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‘Its not about me’ : Reading Cottrell On Priesthood over a lockdown weekend

‘Its not about me’ : Reading Cottrell On Priesthood over a lockdown weekend

I wonder what you are finding absorbs your time and attention during these strange hours and days? My table at home is gathering some small (and neatly organised) piles of books. Some associated with work and lectures to prepare. Some for pleasure and others  (I hope) for self-improvement ! 

Stephen Cottrell’s book (On Priesthood : Hodder and Stoughton 2020) arrived last week. I read its 176 pages over two days. It has a deceptive lightness of touch but do not be fooled – its fluent prose reflects careful study and research. It is grounded, focused, and artistically weaves Scripture, tradition and experience with skill and ( at times ) searing honesty about self and others. It keeps a sense of adventure and fun alongside a commitment to ask its readers some serious questions about discipleship, vocation and ministry. 

So – what is in the book? 

Three parts and eight chapters with an Introduction and afterword. Cottrell sets the scene with a plea for an excitement and curiosity about God. Where might we see what Christ can do and where Gods Love can be found and claimed. “being a priest has nourished my own humanity and helped me to see the world as God sees it and to make the world are as God would have it to be” (p7)

Chapter 1 opens up a conversation about the nature of priesthood and ministry. It articulates a theology of the church grounded in scripture and the ordinal.  It both critiques and offers a different interpretation of the much-contested concepts of leadership and management. Cottrell understands the nature of good order but takes a wider view of what kind of church human flourishing. Priests are two in body and live out the apostolic ministry which they share with the Bishop. Priests are women and men under authority living within in an Anglican tradition that has charism and wisdom developed over centuries of presence and service service – and encapsulated in our liturgy.

Chapter 2 opens up the main section of the book with an exploration of the ways in which the priest is a servant -charged to lead and guide. This is a ministry of the diaconate that should always be open to surprises both from the questions that those we serve ask of us and is through our service the constant discovery of the goodness and grace of God.

Chapter 3 enlarges our sense of the biblical metaphor of Shepherd as those who are called seek to follow the example of Christ and the ways in which goodness is demonstrated. Knowing the people and loving the people become key hallmarks of the outworking or priesthood. We need to belong and in that belonging be known -these are the hallmarks of church growth and church health. However this isn’t priesthood as platforming or performing solo! This needs to be shared. The whole people of God need to be equipped to engage in care. This isn’t about a careful disposition or an attitude – priests need to be knowledgeable, self-aware and to degree proficient. There are key messages here and throughout the book for those of us involved in theological education and formation.

Chapter 4 opens up the theme of priest as messenger. What are we to share with others? What are we proclaiming? Cottrell warns against formulas and slogans – he asks his reader to go deep and to explore what it might mean for us to bear Jesus himself. He invites us to describe that in a nutshell. What does forgiveness mean? How do we tell the story of God’s love? In these bold and ambitious invitations, the reader is also asked to consider the limitations of who they are and what they can do. What might it mean to discover and rediscover our places of replenishing? We are invited into a movement out of the shallow end of populism and be theological reflectors of creativity and depth(p75). This has all the potential for bringing us joy and lies at the heart of all effective evangelism.

Chapter 5, which during this first reading spoke most powerfully and generatively to me, opens up the image of Sentinel. So, what is a Sentinel?  ‘The job of sentinel is to scan the horizon. To look. To discern. To see what is coming. To interpret. To guide. To announce. To warn.’ (p84). How do we inhabit the world? What does it mean to watch and to listen? What we need to do in order to stand in that place where we have a big capacious heart for the pain of the world? (p99) quoting Bishop Jack Nicholls. This chapter also contains a warning for those priests who are constantly seeking approval ratings! Whose affirmation are we seeking– God’s or the congregations’?

Chapter 6 opens up the metaphor of steward using the arresting metaphor of the priest as conductor. Presidency of the Eucharist with all its trappings and rituals is discussed with care and pragmatism as we are asked to all serve to play and love the music of the gospel. I think it is important to note that in this chapter and others Cottrell does not create or perpetuate hierarchy or patriarchy. There is a strong sense of a faith working together as baptised followers of Christ seeking to serve the world.

