With much gratitude for all the friendship, food, enthusiastic support, great hospitality and, of course, your sponsorship, Simon Vibert and Chris Leftley completed the nearly 1000 mile trip from Lands End to John O’Groats on Sunday 18th July 2010.
We saw some stunning parts of the British Isles, help by the vista from a saddle, lovely cycle tracks and rural routing. We were humbled by the expressions of good wishes and kindness along the way.
God’s creation is truly marvellous. I found myself musing: “Who does Richard Dawkins praise when he sees the beauty of the natural world?” As for me, Psalm 103 was very much in my mind as the Psalmist exalts the Lord for his many wonders. Although slogging up the A9 near Perth in torrential rain was a more humbling experience!
Our final stop-off at the home of Christian Focus was a treat, a lovely rural setting near Tain. To see first hand the entrepreneurial vision for Reformed Christian Publishing was very refreshing.
Of course, we were acutely aware that we weren’t the first to make such a daring trip, particularly as we crossed into Scotland and were caught in a traffic jam of cyclists all trying to take a photo of Gretna!
Nevertheless, this was a matter of dogged discipline (20 miles to coffee; 20 miles to lunch; 20 miles to tea and then overnight stop!). We were thankful for good health, largely good weather, and very minor bike problems.
We cycled to raise funds to supplement student teaching resources at Wycliffe Hall. Out of the target of £10,000 a little over half of that has been raised so far. Donations are still trickling in.
But, finally, as I return to my desk for less physically rigorous activity, it is good to remember Paul’s wise words: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
Wycliffe in 2010
Wycliffe Hall is an evangelical theological college with 100 full time students, located in the fine city of Oxford. Wycliffe is a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford. Over half of the student body are Ordinands in the Church of England, the rest of our students come from various denominations, and from around the world, pursuing qualifications up to Doctoral level.
The 1877 Trust deed of Wycliffe Hall, signed by all members of the Hall Council, emphasises a Protestant interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles, atonement, justification, the sacraments, priesthood and the Bible. This is the rich heritage in which Wycliffe Hall stands.
Throughout its existence Wycliffe has identified itself as an Anglican Evangelical Theological College. In practice this means that we have represented in our community those who would describe themselves as conservative, those who would call themselves charismatic and those who would have a more reflective or contemplative spirituality. We believe that this gives us a genuine depth and richness which enhances our community and equips those preparing for ministry within the Church.
Our Chapel services include daily worship using the range of services in Common Worship (and Book of Common Prayer), Scripture readings, a combination of organ, keyboard, and guitar for sung worship. Students lead and preach, taking responsibility, along with their tutors; our weekly Holy Communion service often includes a guest preacher. Other services include a weekly student led Complin service and occasional prayer meetings and a Taize style service.
The three principal parts of ordinand life at Wycliffe are Academic learning, Ministry Training and Spiritual formation. All students study towards an Oxford University qualification (Diploma in Theological and Pastoral Training, C.Th. B.Th., B.A., M.Th. D. Phil). Wycliffe’s academic results have consistently been high, with the Hall in the top two positions in the Norrington table for at least the last 5 years. Amongst the Tutorial staff we have (8 Doctorates) and (91 years of parochial experience)! Our recent staff appointments have deliberately sought to hold together academic excellence and recent parochial experience.
Ministry training is undertaken by practitioners and we place particular emphasis on the ministry gifts of Leadership, Preaching, Church Growth and Christian Apologetics. Students will spend some of their time at Wycliffe in Pastoral placements which take place in churches of very different sizes and demography to enable them to experience worship in contexts which are different to their sending Church and range from rural parishes across Oxfordshire to larger City Churches with a more student emphasis. Many students elect to use their placements to experience a Churchmanship with which they are not familiar.
Spiritual formation lies at the heart of everything we do. Some formation happens within the formal curriculum, including writing a Pastoral Reflection on a long summer placement, or writing an essay on Worship, or on a style of Pastoral Counselling. All students meet with their personal tutor formally at least once per term, and informally on a regular basis along with the other 11 members of their fellowship group. They will undertake the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and spend an intense week considering the spiritual aspects of Church leadership. The communal experience of rubbing shoulders with men and women from different backgrounds over meals, worship, sport and informal conversation is often very significant for personal devotion and spiritual development. When put alongside the active mentoring of students by Tutors throughout their time here, the two or three years at Wycliffe Hall can be the most spiritually formative period of an ordinand’s life.
