Winter Variety 2017

Our Christchurch campus-based students recently took to the stage and treated us to singing, dancing, amusing music videos and the ultimate third-year performance at our end of term Winter Variety show.

Additionally, our humorous Christchurch academic staff team created this comedic video which was a great surprise to our students…

Student article: Moorlands College Israel Tour 2017

Above: Moorlands College students on the Israel Tour 2017 (Chris Humphries, pictured on the left.)


Have you ever wanted to visit Israel? A benefit of being a Moorlands College undergraduate student is the opportunity to visit Israel with lecturer Dr Chris Sinkinson. Chris Humphries (pictured) recently graduated from our BA in Applied Theology and is now studying on our MA in Applied Theology course. He shares his experiences of the tour in this latest blog post, focusing on the sights and how he sees them in light of scripture.

Postcards From The Promised Land by Christopher Humphries

A ten-day trip (to anywhere) is highly unlikely to permit a person to return home with a complete picture of where they have just been. But even ten days is enough to learn a great deal; for at least some preconceptions (and even prejudices) about a place to be dispelled; and despite its relentlessly frenetic itinerary, our visit to Israel this summer turned out to be such a time as that.

Above: Panorama of Jerusalem


On paper, it promised to be little more than a staccato series of diverse samples: bite-sized appetisers each calling for a fuller serving at a later date. Each day was to be filled with up to five different destinations: too many to do justice to any of them, surely! And yet (perhaps because of there having been so much preparation before the trip) these marked the beginning of something more far-reaching and profound. What follows is a part of that new understanding: a handful of reflective “literary snapshots” or, as I have called them, “Postcards from the Promised Land”.

Within The Walls: Along The Bustling Via Dolorosa

Above: The Kidron Valley

Above: The Mount of Olives


We were walking a route that Jesus walked: out of Jerusalem and over to Gethsemane across the Kidron Valley. Then, sitting peacefully on the Mount of Olives, gazing across to Jerusalem’s eastern wall, we heard the call go out for Friday prayers, jarring us out of our first century reverie. Thus drawn back to present realities, we walked back into the old city, its streets beginning to stir once more with life after their Friday rest. Burning bright sunlight gave way to shady cool; but the busy, narrow streets, flowing with people going this way and that, shops and shoppers strung out along them; the bright colours of the market stalls, the flashes of sunlight reaching down, the stalls arrayed along the way – the sights, the sounds, the smells – all so distracting and devoid of peace! How could the faithful ever enjoy a “spiritual” moment with all this around them?

Above: Streets waking up on a Friday evening


The answer, for me, as it turned out, depended not so much on requiring a particular kind of “spiritual moment” (as if there were only the “tranquil” one), but more on the emergence of profound moments when least expected. Although I loved walking through those characterful medieval streets in Old Jerusalem, I could not have felt much less conventionally “spiritual” (although I must add that I felt in no way separated from God – indeed, I was aware of an underlying joy being present throughout the entire visit). But a peaceful, meditative feeling? A so-called “mountain-top-experience”? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I later discovered something extraordinary, for consider: I was walking through streets in a city where Jesus walked, in a culture not so far removed from the one he knew, and as I did so, I began to realise that my experiences were like those of his. The noise and bustle, which so precluded tranquillity, instead provided something equally precious in their own way: authenticity. This was, for me, a step closer to the world in which he lived; something that brought alive anew his life, his works, and his teaching.

The Western Wall: Through Jerusalem by Night

Above: The Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque


My first visit to the Western Wall came as part of a largely unplanned walk out into the old city. It was at the end of only our first day, and we had been out exploring throughout all its sunlit hours – so wisdom counselled rest for the evening. But, excitement and curiosity said otherwise. A small group of us had already discussed the idea of going out, and that small group only grew as the moment of departure approached – so much so that we were, in the end, quite a crowd, breaking forth from the safety of the hotel. Across the road we went, through one of the ancient doorways in the medieval walls, and on into the mysteries of night-time Jerusalem. The night was seething with summer warmth, the streets thronging and vibrant. There were celebrations, music; a light-show on a synagogue, and so many people.

