will continue to work in and through us this season.
If you are a student and have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; if you are a prospective student with questions, please contact email@example.com.
What is a Pioneer?
What is a 'pioneer'?The Church of England currently defines 'pioneers' as 'people called by God who are the first to see and respond to the Holy Spirit's initiatives with those outside the church within a particular context, around which others will gather with them and together establish new Christian community.' Some pioneers may be church based, working within the parish system to pioneer within an established church base, and others may be 'fresh start' pioneers, who work closely connected with a diocese but outside the conventional parish system in areas or networks with no present church connection. According to Rev Canon Dave Male, the national advisor for pioneer development in the Church of England's Ministry Division, 'Our research has shown that in just over a decade, 15 percent of diocesan church communities are now fresh expressions of church, and 60 percent of those attending fresh expressions churches are people outside the present church. Eighty percent of these new communities are taking steps to grow disciples. There is an overwhelming necessity for the Church to grasp at this moment that pioneers and pioneering are vital in leading us to the future of the Church of England's mission; they enable us to connect with the majority of the population and re-evangelise England.' To further enhance the training of our pioneer ordinands, Trinity is now offering a Pioneer Focus, for those students who have been approved as ordained pioneer ministers, or who will be serving in a pioneering curacy.
Trinity's first pioneer cohortThe first pioneer cohort, which is facilitated by mission tutor Rev Dr Howard Worsley, currently includes eight pioneering ordinands—both residential and full-time nonresidential students. It meets twice each half-term, providing opportunities for students to engage with guest practitioners and share experiences and ideas with one another while engaging in pioneer opportunities within their placements. Students are also encouraged through the group’s conversations to reflect on how what they are learning in classes will impact their pioneer ministries, and within classes are offered assessment options with a pioneering focus. Ordinand Michelle Taylor, who is preparing for a pioneer curacy in Bath and Wells Diocese, says the new cohort is ‘really exciting–what I’m hoping for is to get to hear other people’s stories, to bounce ideas off each other.’ Michelle had worked for three years in a church plant in Portishead, while questioning and re-evaluating what God wanted her to do. After receiving unsought affirmation of her call from an Anglican vicar and several months spent on retreat seeking God, Michelle became Anglican and began the discernment process. When she received a pioneer curacy offer from her diocese, Michelle says, 'For the first time, it felt like someone was saying “She can do that—let her do that.”' In her curacy, Michelle will be meeting in a primary school and in small home groups to grow community. 'I thrive on change,' she says. 'You have to be willing to take a risk. You don't know till you've tried it.'
Learning together rather than aloneAs the students in the new Pioneer Focus cohort hear one another's stories and experiences, they realise what a diverse group they are. Some students have already initiated several ministries and others are just beginning. Some move quickly from one project to the next, launching a new ministry and then leaving it in others' hands, while others explore their ideas for what could be done, within and outside of the walls of a church. Pioneering ordinand Lucy Howarth had thought at 21 that she would be too young to be considered a pioneer minister. As part of the application process with her diocese, she had to put together a portfolio of what she'd done, which included a student street ministry outside a nightclub in Newcastle and a group for young adults who'd become disengaged with church but who shared an interest in climbing and outdoor activities. 'You can do Sunday church well, but I think the difference with pioneering is that you meet people where they are and ask, “How can I bring God into this? How can I turn this into church?”' Because pioneers naturally follow God into new and unlikely situations—one pioneering student recently helped organise a metal mass service that hosted one hundred people in the Bristol city centre—and because pioneers often find that they themselves do not 'fit' within established contexts, they may feel alone on their journeys. 'Pioneers are naturally isolated,' says pioneering ordinand John White. 'If we can support each other and keep each other grounded, that's huge.' Midway through his first year of ordination training at Trinity, John heard Dave Male speak at Trinity about pioneer ministry, which in turn began John on a process of applying to his diocese to become a pioneer minister. 'I want to be a bridge between the church and those outside the church. We should influence each other—the pioneer should do new things and impact the church, and the church should support and root the pioneer minister.'
Growing strong biblical rootsWhile the new pioneer cohort discusses the challenges unique to pioneer ministries, pioneering students also need a strong understanding of the Bible, theology, and the church. As they often work outside normal support systems and structures, it is perhaps even more critical that they are well prepared. 'Coming to faith later, as an adult, I had not developed good biblical foundations, and also being quite transient in my adult life—possibly another pioneer trait—I had not ever really settled into a specific church denomination,' explains pioneering ordinand Tracey Hallett. Tracey spent six years working with young people in their context, and she says, 'we accidentally developed a fresh expressions church. It was through my training as a pioneer youth and community worker that God attached me to the Church of England, and I came to Trinity because I wanted to get a good foundation in theology and biblical studies. As such, I'd like to encourage others in the same position in saying that this is the place to be if you want to develop good solid theological and biblical roots.' Tracey hopes the new pioneering focus will continue to evolve in the ways in which it can offer support and development for pioneering students, and looks forward to the role that this first cohort might be able to play in shaping the group for future students.
Looking for sparks, building bridgesAs pioneering ordinands connect to share ideas, hear from practitioners, and think together through pioneer-specific applications of what they are learning in the classroom, they can discover not only how to become stronger bridges for those outside the church but also build bridges of support for one another. They can be better equipped to help build God's kingdom faithfully, to the best of their abilities, with the leap of faith always required in new and unexplored contexts. Sonya Newton has just begun to connect with another estate where her diocese hopes for her to begin a new ministry. 'The feeling that you're called to something you've never seen—it takes a lot of struggling to figure it out. For now, I'm wandering around the estate, making friends and looking for those little lights. That's what pioneers do—they start fires. They look for the sparks, for those little lights around them that say that's what God's is doing—go there, go to them.' If you are considering theological education and are wondering if this programme could benefit your preparation for ministry, please contact our admissions office: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 968 0254.
Q: You have recently begun work on a commentary about the book of Revelation?A: Yes, it’s going to be in the Reading the New Testament series, published by Smyth & Helwys in the US. It’s due out in 2020, so I’m at the early stages of writing it at the moment, but I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into it. I’ve started teaching a third year BA class on Revelation at Trinity this year, and it’s been great thinking through my ideas with the students. I will probably end up giving credit to them all in the book for the various ideas that are bubbling up in the classroom! This is part of what it means to be a learning community, and integrating research and teaching like this is something I always try to do.
Q: The interpretation of Revelation seems to have had a chequered history, to put it mildly. Why do you want to teach and write about it?A: Well, yes, it’s certainly a fun field to work in! I have a great PowerPoint slide I always show in class, which contains a screenshot from a website whose ‘Armageddon countdown’ had reached zero days. It’s dated May 21, 2011. These things come and go all the time: just as I was starting this class, as it happens, there was another one of these ‘end of the world’ predictions coming from certain Christian groups in the US, based around a particular reading of Revelation 12 lined up with astronomy and contemporary politics. It can be easy to mock these sorts of things, though we should always remember that these people are our brothers and sisters. But there’s a serious point, too: these extreme and tragically mistaken readings of the book can lead to unhelpful or even dangerous practices, or they can lead us to stay away from Revelation altogether, and that’s a real problem. I wanted to teach it this year not only because of my forthcoming commentary but because I honestly think it’s one of the most important books of the Bible for the church today. The key thing is that we learn to read it well. One of the books on the reading list for my course, written by an excellent scholar called Michael Gorman, is entitled Reading Revelation Responsibly (published by Cascade Books in 2011). It’s a great title that summarises what I am trying to teach my students and something to which I hope my own commentary will contribute. So often our readings of this complex and fascinating book are tied up in a deficient understanding of how ancient apocalyptic literature (which is what Revelation is, among other things) actually worked, how its imagery functioned. Without a proper ‘reading strategy’ we can get ourselves into all sorts of messes when we try to understand it. Imagine if you picked up a haiku and tried to read it in the same way you read the shipping forecast, or vice-versa! That illustrates what we sometimes do to Revelation. The key thing is to understand the nature of the imagery in these kinds of texts, and how that imagery is meant to work. I was saying in class the other day that the book of Revelation doesn’t just teach us what to think, it teaches us how to think. The imagery of the book reshapes the Christian imagination, as God shows us, from a heaven’s-eye-view, what the world is really like—so that we can live accordingly.
Q: Can you give an example?A: Ok. Take the key idea of ‘victory’. It’s a major theme in the book of Revelation, coming up in all sorts of ways, not least in the repeated call for the seven churches of Asia Minor to ‘conquer’. We can too easily assume we know what ‘victory’ is, without allowing the imagery of Revelation to shape the idea for us. In Revelation 5.5, for example, John hears a voice saying ‘lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered’. But when John turns to look, he sees not a roaring Lion but ‘a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain’. The idea of a nationalistic and militaristic Lion is radically redefined (without being completely lost) by the vision of a slaughtered Lamb. The same sort of thing happens again in chapter 7, where John hears the census of 144,000 Israelite fighting men, but turns to see an innumerable multitude from every tribe and people and tongue. The expected victorious army of God’s people is transformed by the image of a multitude of martyrs, not clad in armour but wearing robes washed ‘white in the blood of the Lamb’. How does this imagery (a Lion that is a Lamb, an army that are martyrs) change how we view Christian ‘victory’ and ‘conquering’? How might that affect our understanding of the Christian life, of suffering, or—dare I say—of politics?
"Much of Revelation is designed to help Christians figure out how to bear witness to Jesus in their public lives when shown this 'heaven's-eye-view' on Rome, and that's how we should read it. Christians today need to learn to see our own political world through new eyes."
Q: Is Revelation a political book?A: Absolutely, yes, but again (and this is so important), not as we have often thought. Revelation isn’t giving us a timeline of 20th and 21st century world powers rising and falling, with images as codes for the names of future politicians, and so on. That sort of interpretation is tied in with those same deficient reading strategies. But that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say about ‘politics’. (Although in the ancient world ‘politics’ and ‘religion’ weren’t so neatly divided as they are in our world. Actually, I’m not so sure they are neatly divided in our world, either.) Here’s an example: in the first century AD, the Roman Empire liked to depict its capital city as a beautiful warrior-queen, the goddess Roma, sitting serenely on a chair made from the weapons and armour of its defeated enemies. It was a very common image on coins and sculpture throughout the Roman world (similar personifications were used in the British Empire’s depiction of Britannia). It was how Rome wanted to be imagined by its subjects, and the imagery worked well. But when Revelation depicts Rome in chapter 18, she is not a queen but the harlot ‘Babylon’, dressed in gaudy attire and drunk on the blood of the saints. How did that purging and re-shaping of the Christian imagination change the way the early church thought about the dominant political power of their world? If they were being persecuted by Rome, it might bring an encouragement to persevere in their witness, knowing that Babylon will one day be judged by the Lamb—the one who really sits on the throne. But some Christians, of course, were quite comfortable, making money from Roman trade and enjoying the protections and provisions the Roman system brought them. For those Christians, the vision of Babylon would send another political message, and I suspect it was an uncomfortable one: ‘come out of her my people!’ (18.4). Much of Revelation is designed to help Christians figure out how to bear witness to Jesus in their public lives when shown this 'heaven's-eye-view' on Rome, and that's how we should read it. Christians today need to learn to see our own political world through new eyes. And, dare I say it, when Babylon’s cap fits our own political systems, as Christians we need to prepare to act accordingly, even if that kind of discipleship proves costly. The book I mentioned earlier has a longer subtitle which I think says it well: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. That’s what Revelation is about and why it’s so important we learn to read it responsibly.
Q: Can you recommend any further reading?A: Well, in addition to Gorman’s excellent book, there are some other great resources out there. Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press, 1993) is superb and accessible as an introduction to the theological issues. Another great introduction is Simon Woodman’s one in the SCM Core Texts series (2008). If you are interested in the radical politics of the book, and the Roman world behind that, I’d have a look at J. Nelson Kraybill, Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics and Devotion in the Book of Revelation (Brazos Press, 2010). Another honourable mention on that front, from a different approach, is Brian K. Blount, Can I Get a Witness? Reading Revelation through African American Culture (Westminster John Knox, 2005)—and his longer commentary is great, too.
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Life in Carter
The Reformation at 500
A 'quest for the one Church'As a Protestant theologian, the question is one that vexes me personally. On the one hand, I have been convinced of many of the insights of the magisterial Reformers, perhaps most significantly their insistence on sola Scriptura, or the idea that the church must ensure the freedom of the Bible to reform its life at all times (hence Luther’s emphasis on repentance as the primary characteristic of the life of faith in the first of the 95 Theses). And yet, on the other hand, I recognise just how foolish it would be to cut myself off from the insights of non-Protestant brothers and sisters who profess to walk alongside me as we follow Jesus Christ together. I cannot call myself a Roman Catholic, but neither can I erect a wall of separation. Thus, what we need is a way to submit the entire matter, in all its messy complexity, to the Lordship of Christ, and therefore—somehow—for the sake of his own kingdom and glory. In 1936, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth penned a ‘message’ to the World Conference on Faith and Order, which was to meet in Edinburgh the following year. The title is ‘The Church and the Churches,’ and the task of the essay is to reconcile a theological account of ‘Church’ with the empirical fact of division in the body of Christ. ‘What is the Church,’ Barth asks, ‘if it can only present itself as repeating the manifoldness and contradictions of the world of pagan religions?’ In other words, does not the disunity of the church prove its status as just another human sociological phenomenon? In response, Barth suggests, we must ‘look away from the array of the many churches in a quest for the one Church.’ For Barth, the oneness of the church cannot stem from the mere agreement of the Christians on matters of doctrine, ethics, or polity, but only on the grounds of a shared participation in the church’s one Lord: Jesus Christ. Consequently, he writes, the unity of the church is lost only when ‘we have lost and forgotten Christ,’ for Jesus Christ ‘is the oneness of the Church.’ What then, do we make of the existence of so-called ‘churches’ in the midst of the one Christian body, that is, the Church? Importantly, Barth argues, the multiplicity of the churches is not something that we should seek to explain—say, in terms of Paul’s one body/many members metaphor—since division in the church only exists because of sin, that inexplicable, almost nonsensical circumstance in which creatures elect to act contrary to the will of their Creator. Consequently, we must be careful not to celebrate church division as if it were diversity, as if the Holy Spirit were complicit in leading believers in multiple, sometimes contradictory directions. What we need, then, is a strategy for confessing the unity of the church in such a way that neither a) minimises its real divisions nor b) attempts to put a ‘good face’ on these divisions as somehow part of God’s intention.
The task of unityBarth offers just such a strategy by means of an intriguing suggestion: perhaps the unity of the church is not so much a set of commonalities to discern as a task to which we are accountable. In other words, when Jesus prays for the unity of the believers in the Gospel of John, what he is doing is petitioning the Father for divine grace to enable his disciples to serve, follow, and bear witness to him ‘as one,’ even as he and the Father are one. He knows that this task will be difficult. He knows that the story of their shared pilgrimage through time and space will be characterised by all sorts of diversions, obstacles, and delays. And so, for this reason, Jesus promises, ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [paráklētos], that he may abide with you forever’ (John 14.16). There is thus a dual reality to what it means to be ‘the Church.’ On the one hand, Christians have real fellowship with one another through their mutual participation in Christ: ‘though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.’ And yet, on the other hand, this received unity demands the public and visible ‘amen’ of the church, not just in word, but also in deed. Just as in a wedding ceremony, couples receive both the gift of matrimony as well as a charge to live in fidelity to that new relationship, so the church’s unity in Christ demands a commitment to live into this reality in obedience to the command of her Lord. And so, Barth concludes: ‘The task of church union is essentially one with that practical task which all church activity must presuppose: the task of listening to Christ.’ What the church therefore had to confront in the sixteenth century Reformation was the claim that Jesus Christ had spoken, that in the context and circumstances of early modern European Christianity, the Lord was calling his people to confess and follow him in new and surprising ways. For some (such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli), this ultimately entailed a break with Rome; for others (such as Erasmus, Lefèvre d’Étaples, and Ignatius of Loyola), it did not. But what united all these figures, I suggest, was a shared desire to seek out the leading of Christ and to submit to his command above all others. Put another way: it was a shared commitment to the task of submitting to Christ that knit these brothers together, even in the face of disagreement concerning the nature of the divine command itself.