Part 3 opens up a moving and powerful meditation on ministry as carrying the cross (Chapter 7) and develops the arresting comments of an Anglo-Catholic retreat conductor offered many years ago to Cottrell – find enough time to sleep, enough time to pray, then do what you can. The truth of this simple invitation for ministry – is discussed with (now) characteristic insight and humanity. None of this work is done in our own strength but it is hard, costly and sometimes wounding.

The afterword is the sermon preached the consecration of two bishops in 2012. It is a sermon that attracted some publicity and criticism, but it moves into a conclusion for this book which invites the reader into a deeper reflexivity about our shared Ministry for the kingdom of God.

Finally, it is worth noting that the acknowledgements run over three pages. Here we have listed and described a range of people and places that have shaped thinking and practice. Happily, the list includes Sarum College and a reference to Stephens time working in our glorious library. 

All of us need to spend some time to step back and think about who we are, what we are doing and what is that is life-giving about vocation, discipleship and ministry. I promise you that this book will be a faithful but sometimes very unsettling guide fo you if you are ready to dig deeply into your identity, your flaws, the ‘work in progress’ which is every human being as we seek to embracing Grace and searching for wholeness in Christ.

At Sarum it will not be recommended reading for our ordinands in formation– It will be required reading! And to model that I offer you my copy of this book which indicates the parts of these pages that I need to go back to in order to dig deeper, order to change so that character, wisdom and faithfulness may continue to grow and develop.

Not for Profit – what kind of education will equip us for the future ?

Not for Profit – what kind of education will equip us for the future ?

Looking backwards and wondering ‘what if’ is an exercise that requires care and some measure of wisdom. However, we need to engage in the ‘what if’ questions to nurture reflexivity and so challenge ourselves to be energised by the possibilities of change.

So here is a question – if you could turn the clock back what would you change about the way you were educated? What have the processes of formal or informal learning given you for life? Where are the gaps in our understanding? What perplexes us still? What might you need to equip yourself for this present stage of your living and loving?

In my northern grammar school the regimented and often over-controlled systems and processes of teaching were focused on output, exams and success. The teaching was variable and I now lament the sheer lack of space between lessons, between days and between subjects. At one level, my secondary school education served me well in giving me an appetite for hard work, a capacity for good organisation and an ability to absorb information quickly. It opened the door to university and I have since then more or less been engaged in further education, research and writing. In addition, of course, I belong to a generation that has never paid a penny for their higher education and I doubt I would be writing this piece today had the current system been in place in 1979. However, I can see its limitations and feel its inadequacies in its formative influence over my attitude to work, productivity and aspirations.

These questions are the background to some of my thinking when I picked up this extraordinarily bold and adventurous question that Martha Nussbaum asks in her widely acclaimed book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. (Princeton University Press 2010), ‘What kind of education might enable us to inhabit our complex and often fragmented democracy?’

The argument goes something like this. We are nurturing a generation of young people whose lives have been dominated by the idols of individualism, materialism and consumerism. This shaping of our values within a capitalist economy often controls our choice of subjects at school and university. Once upon a time we wanted to be educated – we now want to be, Nussbaum argues, schooled for financial success. This has so dominated our curriculum that we are producing a generation incapable of living with paradox, contradiction and anxiety.

Drawing down upon Western and non-Western philosophy and educational theory the reader is asked how we might embrace a more imaginative capacity that can nurture perception, human growth, a wider horizon of what it might mean for us to flourish as human beings in community. We need to be skilled in these arts. We neglect the imagination and the cultivation of our inner eyes. This deficiency has extraordinary dangers for all parts of our life. We are alerted to a silent crisis in which nations either disregard or discard the skills that the arts and humanities give to society in favour of national profit. As the arts and humanities are diminished, we live with the consequences of an erosion of the very qualities that are essential to democracy.

The arguments and questions here are reflected in so many ways in our churches. If we are to embrace diversity and good disagreement principles, we need to teach one another how to nurture the critical thinking skills required for an independence of spirit and action. We all need to learn an intelligent resistance to the power of blind tradition and authority. The nurture of curiosity and imagination offers a more textured approach to growth and change. When we step outside of our own preoccupations and limitations learning to imagine the situations of others is a fundamental requirement for a successful democracy that is committed to everyone’s flourishing.