Above: The Western Wall Plaza


The Western Wall Plaza was therefore a fascinating contrast to all this merriment. Floodlit throughout, its night-time cradle was reached only through a metal-detector barrier. Overlooked by mosque and wall, it contained an air of threatening enchantment, though its expanse still bubbled with life. Donning a skull-cap (kindly donated), I walked across the plaza to stand before the wall. Resting my hand very gently against that ancient stone, I spoke to the same God as those around me, grateful for the freedom to pray a mere stone’s throw from where Yahweh once spoke to Abraham. An unplanned walk, an unanticipated stop, an unexpected blessing.

Walled Off Where Walls Began To Fall: Bethlehem

Above: The land around Bethlehem


Bethlehem! Birthplace of the Messiah – the Christ: the one who would deliver the Lord’s people from oppression and inaugurate a new age: the Kingdom of God.

Bethlehem! Where walls divide people from people: a place where (seemingly) the Lord’s people oppress by means indistinguishable from their ancient foes. How can this be? Why is it so? What went wrong (and how to put it right)?

By the time we had reached the place where Jesus had entered the world, even the handful of days in Jerusalem had been enough for me to realise that, no matter what I may encounter in Bethlehem, there was no easy solution. A continuous blending of observation with conversation had impressed upon me that the problem was complex. But one thing I knew: regardless of what I saw (whether walls and guard towers daubed with graffiti, or a severed town cut off from its land), the origin of that problem lay elsewhere, and any lasting solution would require that problem to be solved first, before real change could be effected. In the meantime, I also knew that no individual need accept what may be wrong, nor need they forget what once took place here. Rather, the fact of Jesus’ birth could scarcely be more vivid for the visitor to Bethlehem; and the need for the one who can reconcile God with humanity scarcely more evident.

Above: The separation barrier at Bethlehem


The Church of the Nativity lies clothed in swaddling-scaffold, courtesy of the United Nations and countless years of campaigning. The eyes of the world are drawn by Banksy’s brilliant art to the plight of the beleaguered Palestinians, while faithful Palestinian Christians in their dwindling numbers find their own cause missed by all (or so it seems). It is a place where despair finds easy expression, for in some ways it typifies the rift in society; the gulf between peoples whose faith forbids the sharing of God’s earth one with the other. Can both be right? (Surely not!) Would that meeker souls would one day prevail and receive the true peace-maker! On that day, true peace would come to that little town of Bethlehem.

By the middle of the next morning, we were gone; but Bethlehem was not gone from our hearts. Its essential work done, we took with us a memory, and a stronger resolve to see the hearts of people changed and lives made better. I pray that carried away in every pilgrim’s heart will be a longing to see that dream become reality.

Above: Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee


The City on a Hill

It had been an almost indescribably busy day. That morning we had left Bethlehem, skirting the separation wall as we went; making our way east across to Jericho. And there, down on the plains of the Jordan Valley, we strode out towards Tell es-Sultan while temperatures soared to forty-six degrees Celsius – marvelling at ten-thousand-year-old towers in ancient Jericho. We had swum in hot springs at Sakhne, deliciously and ironically refreshing in contrast to the searing air. And then we were straight back in the ancient world, climbing the tell at Beit She’an. Drenched in heat, we gazed out over the earthquake-torn vista of Roman Scythopolis below, remembering that, a millennium before the Romans, it was there on these walls that the bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung by the Philistines. But, no sooner had we begun to drink it all in than we were off on the coach again, transported from that ancient layer-cake to a contemporary Jewish supermarket where, suddenly, we were playing guessing-games with Hebrew labels in our attempts to buy food for the following days of exploration.