A unity that 'tests the spirits'Today, as in the sixteenth century, the church is a communion marked by incredibly complex diversity, including seemingly insurmountable disagreements concerning the nature of scripture, doctrine, sacraments, and polity (to name just a few contentious matters). And yet, we confess in faith, this body is still a communion—a fellowship of disciples seeking to discern the voice of their Lord. Consequently, ‘reformation’ ought to characterise ecclesial life, because we are a sinful people who nevertheless are accompanied by the Spirit of Christ—the One who never ceases to lead us away from our own self-justifying idolatries and ‘into all truth.’ Ours is a unity that does not paper over differences, but which leans into these differences as occasions to ‘test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ (1 John 4.1). As a Protestant, I celebrate the Reformation because I (along with many other believers) discern something of a true word from Jesus in these cataclysmic events of the 16th century. And yet, as a Christian, I put my faith not in my own judgments concerning these matters, but in the larger confession that I, like all brothers and sisters, am accountable to listen, first and foremost, to the voice of Christ—a voice which, by the Spirit, and in accord with the promises of Jesus recorded in John 14, still speaks. I may not be a Roman Catholic, but I continue to regard Catholics as my fellow travellers, and therefore would expect them to ‘test the spirit’ of my Protestantism, just as I will engage critically with their tradition, all in deference to Christ. So as we remember the Reformation this year, let those of us who are Protestant not engage in prideful triumphalism, but instead give thanks for the presence of Christ by his Spirit, and commit ourselves afresh to submitting all our confession and witness to him, whom God has made both Lord and Christ of us all.
Martha Morton: pursuing social justice
DDO Newsletter, Autumn 2018
Trinity offers new 'dispersed learning' trackDispersed learners can complete the Diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission in two years or the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Theology, Ministry and Mission in three years without relocating to Bristol for residential training. Both programmes are accredited by Durham University. Dispersed learning cohorts attend college for six block weeks during the academic year. Between block weeks, the dispersed learning students log in to a weekly virtual tutor group and seminar, which offers additional support for learning in context and formation. Building on Trinity's expertise in contextual training, this programme emphasizes close integration between the student's context and the college, with regular liaision between the college tutor and the student's church supervisor. The balance of contextual engagement and study is designed to facilitate a high quality, rigorous academic programme integrated with contextual engagement.
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Trinity News, Spring 2020
You can download a pdf to read the entire autumn 2020 Trinity News.
This issue includes:
- The persevering people of God: What does it mean to be the people of Jesus during a pandemic? A sermon from Revd Dr Helen Collins
- Learning ministry in Bristol: Through community and church placements, as well as volunteer work, our students find a wealth of opportunities to grow as ministers of Christ in the Bristol area.
- Including the Stranger: Tutor in Old Testament Dr David Firth's new book delves into what the books of the Former Prophets are really teaching us about foreigners and immigrants.
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Trinity College eNewsletter: Autumn 2019
- Hear from student Amy White about the benefits of perseverance in biblical study.
- Trinity students find God is teaching them as they garden in the new college allotments.
- Read more about recent renovations to Stoke House.
8 February 2020
Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here.
13 February 2020
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The persevering people of God
A sermon preached virtually to our college community by Trinity tutor Revd Dr Helen Collins at the end of March.
Three weeks ago, I began to think about what passage to choose for what would have been an all-age sermon on the theme I had been given: Jesus and joy/celebration.
As a rule, I hate being asked to choose a passage, because in the act of choosing, you are predetermining what you think the Bible passage says. However, the two passages that quickly came to mind were Luke 7 (‘we played the pipe for you and you did not dance’) and Hebrews 12 (‘for the joy set before him, endured the cross’).
As I tried to decide which one to choose, I was praying through what message God might have to give this community. At the time, three weeks ago, I was imagining a message of joy in a context largely consumed with essay deadlines, work stress, and anxieties about moving on. Coronavirus was nowhere on the collective radar. How much can change in three weeks.
And yet, as I studied both of these passages in my attempt to decide between them, I realised they actually had a lot to say to each other—and a timely message for our present circumstances began to emerge.
Luke 7:24-35—John and Jesus
Let’s look closer at Luke 7. This passage comes early in Luke’s gospel as Jesus’s fame is spreading throughout all Judea, and the people are saying that ‘a great prophet has appeared among us’ (v16).
John gets wind of these claims and sends his disciples to verify if Jesus is indeed ‘the one who is to come’. Therefore, the focus of this passage is primarily upon the identity and the mission of Jesus. Jesus responds to John’s disciples’ request (‘Are you the one who is to come?’) by referring them to his deeds (‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised’), echoing the messianic hopes of Isaiah 61.
Luke doesn’t tell us whether John’s disciples were convinced, but as they leave, at the start of our reading, Jesus turns the question around, from his identity and ministry to John’s (‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see?’). He affirms John’s status as a prophet, and the one who was to prepare the way for him. Jesus is therefore tying his mission very closely with John’s. We are told in verse 30 that in rejecting John’s baptism and therefore his teaching, the Pharisees and experts in the law have also rejected Jesus’s ministry and God’s purposes. In the face of this rejection of John, and therefore of God, Jesus asks ‘to what, then, shall I compare this generation?’ What are you like, ‘people of God’ who have rejected the purposes of God? You are like children, sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other—we played the pipe for you, and you did not dance, we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.
When I first thought of this passage, I had mis-remembered it as Jesus saying these words to the crowds, as if the crowds were the stubborn ones refusing to respond to Jesus’s message.
However, Jesus is suggesting that the crowds are saying this to one another, and then he links their calling to one another to the ministries of John and himself in verse 33-34. Jesus is saying: John, who was sent by God, came with a message of sin and judgement, and the crowd say, ‘Oh dear, this is all a bit sombre and heavy, all this fasting, we’re not as bad as all that, let’s have a dance’. Then Jesus came with a message of salvation and forgiveness and reconciliation, and the crowd say, ‘Oh dear, this all seems a bit frivolous and improper—all this feasting and drinking with undesirables, there are serious things going on in the world, we want a teacher with dignity and propriety’. It is not then the generation who are cast as stubborn by Jesus, but rather, it is the messengers of God—John and Jesus—who are accused by the crowds of being unmoved in the face of the changeable whims and desires of this generation.
Method, message, and mission
There is an interesting contrast set up between method, message, and mission. Jesus is known for the method of eating and drinking, and John characterised by the method of fasting. The point in this story is that it’s not about the method. Indeed, the crowd are the ones obsessed with the method. In verse 32, they don’t demand inward dispositions of joy or sorrow, but only outward manifestations of dancing and weeping. Indeed, the generation demand these very things, and remain disappointed even as they receive them.
This seems so apt for today. We still live in the midst of a generation that up until recently consistently demanded fun and frivolity—take it easy, don’t worry, treat yourself, you deserve that new holiday or car, open another bottle of prosecco. The sort of naïve, optimistic, whistle–in–the–dark hedonism that holds coronavirus parties, disregards the official advice, and says stop overreacting. Dance, sing, we demand to be happy and will defiantly celebrate life. On the other hand, and much more so in recent days, our generation demands weeping and fear—we are doomed, check out, give up, be overwhelmed. The sort of pessimistic fatalism which stockpiles toilet paper, spends a small fortune on yeast through eBay, and says we’re not doing enough to stop this virus. Weep, mourn—we demand to despair, there is nothing we can do, all is lost. How quickly it changes. And how strong within us is the desire to return to the normality of our methods of dancing and feasting as soon as possible, as if our vocation were to be healthy and happy, and as if our ‘normality’ was desirable and just for everyone.
At this time, we are very likely grieving the loss of our familiar and cherished ‘methods’—gathering, parties, public worship, handshaking, hugging, public ordinations, even breaking bread. The hope for us today is that John and Jesus remain utterly fixed and faithful, not to their methods, as if they have some value in and of themselves, but to their God-given message and their mission. When John came preaching judgement and repentance, the crowd fixated on the method of fasting and rejected him. When Jesus came preaching salvation and forgiveness, the crowd fixated on the method of parties and dismissed him. Both John and Jesus were rejected as deviant by a generation who could not see through their methods to the purposes of God.
Sadly, it would seem in our contemporary society that our familiar methods of being church have not gained much traction with our communities—whilst we might cherish our different singing styles and courses and brands, it is not clear that this generation cares. As we are forced to lay many of these aside, what might it look like for the church to refocus on its message and let that lead to the development of new methods? Our primary call is to witness to the fact that Jesus was utterly faithful and steadfast in fulfilling the purposes of God in the midst of constant and changeable opposition.
This focus on Jesus’s faithfulness leads us nicely into the Hebrews passage, which tells us it was Jesus who, in the context of immense opposition, endured the cross, scorning its shame, for the sake of the joy set before him.
Surrounded by all the faith-filled people of old described in Hebrews 11, we too are to run our race with perseverance, and are to consider him who endured, so that we do not grow weary in persevering for the promise of joy.
Therefore, as Christians, we should not wish to be known primarily as “the party people”, but as the enduring, persevering people of Jesus Christ. Our primary ‘method’ is just to keep going, through good times and bad, highs and lows, celebration and tragedy. We are those who aren’t swayed or deterred by changeable and uncertain times. We keep going come what may, knowing that God’s purposes aren’t measured in uncertain days and weeks and even months, but throughout millennia.
Crucially, this ‘keep going’ is not yet another demand upon us to compete with the cries of ‘dance, dance’, ‘weep, weep’ which already surround. This is not a call to ‘keep calm and carry on’ as if that is the right middle way between jubilation and despair.
The whole point of the Hebrews passage is that Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the pioneer, the beginning of all racing—the one who cleared the space, marked the route, and laid the running track. And he is the perfecter, the end of all racing—the one who ran a perfect race, who achieved the victory, and secured the ultimate prize. The one who is sat down at the right hand of God. He is the one who has done it all. He is not only our example but also our motivation, strength, and surety. We run our race to him and in him and with him and for him. Therefore, we fix our eyes upon him, not as some good example for us to try to emulate as we wearily stumble. No, we fix our eyes on him as our joy, our hope and our crown, our light and our salvation, our firm foundation, our purpose and our righteousness, our victory, already secured and known by grace, the Saviour of the world, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who sits at God’s right hand.
Amidst the inevitable siren calls of our day, to dance: ‘the virus is going away, celebrate, everything is back to normal!’ or to weep: ‘the virus is getting worse: panic, everything is lost’, or even the sensible and seemingly Christian call to ‘keep calm and carry on’, we are wisdom’s children who say: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord. Repent, rejoice, persevere—the victory is secure in him’.
Hopefully, we will again see days of parties, celebration and feasting—and, of course, we can find new ways to do this during these difficult times, but not because parties are our mission. Witnessing to Jesus is our mission. Reconciliation and salvation in him is our message. And persevering is our primary method. Not because it depends on us, but because it has already all been done and secured by him. This is Christian joy. This is our joy and hope. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21)
Revd Dr Helen Collins is Tutor in Practical Theology and Director of Formation at Trinity College Bristol.
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Trinity College eNewsletter: Winter 2020
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Trinity News, Autumn 2016
You can download a pdf to read the entire autumn 2016 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- This autumn, Trinity welcomed a record intake of new students, with 63 new full-time and 17 new part-time students. Here are a few of their stories.
- What Does It Mean To Forgive? A Q&A with Tutor in Theology and Ethics Rev Dr Jon Coutts about what it means to forgive and reconcile in the context of the church.
- A Tribute to Alec Motyer. Four of the many people impacted by Alex's faithful service reflect on his ministry as the first principal of Trinity College.
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Learning ministry in Bristol
Through community and church placements, as well as volunteer work, our students find a wealth of opportunities to grow as ministers of Christ in the Bristol area.
‘I’ve never really had anything to do with hospitals, but as a vicar I’m guaranteed to be responding to people dealing with sickness and death,’ says first-year ordinand Holly Smith, who completed an intensive community placement experience in February among chaplains in Southmead Hospital in Bristol. ‘I’ve only had personal family experience with hospitals, and I know it will be different when it’s not with my own family. I’m a bit scared of hospitals, too, so I wanted to get over that.’
In addition to their ongoing church placement experiences, all of Trinity’s ordinands are required to complete a 20- to 30-hour ‘community placement’ during the first year of their programmes. Ordinands receive a list of about twenty-five organisations with which Trinity is connected, and they can select from among the choices or pursue something different.
‘These experiences help students grow in their own self-understanding, integrate their theology with the practice of ministry and theological reflection, and grow in appreciation for the contributions made by secular organisations,’ says Trinity Tutor in Pastoral Studies and Ministerial Formation Revd Dr Helen Collins. ‘In many cases our students will experience situations that are new and challenging for them.’
Holly began her week at hospital shadowing the chaplaincy team. She toured a morgue, hearing from the woman who works there about how she copes around death. In the second half of Holly’s week, she and the two other Trinity students on placement there were given lists of patients to visit. ‘It felt quite vulnerable…daunting,’ says Holly. ‘I went in scared about what I’d say, but actually they just needed someone to listen. I felt privileged to hear what they had to say. My biggest takeaway from the experience was that pastoral care isn’t about you. You are meeting people in suffering. You need to be secure in yourself so that you can be what they need. And then, when it’s not about you, how do you cope with what you’ve seen and experienced? The chaplains were always reflecting together on what they’d seen to share that burden and make sure they left it there at the end of the day. The chaplains are there for people in life-and-death situations. I learned a lot from them.’
First-year ordinand Elliot Grove connected with his community placement through his context church, Christchurch Clevedon. The national organisation Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) operates one of its centres through the church. This Christian charity works with partner churches across the nation to reach out to the most vulnerable children in the UK, with expertise in school exclusions, emotional well-being, and holiday hunger.
Last November, Elliot began spending an hour a week with a Year 4 child—forty minutes of fun activities and twenty minutes of coaching on behavioural skills, coping with anger, and developing empathy. ‘TLG’s coaching programme—volunteering to give time and invest in a person who needs it—is a powerful thing. I really love doing it, seeing how he and his parents value the sessions.’ Elliot participated in a training day before becoming involved and has regular meetings with his community placement supervisor about his work.
Elliot was training as a teacher when he realised that it wasn’t the right fit and switched to youth ministry. He's enjoyed volunteering when he can to mentor and tutor children struggling at school. But this experience has the added benefit of the model his context church has provided through its involvement in its surrounding community in partnership with organisations like TLG.
‘This is about reaching out compassionately to your community as the church. Christchurch Clevedon do so much in the community, and this is part of how I consider parish ministry. It’s an opportunity to offer yourself out to your community, to minister to the whole community—it isn’t just within the walls of the church.’
The church and social justice
Ordinand and PhD student Sam Rylands moved his church placement to Bristol Cathedral in his second year at Trinity so he could work with the Revd Canon Martin Gainsborough and the cathedral’s Social Justice Group, with its focus on homelessness.