Our churches are no exception to the misuse of power and the exploitation of our human limitations. In some ways, we all need a lesson in how we can get along with others without maintaining total control. To do this we need to open ourselves up to the experience of vulnerability and surprise, to curiosity and wonder. This adventure in learning is made possible through music, poetry, art, theatre and storytelling. They can all help us live with the limitations present in all of life and powerful in the way that they face us with pernicious and dangerous dynamics of anxiety, disgust and shame. These powerful emotions are a universal response to our human helplessness.

Perhaps I am bound to say that theology and good spiritual formation can help us through the realities of that culture that both shapes and mis-shapes us? Churches are wise in their understanding of our mutual need and interdependency. We must learn to step out of our small worlds into a larger horizon of radical transformation that comes with identifying with common human predicaments. When we see the world through the lens of many types of vulnerability then imagination is released to do its work.

So we might ask ourselves: how do we come to see people as real and equal? How does our public theology help us to cultivate imagination so that we are able to be an equal amongst equals? The churches have a role and responsibility to enable our commitment to global citizenship for the good of all. Slowing up, taking a longer view, and asking what we can do to contribute to well-being through the relational, the pastoral and the releasing possibilities of empathy are concrete ways of putting our education into practice.

I am reminded of words I heard from Maya Angelou at an international conference in Washington DC some 10 years ago: ‘I have learned that people will soon forget what you said, they will eventually forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.’

So – go on – think about a conversation or some practice that will nurture and imagination in your community. Consider the gaps and your power and ability to make a transformative difference within a larger horizon of love.


Professor James Woodward

Principal of Sarum College

Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art

Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art


For those of you who know Sarum College you will be aware that we have a long tradition of exhibiting Art. At the moment we are showing some arresting and disturbing portraits crafted by Sam Ivin (pictured above)

Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, graduating in 2014.

This exhibition, Lingering Ghosts, consists of hand-scratched portraits of those seeking asylum in the UK. These are people living in a state of limbo as they await news of their application for months or even years. Their stories recount the experience of lost identity and frustration as they wait to learn their fate. Yet as we learn from the documented conversations, we recognise them as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters – human beings, after all.

Sam chose to scratch the portraits by hand, rather than altering them digitally: ‘When you systematically scrape at the image of a person’s face, it is very visceral way of expressing what it means to lose your identity.’

Look closely at this picture and consider some of the thoughts expressed by asylum seekers that Sam has gathered together:

‘I feel it is very difficult, honestly. I mean, I can’t enjoy my life because I don’t know what is coming up for my future. I am scared.’ (Afghanistan, 8 years waiting)

‘Life has been like up and down for me and it was really frustrating, me coming here in the UK. I don’t want them to treat me like a King or whatever but like a human, you know.’ (Cameroon, 6 years waiting)

‘You’re not forwarding your life. Which means you’re just like stuck or somewhere. You can’t do nothing. You can’t study. You can’t work. If you are qualified you staying at home and waiting for benefit. No one come down here for benefit, they want to make their life better.’ (Sri Lanka, 8 years waiting)

 So – what is Art?

As I pass these pictures and pick up a sense of the some responses to them it is  intriguing to consider what the purpose of art might be.

We all too often imagine that art should be limited to the portrayal of the beautiful, the rich and glorious world we live in. Art is partly about hope – the holding of and picturing  the colour and beauty of the world around us – the countryside, a vase of flowers, an iconic building. We need this kind of hope in a complex, disturbing and sometimes fractured world.

And while of course, there are many other purposes to Art, we might consider within the context of Sam’s work the role of Art in protest.

Sam asks us through these pictures to consider what kind of world we want to live in. How high are we prepared to build our walls to protect us and our world against the stranger, the alien, the asylum seeker? What are the limits to our communal and societal hospitality? What might we learn from someone who is so completely other or different? In our post Brexit Society reconfiguration of alliances and, perhaps our fundamental cultural values, Sam’s work might best be described as prophetic images for our day. He challenges us to think about what we do to the humanity of others and how easily it is for some to lose their identity through depersonalisation and a lack of compassion which fails to engage with fear and genuine aspiration.

We might even  go one step further and suggest that the process that Sam undertook in altering the portraits and removing some of the key features of these human beings faces reflects the restricting, shocking, depersonalising attitudes that seem to be so obviously present in the public domain.

