Back to my Roots? The legacy of Brooke Foss Westcott

Back to my Roots? The legacy of Brooke Foss Westcott

I finished reading Isabel Hardman on turned to thoroughly researched life of Westcott. There were many resonances and connections. As the son of a miner the title was arresting. Ordained in Durham after theological studies at Westcott House Cambridge there were further connections. I have a copy of his commentaries on Hebrews and St Johns Gospel and am in awe of this great mans scholarship, though his style of prose makes its demand on the reader !   Graham Patricks attention to detail in this  carefully researched portrait did not disappoint.

Of course we live in a different age and as a new year beckons us the Church of England faces particular challenges and opportunities. It is always wrong to idealise the past but equally reprehensible not to learn from is and especially those whose lives have been grounded, faithful and prophetic.

In Westcott we are struck in this biography by his scholarship. His prodigious devotion ( with Hort) on their edition of the Greek New Testament took years of care and devotion. Westcott show us what reverence of Scripture looks like and how these words have the power to transform. Much is made in our day of our distracted busy lives but there is something here about attention, reflection and the wisdom that comes from listening to the tradition. Theology isn’t a luxury but a necessity for love and growth in the Way.

In Westcott this study was grounded and contextualised in a deep sense of community. From the incarnation he derived a belief in universal human connectivity. He cared about the poor and disposed within an urban Birmingham and Durham.In 1892, he helped miners to a strike settlement.

Westcott House Jesus Lane Cambridge

Westcott House, the durable theological college at Cambridge that issued from his efforts to nature an educated clergy. It stands in a tradition of open, generous orthodoxy of forming men and women for ministry within a broad and liberal tradition. Unconcerned about his own comfort Westcott ( we are told ) treated people as human beings. He was a pastoral Bishop who bothered very much about people and their lives.


An enriching read with plenty of connections and challenges. An encouragement to see the value of theology, to relate faith into the context of peoples lives and above all to nurture the value of a pastoral heart.

Brooke Foss Westcott

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