‘There are people sleeping in the doorways of the cathedral. The group wanted to do something and began with a focus on listening and learning, to familiarise themselves on the issues of homelessness. They go out in pairs after Morning Prayer on Fridays and loop round the local area. They offer a hot drink if people are sleeping rough and ask about their housing needs.’ The Friday morning outreach visits have become part of the cathedral’s life of prayer. ‘After the walk we write the prayers of the people we’ve met; the prayers go into a basket and are prayed for in the morning and evening prayers at the cathedral.’
As Martin shifted roles to become chaplain to the Bishop of Bristol, Sam led the cathedral’s involvement in the Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter (BCWNS), which ran for three months through the winter. Sixty churches from a variety of denominations across Bristol rotated in offering a hot evening meal, a bed, and breakfast for twelve homeless guests. The cathedral hosted the shelter from Monday evenings to Tuesday mornings for the second six-week phase, operating with forty volunteers from within and outside the church, of varying faiths or none.
‘With this arrangement among the churches, the guests know they’ll have a safe place to stay and food to eat for three months. It gives stability,' says Sam. 'Several of the guests were holding down jobs while homeless. Participating in BCWNS was a chance for the cathedral to embody God’s love to some of the most vulnerable in our city.’
The Friday morning conversations with those living rough and time spent as an overnight volunteer in the night shelter impacted Sam as he prepares to begin curacy. ‘It’s tough. Homelessness isn’t an issue where you can change a life overnight. You can’t necessarily see an immediate impact. I’ve found it helpful to remember Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God. Namely that it’s the small things that make a big difference. Like yeast, salt, and light, the church is called to participate with God in the midst of the world, bit by bit, slowly transforming and changing the flavour of the society around it.’
Volunteering in a prison
Third-year ordinand Caz M was on a weekend retreat with her sending church, reading the story of the feeding of the five thousand and the twelve baskets that were left over, when she felt God telling her he wanted her to work with the 'leftover' people of society, those on the margins, for whom the idea of God’s love might be alien. With friends, Caz began regularly visiting a worship service at a prison in London and says, ‘I felt the presence of God in that place, like nothing I ever experienced before. When we sang together, everyone was worshipping and singing at full volume; it was inspiring.’ Back at college, she began volunteering to help the prison chaplains in North Bristol.
‘I help out at the family open days,' Caz explains. 'Not all the guys detained there can still see their families, but for those who do, three to four times a year the prison hosts an open day run by the chaplaincy team. The men interact with their families, and they get to be just “Dad” again, not “prisoner number…”. We facilitate craft activities, face painting, dressing up, and usually someone gives a presentation. I’ve been in the prison visitors’ hall with magicians juggling clubs right up to the ceilings, and on other occasions saw the exotic animal sanctuary team bringing unusual wildlife in through prison security. It's surreal! But it’s great fun and the guys appreciate our volunteering to make the day memorable for their children; it is so important to keep that connection with their families outside.’
Leading Bible studies and helping with a confirmation course at the prison pushed Caz to want to get as much as she can from her classes at Trinity. 'This has challenged me to consider what I actually believe when preparing to teach others and given me an appetite to learn more about the Bible and theology. This is so I can apply it practically through sharing that knowledge with the people I meet and do so in creative ways to help them grasp it for themselves,’ she says.
As Caz moves on to curacy, she plans to continue toward becoming a prison chaplain. ‘Many people in the prison system have been passed on their whole lives. I don’t want to pass them on, but instead help them encounter God and tell them about moving forward with him.’
Posted May 2020
DDO Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2019
Meet Sean DohertyThis June, Rev Dr Sean Doherty began as principal at Trinity. Read more about his journey into ordination, church planting, and theological education or watch a video about Sean and his family's move to Bristol.
Hear from a current student in our Dispersed Learning cohort'A big benefit of training this way is that it allows us to be in church every Sunday—we’re in context every Sunday. Consistency is really important in the first year and a half of a church plant.' - Read more about church planter Tom Morgan's experience in Trinity's non-residential Dispersed Learning cohort.
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Including the Stranger
Our Tutor in Old Testament Dr David Firth's new book, Including the Stranger, delves into what the books of the Former Prophets are really teaching us about foreigners and immigrants. In this Q&A he discusses the scope of the book and why he wanted to write it.
Q: How have you yourself experienced being an immigrant and foreigner?
A: Much of my adult life has been lived as a ‘foreigner’. Though originally from Australia, my wife and I have worked and lived in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. It would be true to say that our experience of each of these countries has been rather different. In Zimbabwe and South Africa we had to be sure we did not become part of the older colonial structures that still shape the life of those countries. As a result, although we were warmly welcomed in the churches and colleges where we worked, there was also a sense within the wider community that we might be more closely aligned with the colonial past. That meant consciously choosing to identify and live in areas where we were clearly part of an ethnic minority.
That is less of an issue in the United Kingdom since here we are part of this nation’s colonial past. But in all these countries there are movements resistant to foreigners being present, and there are various ways—some subtle, some overt—where this is made clear to us. But in our experience, committing ourselves to love and work with the local community changes this.
Q: Did these experiences affect your approach to this topic at all?
A: I think it is impossible to appreciate the ways in which our experiences shape the sorts of issues we research. I do have a strong commitment to doing biblical research that contributes to Christian mission (e.g. my doctoral thesis arose from a question put to me about prayer by a pastor in Soweto). All of which suggests that my own experience as an immigrant in multiple locations will have impacted my interest in this topic, even when I have not been conscious of it.
At the same time, I have been working on these books for about twenty years now as a principal area of my own research, and I was seeing things in them that were either not being addressed by the literature or which were being distorted by popular discussion of them. I do think that research also arises from our immersion in the field we examine (especially the primary source, which for me is the Old Testament), because it is as we do this that we observe things that need to be addressed. My suspicion is that my interest in this topic is a combination of these factors!
Q: What is the scope of the book?
A: I wanted the study to explore a part of the Bible in some depth, but also that the book should not become a massive survey of texts that might overwhelm people. That meant that I would not look at the whole of the Old Testament because such a study would be massive, and in any case Markus Zehnder’s excellent Umgang mit Fremden does that. Rather than providing breadth, I wanted to provide some depth while also keeping the book to a manageable length.
Including the Stranger contains a chapter each on the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the books of Samuel, and the books of Kings. These books of the Bible include a significant number of references to foreigners and have not been explored in a detailed and significant way, toward an ethical and theological reading of these passages.
I also wanted to focus on texts where I had particular expertise (rather than more generally as an OT lecturer), and the Former Prophets fit that profile in that I have written two commentaries on Joshua (the larger one hopefully appearing later this year) along with one on Samuel, and have also published other material on them. I was therefore able to draw on a much wider and more established body of my research to enable this.
Q: Do you think these books of the Bible have been misunderstood or mischaracterised at times regarding foreigners?
A: I do think these books have been widely misunderstood, both inside and outside the church. Although I had begun identifying this theme as an important one before I really considered the ways in which these books have often been treated as rather xenophobic, the more I studied them the more I became convinced that they were being misread in ways which were harmful to our witness. Far too often, they are read as if we are dealing with modern concepts of ethnicity, something that can really only be seen as a post-enlightenment construct. That does not mean that the problem of xenophobia is not present in the text, but my contention is that these books are taking on this view within Israel and showing its flaws. Because we do not always appreciate how and why they integrate story, history, and theology it is easy now to miss this.
Q: What was a key theme that emerged from your study?
A: The most important theme for me was that these books want to challenge an anti-foreigner construct that existed within Israel and to show that the real Israel was always those who committed themselves to serving Yahweh. Israel was not defined by ethnicity in any classical sense, even if that provided an initial starting point. Perhaps one of the most important ways it does this is by showing the positive contribution of people we might now think of as immigrants, such as Caleb or Elijah.
Q: Are there ways in which these stories of Yahweh, the Israelites, and foreigners could be applied to how we think of the 'immigrant/foreigner' today?
A: I have tried to be cautious on this point, because there are so many differences between the ways in which nations are formed today and it is not an area where I have particular expertise. And, of course, no modern nation stands in the same relationship to God today as Israel did in the Old Testament. So, the starting point for thinking about this should begin with the church as the gathering of a people who are defined only on the basis of a faith relationship to God in Jesus Christ. But once we do that, we see that the church must be open to people from a range of backgrounds and the contributions that they bring. Where this becomes important I think is that we realise that we are called to be a counter-cultural community that welcomes the stranger, something that stands against many dominant political models today. I think this is what the Former Prophets are asking from Israel, so this provides an important point of continuity.
Q: You have dedicated this book to former Trinity Tutor in Old Testament Dr Gordon Wenham?
A: The book is dedicated to Gordon Wenham to honour the ways in which he has over nearly twenty years mentored and encouraged me as a scholar dedicated to the witness of the gospel. He has modelled hospitality to me in many ways, and since including strangers is itself an expression of hospitality, it seemed only right to do so.
Revd Dr David Firth is Tutor in Old Testament and Academic Dean at Trinity College Bristol. David and his wife, Lynne, spent seven years in Africa working with the Australian Baptist Missionary Society, training local believers to take on the work there. David completed his PhD (on responses to violence in the Psalms) through the University of Pretoria while the Firths worked in Zimbabwe and South Africa. God led them next to pastoral work in Sydney and then to the UK, where David has taught the Old Testament at Cliff College, St John’s Nottingham, and now Trinity.
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Learning to Disagree: Gender and Sexuality
In February, as a college, we had the opportunity to engage with and reflect on the ethical and pastoral issues for the church today concerning the areas of gender and sexuality. The week was thoughtfully planned and led by our theology and ethics tutor, Rev Dr Jon Coutts, and all students were able to engage in some or all of the week’s activities. I was fortunate enough to be able to assist with the week alongside a group of other students, supporting logistical and technical aspects of the week, as well as welcoming guest speakers. Learning, discussion, and reflection took place in large-scale lectures, pastoral groups, and presentations by visiting speakers.
There were many threads and challenges that arose across the week, and this reflection does not have the capacity to do more than scratch the surface of these. But for me, the themes of inclusivity and integrity were central to our discussions—that as a Church we are called to be inclusive and welcoming, and that we have a mandate to live with integrity and to be biblically faithful as the body of Christ, the first fruits of the new Kingdom. But what do we do when an ethical issue creates a feeling of tension between these two callings for some but not others within the Church?I was reminded that none of the individual issues we might discuss exist in a vacuum. They are shaped and mediated for us by other factors before we even begin to discuss them. For a start they sit within a much broader biblical framework, which can support, challenge, and give structure to conversations, and they are also located within the cultural norms of our societies. We cannot engage in any of these discussions except out of our own experiences and understanding, and so we must always acknowledge that we will only come with part of the jigsaw, and that in order to begin to wrestle with the bigger picture we are reliant on others to share their stories, experiences and positions. With the challenges of the ‘social media bubble’ where I have found myself following and sharing stories with those who generally think the same way as I do, and churches’ tendencies to gather in like-minded tribes where we can feel comfortable and at home, it is easy to find ourselves hearing only one side of a story. This week reminded me that, as with any issue, it is vital that we make room for the voices of those for whom these issues are not simply theological points to be debated, or church policy to be developed, but for whom the issues are personal and part of their everyday lives.
During the plenary week we had the opportunity to hear from a range of different speakers with a variety of experiences and positions on issues of gender and sexuality. Their honesty, vulnerability, and humility meant we were able to engage with the choices they have personally made in light of their own biblical reflection and circumstances. Their stories helped me to reflect on the fact that everyone has a contribution to make to conversations in these areas; however, everyone also has to take responsibility for the position they hold, for doing the hard work of theological and pastoral reflection. We need to use every hermeneutical and reflective tool at our disposal if we are to discuss these issues robustly. I was challenged to realise that if I don't do this work, I am in danger of either resorting to platitudes or proof texts or worse—lapsing into an uncomfortable silence of indecision.Elaine Sommers, a transgender person who came to speak to us, highlighted this for me by reflecting on her own perception and experience of hearing issues of gender and sexuality spoken about in churches. Her main reflection was that, despite the ongoing debates at national and international levels, she has found an almost deafening silence in local churches around these issues. And yet it is in local churches where congregations need to be equipped to ask, ‘What is the faithful thing to do in this time and place?’ How do those of us who lead, preach, and disciple in our churches ensure that, no matter what views we hold, we speak about them constructively? This week has helped me to develop my understanding that to be able to speak constructively about divisive issues we need to be able to share the same starting points—robust theological work and engaged pastoral reflection—enabling a shared conversation with integrity and inclusivity. I was left with the challenge that both integrity and inclusivity are vital to the identity of the church as the body of Christ and the mission of God. While as the Church our witness to the world is to be shown in our love, this cannot justify avoiding taking a stand on ethical issues. However, we must also recognise that debates on ethical issues are by their very nature integral to people’s lives and will be received in relational terms. Inclusivity and integrity can only have meaning when enacted in a community rooted in a given time and place. They become a reality in the way we relate to God, the way we relate to the people around us, and how these two sets of relationships interact. In seeking to live out inclusivity and integrity in our locations, we need to speak about how to discuss and make choices with biblical faithfulness and humility. For me this week was not so much about answers to a specific issue as about developing a robust and sensitive approach to issues that might ignite division in a church. While it was both interesting and helpful to engage with the area of gender and sexual ethics, for me, my main learning was around how the church can better engage in general with challenging ethical issues. Looking to the future, as a church leader, I will have other divisive challenges to face and will need to have the skills and attitudes that will enable me to be responsible for my own opinions and to be willing to be vulnerable and humble enough to listen well to others and to God’s word. Finally, it was so encouraging that the week's conversations were framed in an attitude of respect and generosity, and as a community there was a desire for different views to be heard and considered. The vision was for a safe space where people could share their views as well as have the courage to try out new thoughts or changing ideas as the week progressed, which was visible in people's engagement in discussions, the questions they asked, and the grace with which disagreements were handled. Our existing relationships as a college community enabled courage and vulnerability to lie at the heart of disagreements rather than a desire to win an argument. For me, this showed the strength of holding these conversations in a community where relationships are built around a vision of the Kingdom as a people united in Christ. [gallery size="full" ids="4263"] Helen O’Sullivan is an ordinand from Winchester Diocese pursuing a Diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission. (Reprinted from the Spring 2017 Trinity News)
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Sharing the Bible with Children
Q: Are there better or worse approaches to sharing Bible stories with children?
Sadly there seems to be a fair amount of bad approaches to sharing Bible stories with children, the worst of which is doing nothing. A lot of people think that their child will hear the Bible read in an engaging way at school or at church in the children’s church or Sunday school. Anecdotal research suggests that this is unlikely to lead to a significant encounter with the Bible. 1
The next worst thing is when parents rattle their way through a Bible story out of duty, without reflecting upon it with their child. I have often heard of parents who feel that they ought to familiarize their child with Scripture, but being unsure of their theology they teach all genres as simple fact, implicitly saying that the Bible must be taken at face value without critique. In this instance, the child is likely to come to the conclusion that the Bible is of high status to the adult but that it cannot be questioned, just accepted and believed. They might also note the tension in this encounter with Scripture and note that although their parent cannot question the text, maybe they can. Can donkeys really speak? (See Balaam’s ass.) How did Jesus walk on water? (See the gospel miracles.) Is it OK to throw over tables in church because you are cross with people? (See Jesus in the temple.)
If the child’s emergent critical thinking is not allowed to be articulated, it will go underground. Then they may well believe that their parent is not able to offer critical thinking to matters of faith and thereby begin to think that the only option is not to believe in God nor in the Bible’s value.