I keep on asking as I familiarise myself with these portraits – what can I do to change what we do to those waiting for asylum: hoping for a better world? Sam’s work leads us into an important social and political engagement in the shaping of a society that might be different for those we marginalise. In our unimaginative attempt to connect with their vulnerability we surely are changed for the good? Hearts and lives enlarged and sympathies deepened. what would you like to change about the world ? How can Art empower us to change?


Come and see these images  at Sarum College for yourself and decide what art is for and look closely to see what might be revealed through them.


Grateful thanks to Fabrica for the loan of these nine works from their collection.


Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

It was a great pleasure and privilege yesterday for us to welcome guests to Sarum College to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross to one of our former students ( The Reverend William Addison )


                    William Addison                         Addison’s Medals (VC far left)

Here are my opening remarks

Memory and Meaning in the Commemoration of the First World War

Padre Addison VC


A warm welcome to you all this afternoon and especially to those of you who are visiting Sarum College for the first time.


The 2014–18 Centenary Commemoration cycle has given us rich opportunity to develop public knowledge of the First World War. The events that have surrounded the commemoration have captured our imagination. And so it should. In this place of learning we might bear in mind that factual knowledge of the wider history of the war among the broader population of the United Kingdom remains problematic. A survey reported in the Daily Telegraph in November 2012 found that only 46 per cent of respondents aged 16–24 were able to correctly name 1914 as the year that the First World War started, and only 40 per cent knew it ended in 1918. This surely has changed as a result of our resolve to remember the people and events of the Frist World War?


In our modest way, as part of remembering, we gather here at Sarum College to commemorate Padre Addison, and his award of the Victoria Cross one of just three awarded to army chaplains in the history of the medal. William Addison became an army chaplain in WW1 shortly after he trained for the priesthood at Salisbury Theological College in these buildings. He is one of our most distinguished alumni.

I should like to express my gratitude to Padre Addison’s grandson, Tim Addison, for bringing us this medal to make this a very special commemoration and for his presence with us. Gratitude is also due to Allan Mallinson, a military historian and friend of the College for his support and encouragement too. We shall hear from Tim in a moment and see the original VC but just also to remind you that there will be a permanent display of the replica VC, and thank the Army Museum Ogilby Trust for this


After a Curacy here in Salisbury William volunteered as a Chaplain. He accompanied a number of army regiments landing in Basra in March 1916. He experienced at first hand the human price of war and in April over five days endured the horror of hundreds of men massacred in appalling conditions. On April 9, 1916 Padre Addison carried a wounded man to cover and assisted others to safety under heavy fire. His Victoria Cross citation reads: ‘by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.’ Padre Addison was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on August 3, 1917.

In remembering William Addison what reflections might we  have on the nature of Christian Ministry? Though his story of valour is exceptional, it reminds us that Christians – and especially the clergy – are called to stand alongside their fellow human beings in all circumstances of life – and especially in times of extremis- sickness, injury and death.

Also Christian ministry takes on practical shape – it is not sympathy expressed from afar, but involvement in concrete way. This can come at great cost, and requires sacrifice. We should reflect therefore that this award for valour is expressed in the form of a cross – the emblem of suffering and salvation of Christ.

The ultimate message of the commemoration of War and the sacrifice, bravery and courage of such individuals like William, Tim’s grandfather, is that we must both learn lessons for the future – the shape of tolerance, the meaning of justice and reconciliation, as well as lamenting the vast cost of War in the tragedy of lost lives.

At Sarum College we are proud to have William as one of our former students and we shall continue to remember his life and legacy.


  Tim Addison, grandson of William Addison VC, who brought the VC to Sarum College for us to celebrate the legacy of this distinguished priest.

Sarum College Presentation Day 4th March 2017

Sarum College Presentation Day 4th March 2017


(my opening remarks at the Ceremony)
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all this morning to this ceremony for the presentation of academic awards for Sarum College. Thanks to St Thomas Church for hosting us and to a former student, Roger Wilcock who is playing the organ.
It is good to see so many familiar faces and to share in this celebration of your achievement. Behind each name on this programme is an individual story that is characterised by effort, creativity, engagement and a deepening of learning and wisdom. Alongside each one of you there are a whole number of people who have encouraged, supported and journeyed – putting up with long nights, scattered piles of books and paper, times spent away and those meals you cooked while deadlines were being met. Thank you for your achievement in the gift of care and patience.
For Sarum College this is also a significant event. For the first time we have a joint ceremony of students from our MA programmes with students from the Centre for Formation in Ministry. I want to thank my team at Sarum working so hard to be part of your academic achievement. The hospitality and housekeeping staff, those who have produced the food to sustain our learning, Jayne Downey and her staff, all those who help us navigate Moodle and the mysteries of Sarum Learn ; but especially the academic team whose enthusiasm, skill and carefulness have supported and enabled each one of you in your learning. Thanks go to you our teachers and the journey you have taken us on.