You can probably imagine how we felt as our coach drew up to our hotel that evening – our third in three nights. But tiredness vanished as we saw, by the light of a glowing sunset, the beautiful rooms that were to be our home by the Sea of Galilee. After a shower and dinner, even though night had fallen, a few of us went off exploring, so eager were we to see the sea where Jesus lived. Off into the seething semi-lit darkness we walked, down to the beach and out along a stone pier, to a place where we could begin to take in our sublime surroundings. The temperature was hovering around thirty-degrees. Lights twinkled mysteriously out across the water on the Golan Heights. To our right, beyond a rocky silhouette, perched high on a hill, was the breath-taking spectacle of Tiberias: pre-eminent town of Galilee in both first and twenty first centuries, a fairy-light tablecloth splayed out over the promontory whose sparkling reflections in the lake below were enchanting in the moonlight. Our hotel was at Nof Ginosar, not a name that meant anything to me, but recognition became easier when “Ginosar” became “Gennesaret”, and “Gennesaret”, “Kinnereth.” In Kinnereth one finds oneself back with Moses and Joshua; while at Gennesaret one is right there in Galilee with Jesus. What a place to stay!

Above: Mount Hermon


Fresh Hope from God: Revelation in a Psalm

One Sunday morning, not long after our return, I was sitting in church, and the sermon that morning was inspired by Psalm 42. The Bible reading was, appropriately, the words of the Psalm: familiar words which, to me, though still meaningful, had somehow lost their impact because of that very familiarity. So perhaps it was that expectation of the familiar that made me almost jump when the reader reached the sixth and seventh verses:

6My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

Above: Tel Dan Banias Suspended Trail


As soon as I heard the words: the mention of Hermon, the roar of the waterfalls – I found myself transported immediately back to Tel Dan, seeing in my mind that same waterfall, remembering the sight of wave-upon-wave; and feeling the longing in the psalmist’s heart for the land of promise. It may sound trite, inconsequential – a resonance beyond need of reference; but for me it was not. I revisited the Psalm with renewed interest, and found that the phrase “deep calls to deep” (something I had always found perplexing) conveyed, in poetic Hebrew, the sense of waves being so close together they could call out to each other: a relentless succession of onslaughts threatening to overwhelm the poor psalmist. And yet that same symbol of torment was drawn from a precious memory of the land the Lord himself had given them, tangible evidence of his faithfulness. It was a means of reminding Israel of his power, of his willingness to forgive, and, ultimately, of his desire to deliver them from disaster.

Above: Nimrod Fortress overlooking the Golan Heights


A place worth visiting

Before leaving for Israel, I had decided (gently but firmly) not to have any great expectations. I had heard from other people that visitors to holy sites were often met instead by unholy sights: an unwelcome cacophony of trinket sellers hoping to persuade the pious to make a purchase. But were not busy, bustling market places just as much a part of Jesus’ life as any quiet sanctuary? Did not he also have to seek out quiet places for himself? For such is real life, and it was into this real world that he came. As Christians, we speak often of “The Word made Flesh”, a vivid description of God become fully human: but was that human God not also an inhabitant of the human world? The sun and sand, the lakes and light: would these not be as he had seen and felt them? And the towns and cities: were they not frequently noisy, smelly and overwhelming for him too? For me, this Palestine was therefore a real reflection of what it might have been for him: a destination which was, more than anything else, genuine. The fact that I had also experienced profound moments of surprising peace – at times and places unexpected – was a blessing over and above those already received. I had come to a land I had fallen in love with; an unforgettable place I hope one day to visit again.

Above: And to conclude, a few of those in Chris’ Biblical Backgrounds module


 

Graduate article: Physicist to published theologian

Myles MacBean, a graduate from our Class of 2016, shares his testimony and how God has led him to become a published author. 

Stepping out with God

In the last few months I have often been asked how I got from being a physicist to being a ‘published theologian’, and the honest answer would be that only the Lord really knows!

God certainly gave me a character that meant from an early age I loved the challenge and fulfilment of making things. As a schoolboy, it was making plastic model aircraft. In my twenties as a physicist, it was making microscopic quantum electronic devices. In my thirties, it was creating new-fangled internet services. In my forties, it was engaging the imagination of families around the world as I helped make Disney’s digital entertainment and run Disney’s online business.

God also chose to break into my life in a very personal way in my late teens, to disciple me especially through my local Youth Fellowship and through Scripture Union Scotland, and to continue shaping me through church leadership roles from a relatively young age. And, looking back, I can recognise that God continued to shape traits in me that worked across, and wove together, my professional and spiritual life: a gift for forming, equipping and releasing teams of people to excel; a fascination for the principles of communicating effectively, and a passion for simply making things happen.