By contrast, the best way to read the Bible with children is to tell the story as a disciple who does not know everything. Parents and children are both on the same road. Neither is more in command of the scriptural hermeneutic. Both sit under the Word of God as they follow Jesus and both are there to reflect theologically. When parents use the telling of Bible stories as a moment of discussion, they invite their child to become a theologian. Why do you think the donkey saw the angel when Balaam didn’t? Why did Jesus walk on water? Why did Jesus overturn the moneychangers’ tables in the temple?
When this approach is taken, children are encouraged to reflect on the text as having a high status known as being ‘God’s Word’, and they are also invited to think of its meaning in terms of how they ought to respond to it. When this happens, parents gain the added benefit of learning from their child, of hearing their child’s insight, which is often an original fresh vision of reality.I have spent a fair degree of time researching this phenomenon, when adults become ‘like little children’ and when ‘a little child shall lead’. I have written about this in the book A Child Sees God, which records conversations between parents and children after reading the Bible. In this book, I use seven basic genres of story and conclude with six key recommendations as to how to tell Bible stories in ways that are resourceful to parents and children:
Regularity: Storytelling doesn't have to be nightly, but should at least be weekly.
Importance: Both the teller and listener should anticipate this event and come prepared.
Timing: It will be clear when the story will start and also how much time is available for storytelling.
Ambience: Any ritual can be enhanced with extra attention given to lighting, sound, smell, or heat, as well as the use of a particular room or chair.
Sacredness: Storytelling should not be interrupted by the telephone or another person.
Internal engagement: All families have their own rules about interruptions from children, but the general rule is that the story should be told with occasional interruption from the child, otherwise any complex issues of comprehension or discussion will be left until the end, and may be forgotten. Too much interruption could make it difficult to tell the story, however, so some balance is needed. 2
Q: What would you say to a parent feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to approach reading the Bible with their child?
A: There is a plethora of children’s Bibles on the market, but the key is in the approach of the adult--to reflect on a biblical story with the child. Biblical stories are different from the vast array of adventure and fantasy stories available, and as such are not quite as accessible, but they come with a different value. They are stories for telling at the end of day before prayers. They are stories to be told over breakfast before school. They are stories to be told in the car on the way somewhere. And they are stories to unlock other stories. In what ways is Jesus similar to and different from a super hero? What do you think it was like when the Earth was formed? I wonder what heaven will be like? In the story of David and Goliath, I wonder what David felt like as he approached the giant? When Jesus was asleep in the boat in a storm, I wonder what the disciples were thinking?
Q: Are there ways in which the church can assist parents in this task?
A: The church can assist parents by developing a high view of children (easily endorsed within Scripture). This can be reflected in the care given to including children in worship events or in making provision for children when the service is not meeting their specific needs.
When children are consulted for their thoughts and questions about the Bible, a church can change in ways that lead to life. Children love helping adults to remember an earlier perspective, and if they are valued as theologians, they will not be slow to respond with insight.
Rev Dr Howard Worsley is tutor in missiology and vice principal at Trinity College. He and his wife Ruth have three sons.
The Connect Exec 2020-21
Trinity College eNewsletter, Winter 2017
Open Day on 4 February 2017 for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it means to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, contact Nicola Willcocks or phone 0117 968 0254.
Full-time StudentsIf you are a prospective full-time student who would like to visit us, we would love to host you for an Open Day, or to schedule a visit on a different day. Just email our admissions team to arrange a time to tour the college, experience student life here, and book an interview.
Part-time StudentsIf you are a prospective part-time student who wants to find out more about the part-time courses, please contact our part-time admissions team or call 0117 968 0253 for more information.
For More InformationOur prospectus will give you a good sense of who we are and what we do. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or Instagram to find out more about events and happenings around the college as well as in the lives of our larger community. Our blog will allow you to engage with some of the ideas and viewpoints of our faculty, alumni, students, and friends.
OverviewThe purpose of assessments is to ensure that you have achieved the learning outcomes of the module. While the teaching takes place in the classroom, your learning will also take place in preparatory reading or other activities for classes, the reading and thinking that is involved in the writing of your assessment, the feedback from a marked piece of work, in informal conversation and discussion with other students and with faculty. Students can usually choose an essay or other assessment task from a range of options that will be given to the class at the beginning of the module. The length of the essay will be specified in terms of a word count and assignments will have an indicative reading list. In many cases the assessment takes the form of an essay. However, some modules require other forms of assessment that allow for greater creativity, different learning styles and, above all, which ensure that you make connections between the learning of the module and practical experience and ministry. Examples of other kinds of assessment might include:
- a response to a case study
- a learning journal
- a sermon
- a theological reflection on a critical incident
- a group presentation for a specific context
- preparing a liturgy for a special occasion
- a book review
- writing an imaginary dialogue of a pastoral situation
- lay training programme for developing skills in pastoral care among church members
- a portfolio
GuidelinesGeneral guidelines for the different types of assessment can be found on Moodle or on the following link: dur.ac.uk/common.awards/assessment/guidelines. If you are not sure, do not hesitate to ask for clarification from the module tutor. In general, however, tutors do not read outlines or drafts of essays. The amount of time that you spend completing an assessment is directly proportional to the credit-weighting of the module: an assignment for a 20-credit module should take twice as long to prepare as an assignment for a 10-credit module. Some modules require more than one assignment, or are assessed by examination.
Assessment CriteriaThe most important aspect of an assessment is the learning that you have done in completing it, not the mark that you receive! It is good to remember that the purpose of your assignment is to demonstrate to yourself and to the reader that you have a good grasp of the subject matter and a clear and persuasive answer to the question posed by the title or task. Students should familiarise themselves with the detailed marking criteria which are available on Moodle and on the following link: dur.ac.uk/common.awards/assessment/criteria. Students must make sure that assignments follow the conventions stated in the Style Guide found on Moodle. You will receive more detailed assessment information through our Student Handbook when you begin your studies at Trinity. Return to Diploma page > Return to BA page > Return to Graduate Diploma page > Return to Postgraduate Diploma page > Return to MA page >
Kingdom Sermon Series
Opinions expressed are those of the speakers, and may or may not reflect Trinity's official positions or policies.
- Students must declare an exact word count when submitting written assessments. Deliberately misrepresenting the length of an assessment will be treated as an act of dishonesty and will be noted as a disciplinary offence on the student’s record.
- There are no penalties for under-length work. Work that is significantly under-length is likely to be self-penalising.
- The penalties for over-length work specified below apply to all assessments for which there is a word limit, including postgraduate dissertations.
- For assessments with a word limit of 1000 words or more there is a grace interval of 100 words. Students will not be penalised for exceeding the stated word count by 100 words. If a student exceeds the word limit by more than 100 words, the grace interval should be subtracted from the total word count before calculating the penalty to be applied (see 8).
- For assessments with a word limit of less than 1000 words there is no grace interval. In these cases any piece of work which exceeds the word count should be subject to the penalties set out below.
- The penalties for over-length work are as follows:
Up to 10% over-length: Deduction of 10 percentage points from the mark.
11-20% over-length: Deduction of 20 percentage points from the mark.
21-50% over-length: Mark will be capped at pass level (40% at Levels 4-6; 50% at Level 7).
More than 50% over-length: A mark of zero will be given.
- In cases where the work is 50% over-length or less, if the application of a penalty for exceeding the word limit would reduce the mark of an assignment which would otherwise pass to a mark below pass level, then the mark for the assignment should instead be capped at pass level.
- The above penalties are calculated after subtracting the grace interval (where this applies) if the student has exceeded the word count by more than 100 words. For example, in the case of an assessment with a word limit of 1000 words, a piece of work which is 100 words over the limit should receive no penalty because it is within the grace interval, but for pieces of work between 101 and 200 words over-length 10 percentage points should be deducted from the mark (1,101-1,200 minus the 100 word grace interval is equivalent to 1001-1100 words, i.e. up to 10% over-length).
Trinity News, Autumn 2020
Q&A with Azariah France-Williams
Postgraduate Research Conference 2018
Programmes of study
Trinity is a community of people studying theology for different reasons, but we all have one thing in common -- a desire to live meaningful, missional kingdom lives wherever God might call us.
Library and study information
Extension requests and extenuating circumstances
Is Your Church Developing Leaders?
One of the key teachers for Trinity’s new School of Leadership, Ian Parkinson explains why developing leaders within your congregation is more important than trying to complete an increasing list of ministry tasks.
Imagine your house is on fire and the blaze is threatening to get out of control. You are standing in front of the inferno with a bucket of water in your hands. On the ground next to you are twelve sleeping firemen. Here’s the question: where do you throw the water?
For most of us the instinct to throw the water on the fire is overwhelming. We know, of course, that by doing so we can only make a tiny impact, but the sheer scale and urgency of the task drives us to want to do something, anything, to try and affect the situation. And if others follow our example, we tell ourselves, then we might just see the blaze damped down in due course.
As leaders, this scenario rings all too many bells for us. Constantly faced with ministry and missional demands which massively outweigh the limited resources we have at our disposal, our reaction is often to push ourselves harder and harder and stretch ourselves ever more thinly in the hope of making at least something of a difference. The idea of standing back from the blaze for a moment is unthinkable, often because to do so seems like an abdication of responsibility and, truth be told, induces guilt (whether self-imposed or generated by others).
Yet, as our opening fable suggests, the only real way to be fruitful in mission and ministry might just be through the equipping and releasing of others. And this will require us to take the counterintuitive step of standing back for a moment and deploying the best of our resources away from the blaze itself.
Taking a leaf out of Jesus’ book
Shortly before my own ordination, I vividly remember hearing the words of a Latin American Roman Catholic priest. He ventured the opinion that every leader, when embarking on a new ministry, should do so with the aim of doing themselves out of a job within three years. There was, he suggested, good biblical precedent for such an aspiration—surely this was exactly the strategy Jesus adopted throughout the course of his own ministry!
The example of Jesus is, indeed, striking. Faced with a situation of immense spiritual need and confronted frequently with almost limitless ministry demands, not only does Jesus increasingly give time over to the formation and development of a group of just twelve apprentices, but in prioritising this he, at times at least, turns his back on other urgent demands. The ultimate fruit of Jesus’ strategy is, of course, that by the time he leaves earth and returns to his Father’s presence, although the missional needs are hardly smaller, the effective workforce of Kingdom ambassadors has increased substantially. This small formation group, the fruit of Jesus’ ministry, is able, in the power of the Spirit, to steward the fragile ministry modelled and entrusted to it by Jesus and to see it develop and grow such that its ultimate impact is unimaginable in terms of its scale. None of this could have happened had Jesus focused only on doing ministry tasks as opposed to developing people for the work of ministry.
Investing in others
Jesus is a great role model in so many ways for those who are committed to the business of growing and developing others, and the strategy he adopts offers a blueprint for those who want to follow his example. Here are a few steps we might take.
1. Cast the net wide
The early days of Jesus’ ministry are spent in drawing a crowd of followers from whom he ultimately chooses twelve to be trained as key apprentices. All too often we tend to have a limited understanding (often based on pre-existing skills, levels of education, or other attainment) as to who might be suitable candidates to whom we might entrust ministry responsibilities. Jesus actually chooses his key leaders from amongst the ranks of those whom others might have excluded on social, religious, or academic grounds. This should alert us to the fact that other qualities might count for more in his book in terms of leadership potential. The calling of Peter (Luke 5) might indicate that an openness to follow Jesus’ lead and a willingness to trust and obey and to put oneself out for Jesus, no matter what the personal cost, might be amongst the most important qualities he is looking for.
How do we spot such people, who might well not be those who push themselves forward? I have always found it useful both to raise expectations with everyone from the moment they join the church that all those who follow Christ are called to share in his ministry, and then to give as many opportunities as possible for people to have a go at some area of ministry. Creating a culture in which people can ‘try out’ in some short-term way is a great way of talent spotting without committing ourselves to taking people on in any long-term way. As well as a willingness to trust Christ, I am looking for those with a servant heart, who love people, who are not looking for status, and who have the capacity to be fruitful. At this stage, I am not primarily looking for people who are exceptionally gifted, but rather those who demonstrate good character. It is always easier to train a characterful person in gifts and skills than it is necessarily to shape positively the character of a gifted person!
2. Recruit apprentices
One of the questions I will often ask any ministry leader is: whom are you raising up as a potential successor? This is good practice, not only because we want to avoid the possibility of any ministry foundering if the leader has to step down unexpectedly, but also because we are called to grow and develop others for their sake, for the growth of ministry in our own church and for the sake of other churches which might benefit from their ministry in due course. All of us, whether senior leaders, assistant ministers, or ministry leaders, will have received something from God which is worth passing on to others.
For many years I have committed myself to the practice of not leading any ministry without having alongside me someone else whom I am training up. This has enabled me to initiate a number of different ministries which I led for a season, gradually passed on to someone else, and which are now thriving (much more than they would have done had I still been in charge!) and growing. These have ranged from some community evangelism initiatives, Healing on the Streets, to leadership of the whole church (I spent the last three years coaching and developing someone to succeed me as vicar).
3. Pay attention to their growth and development
Peter’s training begins from the moment Jesus calls him, as he gives him a vision for whom and what he might become in the hands of God. Part of our calling is to help others cultivate big ambitions for the work of God’s Kingdom and for the part they might play in its advance. Fired by this vision, Peter is taken along with Jesus to watch him at work. He’s then given an opportunity to share with him in ministry, before being sent out by Jesus on a short-term project. Afterward, he’s invited to reflect on that and to get some feedback from Jesus. As we invite people to shadow us, we will gradually release more and more responsibility to them (with appropriate oversight and feedback) to the point where we shadow them. I often find myself praying that God would use me to grow others who will far outstrip me in the ministry into which I am releasing them: this seems to be a prayer which is very frequently answered!
A lasting legacy
One of the things which becomes more and more apparent as the years roll by is that there is no guarantee that the great initiatives we launch and the ministry tasks we undertake will continue to be useful or have an impact beyond our leadership of them. What does have the potential to have ongoing impact and significance is our investment in people. The best and most abiding legacy we can leave as leaders is not the memory of things we have achieved and tasks performed, worthy though they might be, but rather the number of other people we have released into ministry and leadership. Not only is that worthwhile in terms of any church or ministry we might lead, but it also represents a massive investment in the wider growth of God’s Kingdom and the resourcing and flourishing of other churches and ministries. So, a good question to ask ourselves regularly and repeatedly as we review the way in which we are allocating the limited resources at our disposal is: What proportion of my time and energy am I giving to doing ministry tasks, and what proportion am I devoting to developing others in ministry? If we are really serious about fighting the fire, then we might just need to wake up some more firefighters!
Ian Parkinson works for CPAS as a Leadership Specialist in Theological Education and plays a key role in the delivery of Trinity College’s School of Leadership. Prior to joining CPAS he served for more than thirty years as a church leader and was for a number of years New Wine Regional Director for the North of England.
Trinity College eNewsletter, Spring 2017
Four Facts About Our Postgrad Programme That Might Surprise YouNew technology, new opportunities, and a growing community of scholars who hope their research will impact the Church. To read more click here.
How Contemplative Living Could Change Your MinistryA Q&A with alumnus Paul Bradbury about how contemplative living provides a foundation for our participation in God's mission. Read more here.
Other News Items:
- Trinity on the BBC
- Listen to our faculty's Kingdom Sermon Series
- Student blog: 'Living in the "bigness" of God'
Coming up13 June 2017 Open Evening for Part-time Students: Enrich your ministry and Christian life through a deeper study of the Bible. Attend weekly evening classes to complete a programme or simply attend modules of interest. For more information about the Open Evening or part-time study, please call 0117 968 0253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 November 2018
Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, email email@example.com or phone 0117 968 0254.