Sarum College stands in the shadow of one of the most magnificent mediaeval buildings in the world – Salisbury Cathedral. We are indebted to this physical place which also plays a part in the richness of nourishing the human spirit. The Cathedral, a vibrant worshipping, growing and witnessing community, are partners and friends in this venture and on your behalf I welcome the Dean of Salisbury, June Osborne. When the history of this particular and sometimes turbulent period of church life is written I am confident that June’s name will appear as a person who has made a difference through her perseverance and witness to enabling a richer, wiser and more inclusive spiritual economy. June’s contribution to the development of women’s ministry into the whole life of the church is incalculable. I also believe that she remains one of today’s eminently skilled narrators who communicates like few others. Unafraid to grasp the nettle; a fearless preparedness to name some of those things which prevent us all from flourishing; a restless desire for us to go deeper; strong and bold leadership all characterise June’s ministry. June thank you for your presence with us and we look forward to your address in due course.


I wish you a happy day. Bidden or Unbidden God is present and into that presence we offer this stage of our journey

James Woodward
Sarum College

Photographs copyright Ash Mills

Sarum College Grads Highly Distinctive

Alongside the usual Saturday morning shoppers Salisbury’s High Street on March 4th was a procession of more than 50 Sarum College graduands in robes and mortar board hats making their way from the Cathedral Close to St Thomas’s Church to be awarded academic degrees.

‘Presentation day is a time for the College to come together to congratulate our graduates and those who have supported them in their considerable achievements and it is good to see so many young people at the ceremony to affirm their parents’ achievements,’ says Sarum College Principal, The Revd Canon Dr James Woodward. ‘Nearly half of our postgraduate students have earned merits or distinctions and all have worked incredibly hard. I am delighted to congratulate each individual but also to take pride in being part of a team here at Sarum that supports such excellence.’

‘Well done to you students for all you have achieved in gaining your award,’ said The Very Revd June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, who gave this year’s Presentation address. ‘But an even greater accolade is due to you for exercising the gifts of moderation, without which human communities will not find solidarity or glimpse the character of God.’

On Presentation Day, graduates, their family and friends and Sarum College staff come together to celebrate their achievements. For the first time, the awards ceremony combines those who have earned postgraduate degrees across Sarum’s five MA programmes as well as those being formed for ministry in the Churches.

About Sarum College
Founded in 1995, Sarum College is an ecumenical study, conference and research centre situated in historic grade 1-listed buildings in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close.

Welcoming people of all faiths and none, Sarum’s educational programmes are organised into seven centres of learning: Centre for Contemporary Spirituality; Centre for Leadership Learning; Centre for Liturgy and Worship; Centre for Theology, Imagination and Culture; Centre for Encountering the Bible, Centre for Human Flourishing; and the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Ministry studies became integrated into Sarum College’s education programme after the merger with the Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme in February 2015.

There are four postgraduate programmes validated by the University of Winchester. Ministry courses are validated by Durham University and students can choose full-time, part-time or practice-based study and training. These courses create opportunities for all to learn, to think, to speak and to act with greater theological confidence and can lead to a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma or an MA degree.

Guest bedroom and meeting rooms also can be hired by the general public when not in use for courses and college events.

For more information about Sarum College’s postgraduate study programmes, call 01722 424827 or

Lent Books 2017

Lent Books 2017

Here is my wander through a number of Lent books offering you a little glimpse into some of what is available.

Justin Welby, Dethroning Mammon.
This short book well organised into six chapters and offers the possibility of a basis for lent study on the challenging question of what might a Christian make money and materialism. It is focused and grounded in Scripture and asks persistent and searching questions of the reader. How do we handle the power of money? Who will direct our actions and attitudes and how does following Jesus bring hope and freedom in a world ever obsessed with individualism, consumerism and materialism.