Men & Women in Ministry
Wycliffe holds together the “Two Integrities” which are currently evident in contemporary Anglican Church life. Two of our full time academic staff are ordained women who along with a substantial number of students and fellow tutors hold to a more egalitarian approach. Others, both on the staff and in the student body, hold to a more complementarian approach to men and women in ministry. What is important for us is that Wycliffe is a place where differences of viewpoint may be acknowledged, discussed and allowed an equal place alongside each other.
Focus Days and Integration Study Weeks spend considerable time discussing the ministry and personal implications of academic training. For example, an annual Focus Day on Men and Women in Leadership involves a debate between two tutors who have divergent views in this area and allows students to hear a passionate and clear presentation of both positions. Additionally, the Focus Day on Human Sexuality recognises the pertinence of a related current issue in the Anglican Communion, wrestles with the biblical text and concludes by seeking to encourage students to be aware of the conclusions of “Some Issues in Human Sexuality” (and other Church House publications) whilst exercising positive love, overcoming prejudice and showing compassion to the struggles of many in this area of human sexuality.
Wycliffe is a thriving community which continues to train some of the finest men and women for 21st Century Church of England Ministry. We consider that our best ambassadors are the students themselves. We hope that Bishops and DDO’s will take up our invitation to visit the Hall and experience student life here. Students will happily share of the positive and negative experiences of Residential training in the Hall and give a balanced impression of what it is like to be a student at Wycliffe.
Revd Dr Simon Vibert
Vice Principal Wycliffe Hall
Many thanks to all who responded to my two questions:
1. Who is your most favorite living preacher(s) to listen to?
2. Can you name what it is that they do that makes you listen?
I polled students and those on my email address book; I also received a number of results via my Facebook page. So far, over 200 people have replied. I do not intend to produce a “most favorite preacher” list (which would be unedifying). Moreover, my survey was intended to give a “gut” reaction rather than a scientific survey.
The purpose of the survey is twofold
- It assists me in writing the book “Things which 12 popular preachers do well”;
- The observations made about preaching and preachers will end up becoming part of a soon-to-be launched website on preaching and preachers.
I shared the following comments with my students recently:-
1. Good preachers manifest Humanity (vulnerability, empathy, warmth), Humour (Story-telling, insight); Holiness (Spirit’s presence, unction, awe, Christ-centered); Heartiness (anointing, urgent, passion). As Jonathan Edwards put it: there is Heat & Light. This is not the totality of things which good preachers do well, but they certainly feature highly in the congregations sense that the preacher has enabled them to meet with the living God through their sermon.
2. Whilst some of the top preachers include, in no particular order (although I now feel like one of X Factor judges!): John Piper, Simon Ponsonby, Mark Driscoll, Rico Tice, Christopher Ash, John Stott, Tim Keller, Dick Lucas (and there were many more!) – I agree with the comment that someone made: “I would put down (…) as my favorite ‘big name’ preacher, but in fact, the faithful week-in-week out preaching of my local Vicar is what nourishes me as a Christian.” I am not interested in starting a guru mentality or personality cult, but rather, I would like us to learn from those who preach well and understand why they connect with us.
3. Finally, I think Tim Keller is spot on when he says to preachers:
If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be–someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people’s struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.
I have much more to say in this topic, so watch this space!
Bishops’ Inspection 2008 Wycliffe Hall welcomes the Bishops’ Inspection report arising out of a thorough week of inspection in November 2008. We are encouraged that they found that ‘the Hall displays a rich mosaic of evangelical traditions,’ commend the clarity of our ‘common purpose that unites staff and students,’ and affirm our aims and purposes in ‘preaching, teaching, pastoral care and evangelism.’ We also agree with them that significant goodwill exists within the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oxford; that the academic, administrative and support staff work together well with a sense of corporate direction.
Commendation is made of the good academic results achieved by Wycliffe students and corporate and communal life in the Hall is observed to be healthy. The Inspectors point out that Wycliffe has gone through a period of major restructuring including significant staff change. Whilst they acknowledge that adjustments and rebuilding needs to continue to happen, we are pleased that they feel that the structures are in place for Wycliffe to go from strength to strength.