Deadlines and assignment submissions
Academic DeadlinesThe ability to complete a piece of academic work in a prescribed amount of time is part and parcel of the assessment process. All assignments have firm deadlines. The full list of submission dates is available on Moodle and on the noticeboard outside the lecture rooms. We recognise that some terms will inevitably have heavier workloads than others and that often you will be juggling community responsibilities as well as practical placements or context work with your studies. However, one of the skills that you will develop during your time at College is to organise and manage your workload. This means setting your priorities in such a way as to meet deadlines successfully and learning to cope with the inevitable fluctuations in work pressure.
Submitting AssignmentsYou may submit your assignments as soon as they are finished, even if it is before the deadline. Assignments must be submitted via Turnitin using Moodle 2 by midnight on the deadline date (with the exception of modules assessed by a portfolio, which must be submitted by hard copy only). Markers aim to complete marking within five weeks of the deadline wherever possible. This will enable you to respond to feedback in subsequent assignments and so to progress through the year. If this is not possible, for example, through illness, you will be notified as soon as possible of the revised return date. Marking of your first assignment will be fast tracked if possible. From September 2016, we are planning to introduce online marking for most modules. In a few cases, it will be necessary to hand in hard copies as well as electronic submission. Students will be advised of the modules where this is necessary. In such cases, hard copies must be handed in to the Academic and Practical Training (APT) Office by 9:00 am on the day following the deadline date (whereas electronic submission is by 11:59pm on deadline day). A cover sheet is needed for each assignment. These are available to download from Moodle or from the APT Office.
Trinity News, Autumn 2018
You can download a pdf to read the entire autumn 2018 Trinity News.This issue includes:
- Farewell to Emma Ineson: words of thanks for our principal, as she leaves college this spring.
- Race and the Church: During last spring's diversity week, three students reflected on their own experiences around race and the church.
- Habakkuk: Trusting God through Injustice. Rev Dr David Firth discusses how Habakkuk wrestles with the difficulty of continued faith in God and shares ideas for teaching and preaching this lesser known prophet.
From Hong Kong to Bristol
Mark knew what it meant to experience the church as family. Born in Wales, he grew up in Hong Kong with his parents. He returned briefly to the UK for secondary school and university, but at the end of his first year of university his mum grew sick with cancer and died only a year later. One of Mark's first memories of leading worship was when his father asked him to lead them in worship at his mother's bedside as she passed away on New Year's Eve in 2001. In the weeks that followed, as Mark grieved, his father suggested a year-long return to Hong Kong, to the place that felt most like home.
In Hong Kong, Mark immersed himself in the community of The Vine, and they became extended family members who ministered to him in his pain. The year passed, and Mark finished his law degree in the UK, then returned to Hong Kong. But before he could begin to practice law, those leading The Vine met with Mark to ask him to join them in church ministry. Mark and his fiancée Kayi sensed the Holy Spirit’s call, and, Mark says, ‘I let go of six years of study and all the money it took to pay for it. I became the associate creative arts director.’ After five years in this role, Mark experienced that moment in worship, saw the glow of those faces before him, and recognised that he wanted to help build the family of God in new ways.
With the support of the church’s leaders, Mark transitioned roles and began to oversee The Vine’s small group ministry, with more than ninety groups meeting across Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the outlying islands—creating teaching materials, developing leaders, leading mission trips into China and the Philippines, and developing ministries to the Cantonese-speaking community and foreign domestic helpers.
As the church grew, the pastoral issues grew in complexity, and Mark grew in understanding. ‘You can never presume to know what the issues are, let alone what the solutions might be,’ says Mark of the church’s outreach to refugees, foreign domestic workers, and others. ‘Jesus looks at people, he gets into their group, goes into their homes and eats their food. He sits on the street with those on the street who have nowhere to live. He hears their stories and weeps with them. Only once we’d done that could we start to build family and actually be constructive.’
Then one day, as Mark prepared to preach about the Old Testament kings, he thought about Saul. He thought he could identify with that young king in certain respects—and he could see that Saul had relied on his gifts and favour rather than relying on God, which made Saul insecure, trying harder and harder in his own strength. ‘I knew I was running on fumes,’ Mark explains. ‘All I’d learned growing up, through training and seminars, I’d exhausted it. I didn’t want to crash like Saul. I prayed with my wife, and we felt called to pursue a season of sincere theological study and reflection and rest.’ He and the church agreed that if he studied part-time, the church work would become a distraction, so Mark became a full-time independent student at Trinity, living in Bristol to be close to his father again and his wife's family.
‘Being a full-time independent student can be challenging,’ says Mark. ‘You have to raise funds for yourself. Part of my spiritual formation is learning to surrender and trust—that’s an essential part of our time at Trinity. If I’m going to encourage church members to step out in faith, I can say that I’ve done it. If I’m going to tell them to let go and embrace the new life God has for them, I can say I’ve done that myself.’ Mark pauses and continues, ‘I miss The Vine. I miss it very much. But I’m finding a new family at Trinity. I’m inspired by the other students’ acts of faith, of obedience. I’m inspired by the stories of others around me who are growing in community.’
Posted November 2016, from the autumn 2016 Trinity News
Faculty Sermon Series: The Beatitudes
The Connect Week
6 February: Online Open Day
We are hosting a fully interactive online event from 9:30AM-1PM. Learn more about Trinity and select options for smaller breakout sessions on topics that include accommodation, finance, pioneering, an opportunity for your partner to chat with our Connect group for spouses, and more. Find out how studying in community will provide you with a deeper experience of theological education and ordination training.
TO REGISTER OR FIND OUT MORE
Advance registration for this event is required. Registration closes at 2 February 2021 at 5PM.
Because our community is at our core, we recognise that meeting online is not the same thing as meeting you (and your family) face to face, or you experiencing a taste of our Bristol community. We hope to host you for an in-person visit as soon as possible! In the meantime, we are working to prioritise the safety of our current community by limiting visitors to college.
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES
To help you learn more about us in advance of the Open Day, below are links to a series of short videos we created during last spring's lockdown for prospective students, including a college tour made by a group of our students who spent the lockdown together on-site.
- Learn more about Trinity's vision and values (with Principal Revd Dr Sean Doherty, 15:57 minutes) >
- Watch a video about studying within our residential/'gathered' Bristol community (1:56 minutes) >
- Watch a video about studying through our non-residential/'dispersed learning' programme (2:30 minutes) >
- What academic programmes and context experiences do we offer? (with Revd Dr Helen Collins, 9:13 minutes) >
- What will the shape of your week look like as a Trinity student? (with Revd Dr Sean Doherty) >
- Take a college tour, hosted by our students who've remained in on-site accommodation together during lockdown (4:55 minutes) >
- Load a PDF of the kingdom values to which you commit when you join our community >
Meet Sean Doherty
Delving into the BibleSean began to attend a cell group offered through the church. ‘I could see these people leading the group,’ he says. ‘They had something I didn’t have—they understood so much more than I did. That gave me a hunger and interest. They talked about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It was my first time learning about the charismatic movement.’ At the same time, Sean began to drop by a Christian bookshop near his school. The first book he bought was Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. From there he began to read all he could find. ‘I was asking myself, What is this whole thing I’ve started to own for myself? I was combining my experiences in the charismatic church and this teaching together, making connections between my upbringing and my current experiences. I would be the annoying one in a cell group, because I’d be the person asking questions, questions that might have seemed doubting or aggressive, but it was because I really wanted to understand it all.’
"One of my favourite verses is Romans 12:2—Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So many people, both Christian and non-Christian, are hungry to be transformed but they don’t know how. It’s something we neglect in a more experience-based culture. But as our minds encounter God’s truth, we will be transformed at every level."The next shift in direction God brought to Sean’s life came as he began as a first-year English student at Oxford University. This had been his dream for a long time. And yet, as he went through the first year of the programme, he wasn’t as engaged with his studies as he’d expected. As he and his tutor spent a week on the sermons of John Donne, ‘I loved it,’ Sean remembers. ‘His preaching was amazing—very poetic and powerful. I felt the Holy Spirit saying to me: You could have this all the time if you were studying theology. It just hit me—why did I never think of that before?’ Although Sean had already completed a year and a term of his English programme, his tutor consented to the change, and the theology department helped him catch up with one-to-one Greek sessions. ‘I was studying what I was most passionate about,' he says. 'God so kindly opened that door—studying the Bible, Christian doctrine, church history—I loved it.’
Learning about multicultural ministrySean had been considering ordination since he was 18, and after spending a year working for the Anglican Mission Agency USPG, he completed his BAP, which identified him as a potential theological educator. At 24, he embarked upon his training programme at Wycliffe Hall, during which he and his wife Gaby were married. The couple met several years earlier whilst both serving as part of a Soul Survivor host team, and when Gaby happened to move to the town where Sean was living to start her new job as a Christian worker for schools, an enduring friendship began between the two. As the Dohertys prepared for Sean’s curacy, they found God leading them to a church in Cricklewood, London. Neither of them had lived in London previously—Gaby had grown up on a farm in Somerset, and Sean in Berkshire—and their time in a multicultural church impacted them both deeply. The congregation brought together people from all over the world; they found a unity in Jesus Christ, but still with cultural differences. ‘It left me with a heart for multicultural ministry,’ Sean reflects now, ‘for the church as a gathering of people from all different cultures and backgrounds. We had to think: what’s the gospel? How can our church have a culture that’s a gospel culture, and not have one culture dominate? We could also see that the leadership of the church did not necessarily reflect the diversity of the congregation. I learned how much you have to proactively work to address that—it’s an ongoing journey. That was a joy for me, to see people we encouraged from within the church go on to training.’ Meanwhile, Sean had completed his PhD and in 2009 began to teach ethics at St Mellitus in London, bringing with him into the job all of the excitement he'd felt as a teenager, connecting his Christian reading with his Christian experience. ‘One of my favourite verses is Romans 12:2—Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So many people, both Christian and non-Christian, are hungry to be transformed but they don’t know how. It’s something we neglect in a more experience-based culture. But as our minds encounter God’s truth, we will be transformed at every level.’ While working at St Mellitus, Sean continued to think about, research, and write on ethical issues, particularly sexuality, issues of life and death, and economic ethics. He began an ethics series entitled The Only Way is Ethics, and more recently began contributing to the Living in Love and Faith process in the Church of England.
"A church grows when people come to faith, or because they’ve been warmly welcomed, or because of lives helped. It grows because you do kingdom things—as a by-product of that, but not as a goal in itself."
Moving to a council estateWhen Sean began at St Mellitus, he and Gaby felt God calling them to join a church plant on a council estate in Kensington. For Sean, the seeds for this move were planted back when he attended Soul Survivor as a teenager, hearing the challenge not to stay comfortable as Christians, and to serve the poor. By that time, Gaby had already been in estate ministry for several years. So the Dohertys and their two young children packed up their four-bedroom semi-detached house with an apple tree in the garden, and moved to a three-bedroom flat on the third floor of an overcrowded council estate with no lift. They joined an HTB team at a faithful but small church. This experience caused Sean to think more deeply about church growth. ‘I wanted to see change, to see grace happen there,’ he remembers. ‘I wanted to keep praying and seeking more for this church. The experience certainly cured me of the idea that we believe in church growth as a goal in itself. But there are reasons why church growth is important. A church grows when people come to faith, or because they’ve been warmly welcomed, or because of lives helped. It grows because you do kingdom things—as a by-product of that, but not as a goal in itself.’ There were relatively few church members with the confidence to lead, so a key need was to develop leaders from within the community. ‘We had to learn how to find God in weakness, and to persevere and stick it through—not reducing our vision to what we were at that moment, but believing that there is more that God must want to do.’
Grenfell TowerOn 14 June 2017, Sean woke in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens. As he opened the bedroom curtains he was shocked to see Grenfell Tower, just 250 yards opposite the window, engulfed in flames. 'The most horrifying thing was that I could see so many people at their windows looking out of the Tower. Many were calling out of the windows for help and using the lights on their phones to attract attention. I could hear people calling up to them as well. It was clear the fire brigade was already present and doing what they could, but it started to sink in that a huge tragedy was unfolding.' Sean prayed and got dressed, putting on his clerical shirt and collar, then woke his wife to tell her what was happening before going out. He woke Fr Alan Everett, the Church of England vicar in whose parish the Tower stood. Together they opened St Clements Church, just a few yards from the Tower, and as they lit candles to show that they were there, people began to come in for hot drinks and to use the toilets. 'One of the first to arrive was a firefighter. He came in very briefly, knelt to pray for a minute, and then went back out again into the fray. I found that incredibly moving. If he had just found a moment of peace and strength in the midst of what he was doing and the terrible things he must have seen, then what we were doing was worth it for that alone.' Those at the church continued to pray through the night, everyone unsure what the casualty toll would be, unsure about the safety of friends. By the early morning the church had become a focal point for people who wanted to help, including medical professionals, and for those needing a place to take refuge—parents with small children, babies needing nappies and formula, people who'd left home without their medications. 'I can rarely think about it without tears. At the same time, there has been such a strong sense of God's presence in the pain. Knowing God is there doesn't necessarily diminish the loss or anger, nor should it. But it enables you to see beyond the sadness and anger, to see that even though they are so serious and overwhelming, that there is more and that they are not the whole story. In particular, the thing that will stay with me, and which gives me hope is the way in which the community and people from further afield united so rapidly and with simple compassion, to respond to the need they saw, and the way in which this meant so much to those who had been affected.'
A call to BristolAfter eight years at the church plant, God has called the Dohertys—now Sean, Gaby, and their four children—to move to Bristol. Sean had received unexpected encouragement from friends to apply for the role as Trinity’s new principal, and the more he considered it, the more he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Gaby joined Sean in praying about the idea, and felt God calling them to a willingness to let go of the work they’d been doing in their neighbourhood in the aftermath of the fire, reminding them that this work was not dependent upon them. As Sean began to learn more about Trinity, he thought, ‘Wow, this is a really special place, where God is working. You get that sense within the community of students, and as you see the special group of staff God has brought together to form the students.’ So, as he often advises his ordinands as they consider their curacy options, ‘I decided to push the door, and see what would happen.’ Now, this spring, as the Dohertys pack up their home in London and begin this next season of their journey, Sean says, ‘I’m so excited to be joining in with what God is doing at Trinity. I'm coming with a sense of expectation and prayer that God may do the things he wants to do, through everyone at Trinity.’
Postgraduate Research Conference 2017
What Does It Mean to Forgive?