Ian Adams, Wilderness Taunts
This is an attractive collection of 20 meditations in word and image focused around the theme of being a hopeful human being. Adams asks his reader to listen to their fears, embrace and name them and in doing so work towards transformation. He is ingenious and creative in using the 40 days in the wilderness of Jesus as a springboard for exploring taunts and difficulties that face us today and so often throw us off balance.

David Bryant, Glimpses of Glory
This is a wonderful book written after the author was diagnosed with terminal cancer and published following his death. He draws widely on poetry, literature, art and music. The text is grounded, refreshing, moving and revealing. Forty short chapters cover a very wide range of themes such as kindness, laughter, guilt, alienation, peace, voyaging and possessions. There is an intensity and focus which you will find transformative. The book will work well for a home group at any time of the year.

Paula Gooder, Let me go there: the spirit of Lent
Sarum College bookshop supporters will be familiar with Paula’s work and approach to opening up Scripture. This completes her series of short books tackling various seasons of the churches year. The question for us is this: how does God meet us in the desert? Written certainly with an eye to providing resource material for lent groups each of the chapters offers a focus of questions for discussion and pointers for further reflection. Accessible, clear and engaging – are part of this writer’s attraction for the general reader.

Samuel Wells Hanging by a Thread: the questions of the cross
The arresting and compelling organising theme of this book is this ‘there was a time when the cross was an answer – today the cross is a question’. This short, tightly argued but fluent book considers the risk, cost and suffering of the cross in the light of six key contemporary concerns. They are the reliability of history; the fragility of trust; mortality; meaning; the nature of power and the character of love. Rich, engaged and stimulating – this book would make a good base for a study group at any time of the year. It is easy to see why Wells is such a popular communicator in today’s church.

Mark Oakley (editor) A Good Year
Talks do not easily translate themselves into the written word but Oakley has gathered together seven bishops who explore the simple question: what can we do to make the seasons good? Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost are all looked at from a rich diversity of perspectives. The final chapter on Pentecost is offered by our own Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne. Stimulating and mostly helpful this book could be profitably used for private study or as a base upon which to explore our journey through the seasons of the churches year

Stephen Cottrell The things He did
Cottrell continues to engage and communicate with an energy and connectivity which are attractive and stimulating. Six chapters concentrate on the events around holy week from Palm Sunday through to Good Friday. The writing is focused and reflective and digs deeply into Scripture. There are helpful pointers for reflection around passages of Scripture at the end of each chapter.

Paul Cox No Body but Yours
For the reader who wants to put their Christian faith into practice this may well be the book that enables and empowers such social action. Cox users the prayer of Teresa of Avila to open up the simple but profound question: how do we show Jesus? This book is written specifically for groups and includes a short act of quiet and worship. Scripture is often used to be read dramatically and for the participants to reconnect with familiar passages. At all points the reader within the study group is asked to think about action.

Amy Boucher Pye The Living Cross
This carefully organised and well written book attempts to get inside the freeing and changing nature of forgiveness. Forty Seven reflections cover the whole of Lent grounded in Scripture and tradition offering a searching and challenging engagement with the heart of our faith.

James Woodward
Principal Sarum College

What kind of Ministry? Chaplaincy as Mission

What kind of Ministry? Chaplaincy as Mission


Chaplaincy Ministry and the Mission of the Church

Victoria Slater, SCM Press 2015, 160 pages, pbk, no price marked, ISBN 978 0 334 05315 6


There are three distinctive and attractive characteristics of this book. The first is the authors’ skilful ability to open up her research in an accessible and stimulating way. The second is the quality of theological reflection based, thirdly, in the reflective practice of her experience as a healthcare chaplain.


Six chapters work together towards a conclusion in responding two questions: ‘What is chaplaincy?’ and ‘What is the significance of chaplaincy within the ministry and mission of the church?’ These questions are discussed within the context of the extensive social reach of chaplaincy and in its ability to connect with a range of people beyond the traditional reach of the church. We are reminded of the growth and development of chaplaincy in recent years but also of the need for ongoing theological reflection on practice. Slater shows how critical theological reflection is for the illuminating of our wisdom about mission, the nature of God’s involvement in the world and how discipleship and vocation might be nurtured. This narrative takes seriously the significant and seemingly irreversible decline in numbers across church congregations but also challenges some of the marginalisation of chaplaincy present within church structures and discourse.