We rejoice in the fact that the Inspectors have stated their full confidence in Wycliffe’s ‘ministerial and spiritual formation’. We are grateful for the affirmation of our revised programme of Integrated Study Weeks and Focus Days as ‘excellent expressions of best practice and as effective means of integrating theology and practice.’ For many years Wycliffe has sought to give significant attention to the formational aspects of training alongside academic development and practical ministry skills. In the area of ‘practical and pastoral theology’, we look forward to working on the recommendations for greater theological and pastoral reflection deploying the ‘collective expertise’ recognised by the Inspectors as already present in the staff team. As new staff become established and continue with the development of this department we anticipate much progress in this area. Wycliffe is also grateful for the many additional and positive recommendations which we shall be working hard to ensure are implemented over the short and mid term.
Revd Dr Richard Turnbull (Principal)
Revd Dr Simon Vibert (Vice Principal)
Revd Dr Peter Walker (Associate Vice Principal)
Revd Will Donaldson (Director of Christian Leadership)
Helen Mitchell (Director of Administration)
Graham Robinson (Finance Bursar)
Dr Benno van den Toren (Dean of Faculty)
The Senior Management Team Wycliffe Hall
17th March 2009
Secondly, later in the morning, I joined the St Ebbes joint congregations meeting in Oxford Town Hall. Combining together the seven congregations gave a congregation of 700-800 people. It was good to be among a large gathering of young adults who are enthusiastic for the Lord and Mission, many of whom will soon be in parishes around the country. It is also good to remember that the Gospel still is attractive and student churches which clearly proclaim the good news about Jesus buck the national trends and grow. Vaughan Roberts did a great job reminding people that the Lord’s Prayer invites us to pray. We need to know to whom we are speaking before we can have a meaningful conversation, and that God, is, unlike any in the world religions, one who we can call Father.
Finally, this evening, I went to hear another student preach in Merton College Chapel in Oxford. This was a very formal sung Evening Prayer. The choir was amazing. The acoustics in the Chapel are very good, and the Chapel is often used by the BBC to record. There were about 25 in the choir and maybe 40 in the congregation. It was enjoyable and the music was very high quality. Personally I enjoyed both the volume and informality of the drums, guitars and singers in the morning as well as the marvellous formal music tradition found in the Chapel tonight.
What are my conclusions about the experience of three very different corporate worship services today? They are very tentative. I actually enjoyed all three services and I think that there is a place for the diversity of church which I have been in today. However I also think I feel that the age profile and numerical attendance at the St Ebbes service does speak volumes as to what young adults need to hear today. However, I feel challenged that the growing churches seem to be located in University Towns or suburbia in the South East of England with largely ‘yuppie’ congregations.
I think that the vision of the Church of England is sound. But we do need faithfully to reach the diverse communities and localities in which it is located … which requires us to be outsider-friendly and mission minded up and down the land. There is a nation which needs to be won for the Gospel of Christ, and that should shape everything we do in the church and in the communities in which they are located.
- Preparing for suffering with the help of Job
- Existential Threats
- Some biblical wisdom on dealing with Stress and Worry
- The Hunger Games – Christian Review
- Wouldn’t you like to be a castaway?
- Lessons from the Long Distance Cycle Ride
- An Easter Word for Exhausted Preachers
- the agnostic, the atheist and the Christian
- Tim & Kathy Keller “The Meaning of Marriage”
- resources for training preachers in Osijek, Croatia
- with great thankfulness to John Stott
- a tall story
- back from the dead
- Bible by the Beach
- Big Ben
- Big Issue
- Bishop of Rochester
- Charlie Cleverly
- Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
- Christian Focus
- Christian Leaders
- Don Carson
- Egyptian Plagues
- Episcopal Church
- fellowship of word and spirit
- Fundraising Bike Ride
- General Synod
- John Piper
- John Stott
- John the Baptist
- John's Gospel
- Millennium Wheel
- New Testament
- Nigel Biggar
- no-go areas
- Oxford Church
- Professor Wotton
- reformed theological serminary
- Richard Turnbull
- Rowan Williams
- shi'i law
- Simon Vibert
- Son of God
- Song of God
- St Aldates Church
- St Paul's cathedral
- third millennium ministries
- wycliffe hall
- wycliffe hall students