Our Tutor in Theology and Ethics, Rev Dr Jon Coutts, has recently written A Shared Mercy: Karl Barth on Forgiveness and the Church (Intervarsity Press) to explore what it means to forgive and reconcile in the context of the church.Q: What are the qualities of 'Christian' forgiveness? A: Ten years ago when I left my first pastoral ministry to go to seminary, I must say I was pretty rattled. I wasn't sure exactly what leading a church was supposed to mean anymore. It wasn't until a class on reconciliation taught by David Guretzki that I realised a lot of my worries revolved around questions I had not yet thought to ask. Questions about forgiveness, and the difference it makes to church. And the more I looked into the meaning of forgiveness the more I realised how complicated it could be. Does it mean forgetting the past? Does it require an apology from the other person? Does the other person even have to know I've forgiven them? As these questions crystallised, I realised that a confessing Christian might have very different answers to them than would someone else. To make a long story short, as I studied this under the guidance of John Webster it became clearer and clearer to me that to explain what it meant for a Christian to forgive someone, we were going to have to be able to identify it purely as a gift of God. This means it is not simply an attitude adjustment, and certainly not something I grant from out of my moral superiority (even if in a particular instance I might be in the right). In its truest sense, to forgive another is to share a gift God has given to both the forgiver and the forgiven alike, and to do so in the context of the larger story of God's reconciliation of the whole cosmos to God's self in Christ. Perhaps this sounds obvious, but I'm not sure how often we let it really play out in our approach to broken relationships, let alone in the way we approach church. Q: What is the difference between responding to wrongs with a general principle of tolerance verses responding with what you call 'Christian forbearance'? A: A good example of the difference this view makes is when we apply it to the value of tolerance. As a social value, tolerance may for the most part be a vast improvement upon intolerance, but it still falls short of what is called for in Christian forgiveness, and that is the imperative of forbearance. I spend quite a bit of time on this in the book, but the way I explain it briefly in class is by pointing out the difference between 'to each their own' and 'bearing it forward'. One sounds easy, the other sounds a lot like patience. One finds its grounds in self, the other in Christ alone. One aims at isolation, the other aims at a shared life. One sounds like giving up, the other holds out hope. Tolerance can become a kind of a buffer between people and the God who would otherwise brace them for transformation. In contrast, forbearance trusts God and freely forgives, even as it looks to him for truth, justice, and reconciliation. It is the manifestation of forgiveness that is called for when a confrontation is still on its way to resolution, when an offender is not available, or when the offender is not predisposed to enter the reconciliation process. As the incarnate Son of God works out his accomplished reconciliation in time, forbearance is the form forgiveness takes when hope is all one has. Q: What have your studies taught you about the practice of Christian confession? A: One of the most surprising side effects of studying forgiveness has for me been a richer understanding of confession. I always thought confession was what you did once you figured out what was wrong with you. But what makes us think we know what is wrong with us? What if confession begins and ends with confessing Jesus as Forgiver and Lord, and only then involves the naming of sin? When it comes to our interpersonal relationships this ends up being pretty important. So often we go into a confrontation or a moment of forgiveness with the assumption that we know full well who was right and who was wrong. But what if confession is what both the offending and the offended party are doing when they seek Christ in their broken situation and come to agree with his appraisal of what has occurred? The offender comes to agree with Christ in the mode of apology, and the offended agrees with Christ in the mode of forgiving. Both are agreeing with what Jesus names as the problem. I suppose this kind of process sounds a bit riskier, a little less self-secure, but I actually find it rather freeing. Truth be told, I've come to see confession as one of the primary acts of Christian life and community—whether we think we've sinned recently or not. In the grace of Christ, there is freedom for a community wherein one can hope to be both helped and held to account. The church is meant to be a community in which such interpersonal confession and forgiveness of sin are most richly and hopefully embedded. Q: How ought Christian forgiveness to impact both the person wronged and the person who has done something wrong? A: Obviously we can all think of many situations where the actual speaking of forgiveness to another person seems (and maybe is) downright impossible. The nature of the offence may yet be unclear. The offender may be long gone, unaware, uninterested, or even dangerous. None of these situations is simple. Indeed many of our relationships will in this life always fall short of ideal. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have the 'ideal' in view. Even if our only option is to forgive someone in our heart—no conversation allowed—we ought to at least have in mind what forgiveness hopes for—namely, reconciliation. One of the most important things I learned from my professor in seminary was not to leave forgiveness alone, but to see it in its vital connection to other aspects of Jesus' ministry of reconciliation. So to answer the question, what forgiveness hopes for is Christ's correction of the person who has done wrong, and restoration of the person who has been wronged. Even if correction comes in 'baby steps', and restoration is only slow or partial—well, as 1 Corinthians 13 says, love always hopes, and this is the goal with forgiveness too. The key in forgiveness is to give these hopes to Christ in prayer and community, so that one is not manipulating the corrections and restorations oneself. Q: What ought Christian forgiveness to look like in the context of the church body? A: The truth is I think there's no one way that forgiveness is going to look at any given moment or in any given situation. For a long time it might look like forbearance (which might look to a passive observer just like tolerance). At another time it might look like speaking the truth in love. Still later it might look like patience in the face of a slow road to restoration. In any case, I think it always ends up looking like community. More often than not we need help to forgive, not to mention to discern what's wrong and seek correction and restoration. Too often, however, we settle for less than the mutual life of truthful love that is held out for us in Word and Sacrament. We set churches up to be ‘nice’ places for conflict avoidance, and then when the dam bursts we react with gossip and slander until it is all smoothed over and the shallow peace has been restored for the powers that be. This is not pretty. It really isn’t much different than anywhere else. In fact you can probably find football teams and workplaces that are healthier places to be than that. But if we see how central forgiveness is to our life together, we might look less like a 'nice’ bunch of people with a shared set of interests, and more like a community who is learning to love and live authentically across difference—and thus like a witness to the reign of God. Rev Dr Jon Coutts is tutor in theology and ethics at Trinity. In addition to working for several years as a pastor in Canada, Jon completed a master’s programme with a thesis on the theology of GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday and a PhD at the University of Aberdeen, focusing his research in ecclesiology and the ethics of reconciliation.
Teaching, learning, and support
At Trinity, you will learn through a combination of
- Classroom lectures (through term time and block weeks)
- Smaller seminars or discussion groups
- School of Leadership lectures and discussions
- Your own time spent reading, studying, and in the completion of required tasks
- Experiential learning through church placements
- Experiential learning through community placements
- Interaction with tutors and fellow students through pastoral groups and in other settings
- Outside speakers invited to college to preach, teach, and participate in special events and workshops.
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Student Feedback Processes
We greatly value feedback from the student body, and various mechanisms are in place to analyse the quality and delivery of the modules offered at all levels. All students complete an online questionnaire at the end of each module; students may also make any comments on individual modules directly to the member of the Student Executive responsible for Learning. We also ask for student feedback on the programme as a whole at the end of each year.
Extra Support and Help
To enable all students to reach their potential, we provide learning support throughout your time at Trinity. All students on undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes are allocated a pastoral group tutor who is available to give support and advice if needed, in addition to weekly tutor group meetings. We also have three chaplains on staff, who are available to be a listening ear and to pray with you about any needs or concerns.
Some of our students have been out of education for a number of years, or have not studied at degree level before. All undergraduate students attend study skills sessions at the start of their programme, and further one-to-one support is also available.
Students who have been assessed as having specific learning or other needs may access further support if this is needed. Read more about our learning and disability support here.
Meet our leavers: the Gaudion family
Black History Month at Trinity
Our ordinands have an option to pursue a research programme (MTh or PhD) as part of their ordination training.
Fellow ordinand Alison Walker has always enjoyed learning. As a chemistry undergraduate at Oxford, she discovered that rigorous study pointed her toward God. At Trinity, she found again that as she began to study theology, she soon wanted to explore it at a deeper level. ‘People are formed in different ways,’ she says. ‘I can’t separate my worship of God from my study of him.’ Though initially she was simply pursuing the master’s programme at Trinity, after she attended her first doctrine module, the discussion-based ‘Saving God’ class with Tutor in Theology and Ethics Rev Dr Jon Coutts, she began additional reading on her own. Over the summer, Jon pointed her toward The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, by Yale University Professor Dr Willie James Jennings. ‘I had never read theology word for word like that,’ she explains. ‘I devoured it. Then, in my second year, I hit the MA running. I knew I had only a year to come up with a research topic for the PhD.’
Alison will continue in her doctoral studies through her curacy, with the blessing of her sending diocese. ‘Hereford Diocese has been really supportive—that’s been key. Rather than creating a barrier, they have been very encouraging and flexible about study arrangements in curacy. They want people theologically educated to a good standard. They are already thinking about how I can provide teaching for the training opportunities they offer.'
Read more about our research programme: Four Facts About Our Postgrad Programme That Might Surprise You. From the Spring 2017 Trinity News.
Postgraduate Research Conference 2019
DDO Newsletter, Spring 2018
Did you know Trinity students complete community placements in addition to their church placements?Community placements help diversify our ordinands' experiences of mission and ministry, while also helping them engage with people who are different from themselves, think theologically about mission in a 'secular' context, and think about what role the church might play in partnership with other organisations. Read more about how working at the Wild Goose Café, an outreach to the marginalised in Bristol, has affected our students.
Coming up...You may have heard that our principal Emma Ineson has been appointed as the next Bishop of Penrith. Emma will not leave Trinity until Easter 2019 and so will be in her current role as principal for most of the next academic year. The search for her successor is already underway, and we are working toward a seamless transition in the college's leadership. 10 Nov 2018: Open Day Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity--tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty, and find out what it can mean to prepare for ordination in community. Please email admissions or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place or arrange another visit. Consent to receive newsletter You will be receiving a further communication from us in the near future regarding our data processing policy, with the opportunity to give us consent to continue to send this DDO newsletter to you. You will need to choose the 'I consent' option in order to continue receiving the newsletter. Read more of Craig's story here.
Recent NewsTutor Rev Dr Helen Collins on why we struggle to be peacemakers > Meet our 2018-2019 Student Exec > Spiritual retreat day, through students' eyes >
Open Day details: Saturday, 8 February
Staying mentally healthy during a pandemic
DDO Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2020
Virtual Open Day Available Now
Watch short, pre-recorded video sessions about our different programmes and modes of study, the shape of students' week, how placements work, a virtual college tour, and more. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to access (and share) the virtual open day. We are looking forward to welcoming all our new students in September.
Site Development: Trinity has shortlisted five proposals for its new student accommodation.
Student BAME Group: Last year our students formed a new group for support, to share resources, and develop their calling.
Learning Ministry in Bristol: Through community and church placements, students find a wealth of opportunities to grow as ministers of Christ in Bristol.
Hard to Say Goodbye: Watch a compilation video created by our students in celebration of our leavers for our virtual Valedictory.
Student and Family Support
We want you to grow and flourish during your time at Trinity. Below are some of the ways in which our students can develop networks of support, many of which will outlast your time in our community.
Trinity College eNewsletter, Summer 2016
Residential at Trinity: When moving to college means moving out of your comfort zoneWe place our ordinands into mentoring church relationships in the deprived neighbourhoods, city centre, and suburban areas of Bristol, and they are stretched to grow in ways they'd never imagined. Read more here. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="3597"]
School of Leadership Completes First YearFind out why Trinity began to offer a School of Leadership, learn more about its core teacher, and hear from two students about how a year of leadership training has impacted them. Read more here. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3527"]
Rev Dr David Firth Joins Trinity's FacultyWe are pleased to announce that Rev Dr David Firth will join Trinity's faculty this September as tutor in Old Testament. Read more here.
8 October 2016
Exploring Ordination: This day-long event will be held in partnership with New Wine, CPAS, and Bristol Diocese. More details to come, or contact our Admissions Office.
12 November 2016
Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty, meet current students, sit in on a class, and consider whether God may be calling you here to deepen your Christian knowledge and practice for better service to his Kingdom. For more information, contact Nicola Willcocks or phone 0117 968 0254.
Telling stories of God's faithfulness
In Joshua 4, God tells the Israelites to set up twelve stones in the place where he delivered them through the Jordan River—the stones would keep them from forgetting what God had done for them, and would prompt them to tell that story to their children.
If you are a member of the wider Trinity community (alumni, students, staff, and faculty), take a moment to share with us a story of God’s faithfulness, whether now or in the past, as encouragement to continue to trust him with today’s uncertainties.
You can share a story by emailing email@example.com or through a Twitter/Facebook DM. We will be looking forward to hearing any stories you’d like to tell, and you can read the stories below that we've shared so far.
God is faithful to provide (Melissa and Justin Stratis)
God is faithful: even as our churches meet virtually (Revd Matt Smith)
God is faithful through adoption (Revd Emma Swarbrick)
God is faithful through prison chaplaincy (Revd Cliff McClelland)
God is faithful in the midst of depression (Revd Prof Steve Walton)
God is faithful during difficult times (Revd David Thomas)
God is faithful to use churches during the lockdown (Revd Jema Ball)
God is faithful through change (Anjali Kanagaratnam)
God is faithful through change
I was driving down the motorway several months ago, listening to a new worship album and the hymn ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ began to play. In that moment, I was suddenly reminded of the time, many years ago, when this hymn was a constant companion on our drive to school. I was 11 at the time and we had just moved to the UK. It was a time of much uncertainty.
Several months before that my five-year-old brother was found to have a malignant tumour and then a few months later civil war broke out in Sri Lanka, the country of my birth. And so my parents, wanting a better life for us all, decided to leave. My father, a doctor, was able to get a job quickly but it was only temporary. On those cold, grey mornings, as we navigated our way from Bexhill to Hastings on unfamiliar roads with unfamiliar rules, which mirrored the new journey of our lives, we needed to hold onto God’s faithfulness and so we sang….
‘Great is thy faithfulness.’ It’s a song I’ve sung over and over again in the years since. And God has indeed been so faithful, in ways we dared not dream of in those early days. And as I near the end of my journey towards ordination, in these uncertain times of lockdown, I’m aware again of just how faithful God is. These last three years have undoubtedly been the most challenging years I have faced as we, as a family, have journeyed with illness and times of great uncertainty. And yet through it all, through the dark times and through the tears, I have known, and continue to know, God’s unfailing faithfulness and that morning by morning new mercies I do indeed see.
Anjali Kanagaratnam is completing the MA programme at Trinity this summer and preparing to begin curacy.
Read the stories collected during lockdown here.
What did the first Christians say about Jesus?
Q: Why did you want to write this book?A: I suppose it started in my teens (in Bristol!) when I began to have doubts and questions about Christian beliefs, and I wanted answers—and not just to be told that ‘you need more faith’! That was the beginning of my interest in the historicity of the gospels, which turned into an absorbing academic interest—or even a passion—looking at the evidence and the arguments. I see that as crucially important for Christian living, faith and apologetics; I agree with Paul that if the traditions of Jesus that he then, and we today, have ‘received and passed on’ are not true, then our whole faith is vain and Christians are of all people the most miserable. From Good News to Gospels is a short book looking at how the stories and sayings of Jesus were transmitted in the twenty or so years between Jesus’ lifetime and the writing of the first New Testament books. Most Christians have not thought or worried about the question, just trusting that the gospels are reliable. Surprisingly, scholars have also often been vague about the issue, with many conservatives accepting something like the early church view that the gospels are the ‘reminiscences of the apostles’, and assuming that those reminiscences were reliable. Other sceptical scholars have questioned the link to the apostles and the traditional titles of the gospels—‘according to Matthew...Mark...Luke...and John’; they have identified a lot of things in the gospels that they conclude sound more like the church than the original Jesus. They have doubted whether the first Christians had any interest in preserving the traditions of the original Jesus. In any case it has been pointed out how very unreliable human memory is typically—even within twenty years. The result, they claim, is that the gospels contain a mishmash of some genuine traditions of Jesus—perhaps very few—plus a lot of the ideas and perspectives of the later church read back into the gospel accounts and even put on to the lips of Jesus.