Chapter 1 offers some historical perspective in the context of our pluralistic and ever-changing culture. Chapter 2 models a practical theological approach with a careful use of experience through three case studies. It deals with role, relationship, self understanding and practice within a theological framework. Chapter 3 looks at the relationship between chaplaincy and mission opening up some of the tensions that are present in the ways in which we value some ministry above others. Chapter 4 deals with the identity of chaplaincy, necessary Slater makes clear for an understanding of good practice. Throughout there is an articulation of the distinctiveness of chaplaincy. With this in mind chapter 5 offers some challenges to the institutional church and the range of ecclesiologies always present when we explore the nature of mission. Chapter 6 keeps an eye on the future as it offers some guidance and frameworks within which to develop practice. It aspires to wanting to support further chaplaincy research and indeed encourage innovation through the setting up of new chaplaincy roles. Dialogue, presence, openness, reflection, faithfulness and transformation are key words fleshed out in and through the shape of the six chapters.

This reviewer shares the authors conviction that part of the future of church will lie in its moving beyond traditional models and boundaries into an engagement that meets and connects with people where they are and through what they are experiencing. This book, therefore, deserves to be used by all those who might want to explore ways in which we might be faithful to the gospel and share its grace. Our structures need this voice to inform this urgent task of reflection on the future shape of being church.

JWW Sarum College

Sarum College – an enriching and enlarging place

Sarum College – an enriching and enlarging place


I have  had somewhat of a break from WordPress and decided on this first day of Lent to reconnect with this medium by way of re-engaging and reflecting on what had been very demanding but stimulating past few months.

During the early part of 2015 I engaged in a discernment process which led to my appointment as Principal of Sarum College in Salisbury. You will see above an aerial view of the College. Saying farewell to Windsor was difficult and especially to a community and place that I had got to know so well. I carry with me many of the rich experiences of that place but especially the shaping and deepening of my spiritual life through the work of prayer, worship and service that characterise St George’s Chapel and much of the work in the College of St George. Although, as the months pass by, different  perspectives emerge from those years there it is fascinating  interesting to note how vivid, immediate and sometimes complex human memory can be. Put simply – some days it feels as if I’ve been here in Salisbury for ever and other days for a very short period of time. In this particular learning community there is a great deal to learn about transitions and change.

I’m grateful to my new colleagues in Sarum College for extending such a warm welcome. This is a good team of committed people giving of their best in so many different ways. The work of the College is very diverse and this places particular demands upon leadership. For a flavour of some of what we do have a look at our website.

I hope to be able to offer more reflections on particular aspects of our work but for the purposes of breaking myself back into the task of blogging I want here simply to offer a picture of the diversity of the community that I describe as enriching and enlarging. The core group of visitors this week are over 30 people gathered for a week’s intensive Bible study on the book of Ruth led by my colleague Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh. Her skill in reading the Hebrew Scripture and enthusiasm for digging deeply into its shape and meaning for us has led to some fascinating conversations in the refectory. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting two new bishops from the Anglican Communion who are spending a week in the Diocese of Salisbury who are partners with the church in South Sudan and Sudan. They represent the global reality of Anglicanism and offer us all an opportunity to listen carefully to a very different context and experience of Christian discipleship.

Last night as I left the building a number of excited participants were coming for a session on our Theology Quest and Questions led by David Catchpole. This long-standing course offers participants an opportunity to reflect in some depth on the shape of Christianity and  the subject matter to hand yesterday was the pondering of the parables.

So the week goes on with a lecture on the parish churches of Wessex, a book launch from a travel writer Harry Bucknell who will talk about his journey from Venice to Istanbul. The college on Friday will play its part in the launch of a major exhibition of sculpture by Sophie Ryder – well worth a visit to see these monumental pieces scattered in and across Salisbury Cathedral Close.

There are also all the hidden elements that make up the days here in the college. Visitors to the library, bookshop or those simply wanting some time out to think and to be refreshed. Clergy coming for support and supervision. Groups from the wider community who simply want to be here to connect with one another and relax.

I hope that gives a little flavour of what might begin to form a small part of this blog in the coming months. Please bear with me as I update one or two things and I look forward to renewing my connection with you. Here is a word cloud picture from one of my lectures with the Sarum Ministry Programme last weekend! I wonder if you can guess what the title of the lecture might have been?