"Often we invite people to come to faith because of the fulfilment they will feel and the good things that indeed follow finding Jesus. But the thing to say first to people is ‘Come and see’—come and see and meet Jesus. The gospels were written to help us to do that."A great deal has been written critiquing such scepticism. An excellent and quite popular book is Peter Williams’s Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018) My book comes at the question by looking at the first oral tradition and at the view that the first Christians were uninterested in preserving the traditions of Jesus. It asks a simple question: What did the first Christians say about Jesus? We know that the Christian movement spread across the Mediterranean world like wildfire (and without the help of modern communications). What did the first Christians say about Jesus that had such persuasive impact? Some scholars seem to assume that they said very little about Jesus, beyond that he had been crucified (not a very attractive message!) and that he had risen from the dead and was one day going to return. But would that summary persuade me to commit myself to this new foreign Christian sect? People in those days were not all naïve and gullible, quite the opposite in many cases, and surely they would have asked: What more can you tell us about your Jesus? Why was he crucified? Why should we leave our present community to join the Jesus lot? My simple argument, which seems to have been missed by many scholars, is that from the very beginning of the Christian movement they will of course have told a very full story of Jesus—of the good news of his wonderful life and teaching—rather than just short soundbites. And people will have learnt the story: it was a world where teaching was mostly oral, and where powers of memorization were sensational compared to those in our Western world. My argument is that ‘the apostles’ teaching’ (to quote Acts) and their account of Jesus will have been learnt and passed on, and that it was this very well-based tradition that an evangelist like Mark will have put in writing, and which we have, well preserved today.
Q: Can you briefly describe what the book includes?A: It starts by pointing out that Jesus was a ‘teacher’ who wanted his teaching to be heard and taken to heart, that he had ‘disciples’ (mathetai in Greek, learners), and that he sent them out to take his message to the surrounding countryside. It then looks at Acts and its reference to ‘the apostles’ teaching’; that teaching was a priority in the earliest church. Then I go on to Acts’ descriptions of their evangelistic messages; they focus on what happened to Jesus, with Peter’s speech to Cornelius looking like the gospel accounts in a nutshell. Then I show how Luke sees his own gospel as the gospel as preached in the churches’ evangelism, and argue the same for the other gospels. I then discuss Paul as a key witness to the existence of very early oral traditions of Jesus being ‘received’ by him, presumably at his conversion, which he then ‘passed on’ in his own evangelistic preaching. I show, as I have argued elsewhere, that Paul knew a lot of Jesus tradition, not just the traditions of the Lord’s Supper and the resurrection. He knew and alludes to many other gospel stories and sayings, including quite likely the parable of the wise and foolish maidens and the ‘love one another’ command as found in John’s gospel, and even possibly the version of the virgin birth story. I go on to show that the oral hypothesis makes better sense of various synoptic passages than does the documentary hypotheses. Not that I reject all ideas of documentary dependence; I suspect that Matthew and Luke did know Mark. But I am sure that for all the evangelists, including Mark, their primary source of information about Jesus was the established oral tradition, not forgetting personal reminiscence in some cases. They are each versions of the tradition, selecting different things and shaping the traditions for their different audiences. Oral tradition was the ‘default setting’, as James Dunn said in a notable lecture, and important work has been done on the oral tradition by the German scholars Rainer Riesner and Armin Baum, as well as by Richard Bauckham in his important Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. My book comes at the question from a slightly different angle.
Q: How might the existence of a strong oral tradition affect the way in which we read the New Testament today?A: It should encourage our confidence in the gospels as a true record of Jesus’ story and teaching, and make us equally confident in using the non-Markan gospels as in using Mark. It is wonderful that we have four differing versions of the Jesus story, not just the one selection or one perspective. We should also remember that all the writers of the books of the New Testament—not just Paul—will have had two really authoritative sources they believed in, the Old Testament scriptures and the traditions of the Lord Jesus.
Q: How might this affect our preaching and teaching?A: It will inform our evangelism and apologetics, meaning that we have good ‘reason for the hope that is in us’ as Peter puts it. We can confidently and not diffidently point people to Jesus. And the good news is the story of Jesus. Often we invite people to come to faith because of the fulfilment they will feel and the good things that indeed follow finding Jesus. But the thing to say first to people is ‘Come and see’—come and see and meet Jesus. The gospels were written to help us to do that—so John’s words in 20:31—that we too will come to say ‘My Lord and my God’. Sometimes Christians have preferred teaching and preaching from the epistles, especially Paul’s, and he is a brilliant interpreter of Jesus for Gentiles. But that preference should never be at the expense of Paul’s primary text and indeed the Christian primary text, i.e. the good news of Jesus of Nazareth and his brilliant teaching, as we find it in the gospels. Rev Dr David Wenham taught in central India through Union Biblical Seminary, Tyndale House, and Wycliffe Hall before joining Trinity in 2007 to teach New Testament and also to serve for a time as the college's vice principal. He and his wife Clare have two married sons and six grandchildren. This article originally appeared in Trinity College News, our alumni newsletter, spring 2019.
Trinity News, Autumn 2019
- Going greener: Trinity students are finding ways to connect with and care for the world around them.
- The pain and gain of learning Greek: Student Amy White reflects on the value of perseverance in studying the Bible.
- Poverty in the early church and today: A Q&A with New Testament Tutor Rev Dr Steve Walton about his new book.
DDO Newsletter, Summer 2017
Did you know that our ordinands have an option to pursue a research programme (MTh or PhD) as part of their ordination training? Read more here.[gallery columns="1" size="full" link="none" ids="4948"] Upcoming Events NT Wright, 28 June 2017: Later this month, author and scholar NT Wright will join our postgraduate students for their annual conference, and also offer a public lecture. For more information click here.
Open Day, 4 November 2017: Send your prospective students to experience an Open Day at Trinity--tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members, and get a taste of what it could mean to study in community. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place.'The thing that struck me about Trinity was the very vibrant community life. I recognised that part of the education is the community aspect. The staff genuinely felt welcoming and interested in me as a person, and it feels like the college is going in a really healthy direction. It is a vibrant place to be.' - Sam Rylands, ordinand from London Diocese. Read Sam's story here.
What happens after your programme?
The majority of our students are preparing for ordination. Toward the end of your programme, we will provide you with plenty of practical information about finding a curacy that is the right fit for you and your family. We will help you think carefully through the process, as well as providing helpful information regarding how the process works.
Other members of our community have used their education to serve in leadership roles within churches, Christian ministries, and other nonprofit organisations. Or you might choose to remain in your current workplace and use your education to enrich your daily life.
1. Growing vegAt the start of the last academic year, seven students and Trinity Site Manager Dave Snell began work to reclaim an unused patch of land behind Henry Martyn House at Trinity. They created sixteen allotments that could be used by students, who perhaps didn’t have space to garden near their flats or homes, or who had never grown anything before and wanted to give it a try. ‘Part of the joy of this has been seeing it begin from scratch—standing there last October and looking at brambles that were almost taller than me,’ says ordinand Ruth Phillips (pictured below, right). With Dave’s tools and help, the group dug up the ground and created beds. ‘We just dabbled, really,’ says ordinand Jon Ball, who led the initiative through his participation in the Student Exec’s Green Team. Students have tried growing runner beans, courgettes, tomato, corn, carrots, and potatoes so far. ‘Most of us went for the approach of just putting things into the ground and seeing what happened.’ Jon hoped through this initiative that students could garden together as a form of spiritual discipline, experiencing something of what it means to be reliant on the earth and its seasons. ‘In the last month or so we are getting results,’ he says. ‘It was a year’s worth of work for a courgette. It’s really rewarding, but an eye-opener to how long it actually takes things to develop. It’s a challenge to our consumer mindset.’ In addition to the new allotments, the Green Team worked last year to ensure that everyone at college brought only reusable cups for coffee breaks, and collected students’ views about the college’s food and site use to share as Trinity’s leadership works to make systemic eco-friendly changes.
‘It was a year’s worth of work for a courgette. It’s really rewarding, but an eye-opener to how long it actually takes things to develop. It’s a challenge to our consumer mindset.’
This academic year, new students have joined in caring for the allotments, and a new plot will be given to Trinity’s Muddy Boots Day Nursery for the children to spend time gardening as well. ‘A community has sprung up around the garden,’ says Ruth. ‘We water and help watch and weed each others’ plants.’ As she worked in the allotments throughout the year—helping to clear brambles, plant seeds, weed, prune, and finally see fruit—Ruth felt God speaking to her about her own life. ‘I could feel God talking to me about what needed healing and pruning in my life. And as I saw stuff growing, God was talking about new growth in my life. We’re so disconnected from the land, but it’s part of who we are, as creation, to be connected to the earth. Gardening became part of the rhythm of my life at college, the place I would go to meet with God.’
2. BeekeepingWhen first-year ordinand Rob McDonald and his wife, Sam, made the two-and-a-half hour drive from London to move to Bristol this autumn, they were joined for the ride by the humming buzz of Rob’s 40,000 bees in the back seat. ‘You can move bees either less than three feet or more than three miles,’ says Rob (pictured above), who prior to his ordination training worked as a management consultant. He got hooked on beekeeping two years ago, when he visited Thatchers Orchard in Somerset, where the company keeps its own hives, because without bees the apples couldn’t grow. Rob spent a day there, working in the hives, and soon after joined a beekeeping course. He is now just short of his final certification. ‘It’s therapeutic and meditative, working with bees,’ Rob says. ‘There has long been a strong connection between bees and spirituality.’ The modern bee comes from Buckfast Abbey, when in 1919 they began cross-breeding to develop a disease-resistant and hardy bee that was also a good honey producer, after losing much of their bee population to disease. An American clergyman created the modern day beehive. ‘Hives were a major part of monastic life, going back to medieval times,’ Rob explains. ‘They were experts in beekeeping. There is a way in which having bees completes a community. And they model community—they are like us, individuals who form a hive together, who work together.’
‘In England, honey bees are now mostly all domesticated. Without beekeepers to give them care, medicines, to inspect them, the honey bee population would collapse.’
Rob hopes to boost his small hive of 40,000 to 70,000 bees next summer, and to develop a second hive. Trinity, in recent years providing a home for hives kept by Bristol Baptist College tutor Rev Dr Peter Hatton, has offered the hive space to Rob during his three years at Trinity, as Peter retires and moves his bees elsewhere. ‘Honey bees can’t live in the wild anymore,’ says Rob. ‘In England, honey bees are now mostly all domesticated. Without beekeepers to give them care, medicines, to inspect them, the honey bee population would collapse.’
3. Ethically sourced vestments‘We have an obsession with buying new all the time,’ says recent leaver Janey Hiller, as she talks about needing to source clergy robes and vestments before leaving Trinity for curacy last summer. ‘And the options we get are not necessarily made with a view to the back-story. Who or what of God’s creation was used in the process of this thing that’s come to me today?’
'I can't see the point in continuing to consume all this stuff. Why, in pursuit of my calling, would I want to be wasteful of the money I'm given?'
Janey was determined that she would seek to source her clothing in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way she could. She found 100 percent plant-based and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified fabrics and hired an independent dressmaker in Bristol to design and sew her robes—cassock, surplice, and alb. She bought vegan fabric dyes and experimented with creating her ordination stole design using fabric offcuts from her alb and a piece of 100-year-old linen given to her by a member of her placement church, while also refurbishing seasonal coloured stoles bought second-hand from a retired Catholic priest. By purchasing several collarettes, Janey easily adapted some of her current clothing into clergy wear. ‘I made the most of what I found,’ she says. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="full" ids="8425"] Her fellow leaver Sonya Newton (pictured above at her ordination last summer with her children) had similar concerns in sourcing her vestments and robes, and pursued a similarly creative path toward more ethically sourced clothing. ‘I’d gone to a charity shop, bought shirts and blouses and converted them into clergy wear,’ she says. ‘I can’t see the point in continuing to consume all this stuff. Why, in pursuing my calling, would I want to be wasteful of the money I’m given?’ Sonya had a friend teach her how to sew collars into shirts, which took a few hours to master, and then enabled her to create her own clergy tops. She also found a small independent business in Worchester that makes clergy wear from fabric that is both recycled and plastic-free. ‘What we wear as vicars speaks of the church, and of who we are, to others,’ Janey says. ‘I wanted to eliminate the exploitation of others, of the planet, as much as possible in what I’d wear.’
- Better recycling: We've drastically improved our waste management in recent years, making recycling bins more user-friendly both indoors and outside, with better labelling and organisation, including all categories that can be recycled in Bristol, and improving recycling storage. Every common room has colour-coded bins for recycling.
- Reducing food waste and decreasing meat consumption: Trinity now provides its lunchtime meal in a buffet style, which kitchen staff have found decreases overall food waste and encourages students to fill their plate with larger proportions of vegetable options rather than primarily meat. Mondays are meat-free.
- Food sourcing: Our new kitchen team will begin reviewing all the companies that source Trinity's food this year. The college currently consumes free range meat from a local butcher. Some on our staff recently visited Stream Farm to begin to explore ideas for more ethical catering.
- Energy use: Trinity's main site electricity supply is provided by 100 percent renewable sources. Trinity is currently working to replace all lights with more energy-efficient lighting. This has already been actioned in many areas of the college, including study rooms, library, common areas, and lecture rooms.
- Reducing single-use plastics: Trinity has been working to reduce its single-use plastics in both cleaning products and kitchen food and beverage supplies, buying more in bulk and filling reusable containers.
- Cleaning products: This past year Trinity has changed its cleaning products, simplifying its chemical use to become safer and more environmentally kind. The kitchen and domestic teams underwent training in new cleaning methods.
- Paper: All the paper used on site at Trinity comes from recycled sources.
- The company that prints Trinity's newsletters and prospectuses (Whitehall Printing in Bristol) stocks its paper from well-managed FSC® forests with a fully traceable supply chain. Among other initiatives, they use renewable, mineral-free inks in all their lithographic printing, waste is safely disposed by an environmental waste specialist, and they've developed a low-energy facility to meet ISO efficiency targets. Their Heidelberg presses use CIP3 technology which help reduce 'make ready' waste by 85 percent.
Moving from Germany to Trinity during a pandemic
Trinity College eNewsletter: Autumn 2017
Meet our newest tutorThis autumn we are excited to welcome Tutor in Pastoral and Ministerial Studies Rev Dr Helen Collins, who will oversee student placements, teaching pastoral theology and some aspects of Anglican formation. Read a Q&A with Helen here. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="full" ids="5572"]
Learning to disagree: gender and sexualityDuring plenary week, Trinity students provided one another with the space to have honest conversations, loving one another by listening with respect and humility, while maintaining a concern for biblical faithfulness. Read more. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="4755"]
Other news items:
- New Foundation Award programme for part-time students
- Listen to NT Wright speak about 'The Royal Revolution' during his visit to Trinity
- Student blog: Learning to build bridges among Muslims, Christians, and Jews
Coming upBeginning 31 October 2017 Introduction to the Bible: New Testament: Would you like to try just one class to deepen your understanding and application of the Bible? Consider trying this course on a Tuesday evening. For more information email email@example.com or 0117 968 0253. 4 November 2018
Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0117 968 0254.
Trinity Tigers: men's football
School of Leadership completes its first year
The birth of a School of Leadership'For some years now, our students had been asking for more time for dedicated leadership training and development alongside their existing study programmes,' says Ineson. 'A School of Leadership would give us the opportunity to delve deep into important issues. It would inform, and be informed by, our existing offerings and run alongside our emphasis on practical formation and corporate theological reflection. This programme sets us apart as a college responding to the challenge of the current mission context.' Trinity has had a long-standing connection with the Anglican evangelical mission agency CPAS, which works through leadership development to enable churches to help every person discover the good news of Jesus Christ. When Emma Ineson became principal at Trinity in 2014 and began to work toward establishing a School of Leadership for Trinity students, CPAS was a natural partner in that endeavour. 'The leadership aspect of the ordained role is increasingly complex,' says CPAS Leadership Principal James Lawrence. 'Changes in society and the Church of England mean clergy face some significant challenges. At CPAS, we're keen to be involved in the School of Leadership because our work among ordinands has shown how formative the years in a college can be, yet few colleges have offered much in terms of leadership development. We were excited about the opportunity to intentionally invest in this aspect of their formation over a two-year period.'
What does the School of Leadership offer?The School of Leadership offers two tracks, one for first-year students, and a second level for second-year students. During their two years of training, students gather in Trinity's chapel fortnightly for School of Leadership sessions, which run between September and April and cover topics in the areas of leading yourself, leading people, leading change, and leading mission. Topics could range from personal development issues, such as 'Developing courage' or 'Growing in confidence', to practical topics that include 'Handling conflict' and 'Pioneering as a leader—church planting and fresh expressions'. The majority of the sessions are led by CPAS Leadership Specialist Ian Parkinson, who joined the CPAS team last January after thirty-two years in church leadership. He is author of Reignite: Seeing God Rekindle Life and Purpose in Your Church, which reflects upon his experiences in helping to lead the turnaround of two different local churches in the north of England. He has also worked for twelve years as Regional Director of New Wine in the North, overseeing leadership training and offering consulting for church leaders. He is passionate about coaching and mentoring other leaders, especially those involved in turning around less promising church situations and those who want to see a missional culture developed in their churches. 'I want to see missional leaders raised up,' says Parkinson. 'When I started out, there was nothing like [the School of Leadership]. I had to learn the hard way, and I made plenty of mistakes. I wanted to give people something of a head-start, to short circuit some of the mistakes I've made, to help people have a set of tools, an interpretative framework, a leadership map, that will give them a good foundation as they embark on the leadership journey themselves.' In this way, students are able to gain wisdom from experienced practitioners who have travelled certain paths and taken the time to reflect on their experiences. They can hear stories and gain ideas about how to handle potential challenges and best serve and lead their future congregations. 'I've been impressed by the students' appetite to learn, by their level of engagement,' says Parkinson. 'It's really encouraging.'
How does this impact future church leaders?Second-year ordinand Jo Purle came to Trinity from Canterbury Diocese after working for ten years as a qualified nurse and six years of mission work in Uganda. She imagines herself next working in a deprived community, and 'thinking outside the box' about how best to minister. 'Personally, I feel passionate about being trained not just to help maintain the Anglican church,' she says, 'but to be a dynamic leader who senses where God is leading and has the courage and equipping to lead a church forward, to explore new ways of being and doing church, learning together in an authentic community of faith.' She was excited in one School of Leadership session to hear Ian Parkinson tell the story of his experience with a church plant on a council estate. 'The church released eight people to move into the council estate to live incarnationally,' Jo explains. 'They got involved in the local community, built relationships, led home groups, set up practical initiatives, and people began to come to faith. It was very contextual—being observant about the context you're reaching. It's about looking at the needs of that community and living alongside them, making it your community, and starting a church.' After joining Trinity’s community last September, Neil Shepherd (pictured above, middle) has completed the first year of School of Leadership sessions. The Bristol ordinand had worked in children, youth, and family ministries at churches for thirteen years, while at times working as a full-time teacher in secondary schools, until he felt called to pursue ordination. He senses God calling him to church planting work, to ministry in urban areas where the church is in decline. 'It's been great having the theory combined with Ian's practical experience in turning churches toward growth,' Neil says about the sessions. 'He tells practical stories—how does this apply? How do you really do this stuff? As we get to the end of the first year—the beginnings had been more theoretical, but now we're getting into how to walk a PCC through vision development. How do you have them be part of the whole process? Or, how do you build teams that can go on and plant a church? That's been really helpful. And Ian is really open to our questions. He provides plenty of time for that.' Over the summer, Neil will complete a summer placement in an urban area of Bristol, where many empty church buildings mark John Wesley's history in the area, but indicate the lack of leadership there today. 'It will be a good experience for me to think about how to approach ministry there,' Neil says, 'and then come back to the School of Leadership in September and bring new questions.' Ultimately, students in Trinity’s School of Leadership have a unique opportunity to think more deeply about leadership, to develop a framework and ideas in the context of their theological training, which should then make them more effective ministers when they embark into full-time ministry. As James Lawrence explains it, in the end, 'The primary driver for developing missional leadership is our desire to see churches fruitful in reaching people with the gospel.’
Faculty Sermon Series: The Ten Commandments
('You shall have no other gods before me.') Dr Jamie Davies (18:43)Exodus 20:4-6/Deuteronomy 5:8-10
('You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them...') Dr Justin Stratis (18:43)Still to come: 9/2/19: Tod Still, Exodus 20:7/Deuteronomy 5:11 1/3/19: Paul Roberts, Exodus 20:8-11/Deuteronomy 5:12-15 15/3/19: Helen Collins, Exodus 20:12/Deuteronomy 5:16 22/3/19: David Firth, Exodus 20: 13/Deuteronomy 5:17 29/3/19: Jon Coutts, Exodus 20:14/Deuteronomy 5:18 5/4/19: Steve Walton, Exodus 20:15/Deuteronomy 5:19 3/5/19: Exodus 20:16/Deuteronomy 5:20 10/5/19: Exodus 20:17/Deuteronomy 5:21
Give to Trinity
During your time at Trinity you will have benefitted from the generosity of many alumni and friends who have given faithfully over the years to help fund the kingdom work of the college.
When you give to Trinity, you help us continue in our mission to shape leaders of Christ-like character in community for a missional church. You help our independent (non-ordinand) students pay their fees and you provide funds for the development of the college, in areas like ongoing IT improvements, investment in the library and student studies, and our site development projects. We are grateful for your partnership!
Text UHMK13 to 70070 along with the amount you’d like to donate.
If you want your gift to contribute specifically toward helping decrease the cost of student fees, please designate 'bursary fund' when you give. Meet some of the students who have benefited from your gifts to our bursary fund:
Trinity College eNewsletter: Spring 2018
Sharing Jesus through a hot mealBristol's Wild Goose Café provides unconditional acceptance and practical services to those who've become marginalised. Its ministry is also having an impact on Trinity ordinands. Read more here.
Why is peacemaking so hard?If God created us to live in peace, why do we struggle so much to be the peacemakers Jesus has called us to be? Read more here.
- Meet our 2018-2019 Student Exec
- What do our students do during spiritual retreat days?
- Student blog: Owning my scars
- You may have heard that our principal Emma Ineson has been appointed Bishop of Penrith. Emma will not leave Trinity until Easter 2019, and so will remain as principal for most of the coming academic year. The search for her successor is already underway, and we are working toward a seamless transition in the college's leadership.
- 10 November 2018: Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty and students, get a taste of what it could mean to study in community, and consider whether God may be calling you here. For more information, email email@example.com or phone 0117 968 0254.
- You will be receiving a further communication from us in the near future regarding our data processing policy, with the opportunity to give us consent to continue to send this eNewsletter to you.
God is faithful: even as our churches meet virtually
Information for vocational and discernment directors
If you work in a Church of England diocese to help guide those considering ordination, we want to supply you with helpful information about what we offer.
We plan regular events for vocational and discernment directors, so that you can meet and hear from the college's leadership, visit with ordinands studying here, and experience aspects of student life at Trinity. For more information about these events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pain and Gain of Learning Greek
'I have learnt that difficulty is not a bad thing—it is a place where we can learn humility and patience, where we learn to value gradual progress rather than instant results.'
With a large amount of cramming time (I know, “those who cram, perish”) and unhealthy stress levels I managed to do reasonably well in the Elementary Greek exam. I tried to audit Continuing Greek, but the workload of my other courses meant that I quit halfway through. By the time I reached the end of my first year I had forgotten much of what I had learnt. This was not how I thought this journey would unfold. As I approached my second year at Trinity and the beginning of my master's course, in discussion with my pastoral tutor, I realised that in order to study the topics I feel called to research and teach in the future, I need to have a decent grasp of the biblical languages. I needed to go back to Greek (and yes, this means I also need to learn Hebrew—but that’s another story).I decided to re-sit Elementary Greek as an auditor, and then take Continuing Greek for credit. As I sat in the beginning classes again, I experienced both familiarity and frustration. There were some things that I could remember, but others with which I still struggled. In one such moment of frustration I had a little internal moan, questioning why on earth I had to learn ancient languages to do what God had called me to do. In that moment I sensed a clear reply—‘Since when did your calling have to be easy?’ As I squirmed at this loving correction, this question came to mind: ‘If you find everything easy, how will you ever reach and teach those who struggle?’ This moment began a change in perspective toward the challenge of learning Greek. Instead of the frustration that came from perfectionism, I slowly learnt that patient progress was the goal. As I moved through Continuing Greek, amidst times of brain fog I also had encouraging moments of clarity. Those moments of clarity became more regular, and when we reached the point of translating the New Testament text, I suddenly realised that I could do it (with the help of the dictionary and grammar charts, of course!). The insurmountable mountain I thought I would never successfully climb had imperceptibly become a summit, from which I could see things not previously visible. In experiencing the pain and gain of learning Greek, I have also learnt much more. I have learnt that difficulty is not a bad thing—it is a place where we can learn humility and patience, where we learn to value gradual progress rather than instant results. I also learnt that when preaching, I should never say, ‘In the Greek it says….’ If you want to know why, then come along to Elementary Greek! Amy White is an independent student at Trinity, completing the MA in Theology, Ministry and Mission. She posts her Bible journalling artwork and thoughts on Instagram at delight_in_colour.
Trinity College eNewsletter, Autumn 2016
A Tale of Two ParksThis autumn, 63 new full-time students and 17 new part-time students joined the Trinity community. Read one new student’s thoughts as he embarks on this challenge and considers how God can use anyone, just as they are. [gallery size="large" ids="4091"]
Is Your Church Developing Leaders?One of the key teachers for Trinity’s School of Leadership, Ian Parkinson explains why developing leaders within your congregation is more important than trying to complete an increasing list of ministry tasks. [gallery size="large" ids="4089"]
Perspectives from a Part-time Student‘At the close of my first year at Trinity, I want to trust God that I am here for a reason and not yearn for clarity as to what that reason is. I want to trust him that he will reveal his purpose and plan when he is ready.’ Read more from Kally Adderkin-Hall.
12 November 2016: Open Day for prospective students! Come and chat with our faculty, meet current students, and get a taste for what it can mean to study in community. For more information, contact Nicola Willcocks or phone 0117 968 0254.
16 November 2016: Join us for an evening listening to music and testimonials from the ex-prisoners impacted by Changing Tunes Ministries. Find out more.
10 December 2016: Join us to explore whether God may be calling you to church leadership, a pioneering ministry, or something else. Aimed at 16-30s. Find out more.
Certificate in Theology, Ministry and Mission
WHO IS IT FOR?This course is ideal for those wishing to begin studying theology. Those who complete the certificate programme as full-time students will gain the additional benefits of a deeper engagement in the Trinity community.
WHAT IS INVOLVED?All certificate students complete taught modules totalling 120 credits. Full-time certificate students can choose to join our gathered learning community in Bristol on Tuesday, Thursday, and/or Friday mornings, or to join our dispersed learners, who come to college in block weeks throughout the year for classes. Part-time certificate students can join us for classes on Tuesday nights. Certificate students also participate in an induction week and study skills sessions. Take a look at our sample module list to see some of topics with which you may engage.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
At least one A-level or equivalent. Relevant work experience may be considered. Applicants will need to demonstrate their potential to benefit from study at this level. The certificate provides the ideal foundation to theology and, should you be considering the possibility of studying towards an MA in the long term, it best translates into studying at MA level (as long as the mark obtained in the certificate meets Durham's minimum requirement, and you have a previous degree in any discipline of at least a 2.1).
TIME MANAGEMENTFull-time study will require about the same amount of work as a full-time job, so you will need to plan your time accordingly.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO ATTEND CLASSES BUT NOT DO THE ASSESSED COURSE?The teaching is available to those who wish to attend lectures without the pressure of having to write assignments. Students can choose one or two modules that interest them rather than having to do the whole course.
HOW DO I APPLY?If you are interested in completing the certificate as a full-time student, please contact Alison Branston (email@example.com or 0117 968 0254). If you would like to complete the certificate as a part-time student, please contact Jo Norman (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 968 0253).
Why study theology if you aren't becoming a vicar?
Our independent students join the Trinity community to study theology for a wide range of reasons that include:
- Church leadership outside of the Church of England. We work in partnership with Bristol Baptist College and with local non-denominational churches, and our community includes students and tutors from a mix of backgrounds.
- Those who want to teach RE, Bible, or theology at the primary, secondary, or tertiary levels. Some of our current independent students are preparing to teach RE in secondary schools, while others are accessing our postgraduate research MA and PhD options to prepare themselves to teach at university level. [Meet an independent student who will teach lay leaders the Bible.]
- Lay leadership in the Church of England. We will offer you a robust theological education as you prepare to teach, preach, work with children and youth, and engage in mission through your church.
- Mission work. Perhaps God is asking you to serve him somewhere outside the UK, perhaps he is calling you to come alongside those in need within the UK. As you prepare to engage with the practical and spiritual needs of others, a strong theological education will be foundational to all you do.
- Other! Some of our independent students have goals to become human rights activists, chaplains, or some join us simply out of a desire to gain a deeper understanding of the Bible as followers of Jesus Christ. Time spent gaining a deeper understanding of how to read your Bible and what it means to follow Jesus Christ in today's world will never be wasted. [Meet an independent student who wants to pursue human rights law.]
President: Beth Perkins
Meet our Student Exec (2020-2021)
Meet this year’s Student Exec! These students will be working to advocate for, build, and continually improve both the student experience and community life at college. To learn more about each of their roles at college, just click here.
Vice President: Charley Williams
Trinity News, Autumn 2015
You can download a PDF of the most recent Trinity News.This issue includes:
- The story of alumnus Jon Swales's ministry to those living life on the margins in Leeds ('Church in a Crypt')
- Doctrine tutor Dr Justin Stratis reconsidering the ways in which we share the gospel ('The Problem with the God-Shaped Hole')
- A Q&A with author and pastor Ian Stackhouse about the challenges of pastoral ministry in a suburban context ('The Challenge of the Suburban Church')
DDO Newsletter, October 2015
Did You Know?Did you know that we are the only theological college to offer our students every mode of training? Trinity students can now choose from three pathways to ordination: full-time residential training, full-time context-based training, and part-time training. Our residential students live in the Bristol neighbourhoods surrounding Trinity, where they are assigned, alongside the other members of their pastoral group, to a local church in which to gain reflective practical experience and mentoring. Our non-residential students, who have chosen to continue in their current church or ministry context, will continue to minister and be mentored there, while attending one-day-a-week classes and special weekend or summer modules at Trinity. We work to fit our students' training to their unique situations. We are committed to coming alongside each one to understand their needs and particular calling, to help prepare them to serve God faithfully and to live the values of Christ's coming kingdom.
Upcoming Events14-16 October 2015 Our principal, Emma Ineson, will be at the DDO consultation in Swanwick, and she would love to speak with you, to hear any way in which we might better serve you. 7 November 2015 Send your candidates to experience an Open Day at Trinity – tour the college, meet current students, interact with our faculty members. Please Email email@example.com or call 0117 968 0254 to book a place, or to arrange an alternate visit date.
Recent NewsNewly refurbished chapel New partnership with Aberdeen University New tutor in New Testament [caption id="attachment_2430" align="alignnone" width="300"] 'I’ve had to learn that this isn’t about finding the right answers, but about asking the right questions that will drive me on and on, closer to God.'
- Ed Down, Oxford Diocese
Read more of Ed's story here.[/caption]