But then, in 2012…crisis hit!  Looking back on that time in hindsight, I had not been listening carefully enough to God for a while and it took God putting me through a year of tribulation for me to listen. Overnight, a sweet-tasting and fulfilling career in industry turned to sand in my mouth until – in desperation – I renewed my surrender to God’s will.

Above: Myles’ cohort when studying his MA in Applied Theology with us at Moorlands College.


Quite quickly this led me to Moorlands College, as I gave up business life and made the time for theology studies. Despite my concern that as a scientist and business man I had never written a humanities style academic essay in my life, the Moorlands College approach to the MA in Applied Theology was a perfect match for me. Its modular structure gives the mature believer with academic/professional experience the time to seek future ministry opportunities while also ‘retraining’ in theology; the ‘applied theology’ approach encourages such students to bring all their professional, life and church experience to bare in a very beneficial way; and the focus on ‘practice’ allows us to immediately use what we learn at Moorlands in our ministry as we fit all our years of experience within new theological frameworks.

This academically rigorous, practical theological grounding I received at Moorlands certainly gave my wife and I additional confidence as we stepped out with God anew in 2014 and – in a move that turned out to be a greater surprise to us than our friends and family – end up on the mission field in Malawi with Zambesi Mission. Acting as Church Development Partners, for the last three years we have been able to deploy all our life-skills for the benefit of the church in Malawi while also learning so many things about ourselves, about God and about his world.

Above: Out in the mission field of Malawi


Here in Malawi, I have been able to further my Moorlands-encouraged passion in preaching and preacher training: carrying out field research for my MA dissertation on how best to create contextual, scalable and sustainable grassroots preacher training in sub-Saharan Africa and then – among other things – developing such a grassroots training program that is now rolling out across Malawi.

And so that is how a physicist gets to being a ‘published theologian’ – by stepping out with God! First I was able to combine a small piece of my Malawi field data with a piece of work I did for an MA assignment on preaching set by Chris Sinkinson and see it published in Evangelical Review of Theology. [1.] Then, encouraged by evaluation feedback from Ian Coffey, I have also recently completed reworking my dissertation into a book due for release by Apostolos Publishing in January 2018 [2.] and is available now for pre-order.

At the end of November 2017, Ruth and I return to the UK at the end of our three-year assignment. Please pray for us as we seek to discern how we should be stepping out with God next.

Above: Myles’ latest book, Preach the Word: Towards effective grassroots preacher training in sub-Saharan Africa, available for pre-order now.


You can find out more about Ruth and Myles’s time in Malawi, and follow them as they continue seeking to step out with God, by visiting their blog at www.steppingoutwithgod.com 

References

[1.] Myles MacBean, “The Homiletic Window: A model for reflective preaching praxis”, Evangelical Review of Theology, 41:3, 2017, 209-221.

[2.] Myles MacBean, Preach the Word: Towards effective grassroots preacher training in sub-Saharan Africa, London: Apostolos Publishing, 2018. (See http://www.apostolos-publishing.com/product/preach-the-word)

A Reformation for today?



On the anniversary marking the beginning of the Reformation, our Director of Postgraduate Studies, Chris Jack, celebrates the magnitude of what Luther set in motion, 500 years ago.

Over the months and decades that followed Luther’s actions in Wittenberg, he and his fellow reformers saw great change sweep through not only the Church, but all of Europe—theologically, politically, socially and culturally.

“Always reforming” was one of the Reformation’s watch words, and Chris wonders what Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other reformers would think of the Church in our day and age. Was the reformers’ work complete, or would they encourage us to cultivate a new spirit of reformation in the Church today?

Graduation 2017

Over 90 BA and MA graduates from Moorlands College recently celebrated the completion of their Applied Theology degrees. In the tranquil setting of Christchurch Priory, more than 70 per cent of the undergraduates were awarded with a 2:1 or First Class Honours degree. Our graduates, their guests and the Moorlands College staff team joined together to celebrate the success of its student community.

Dr Paul Nyquist, President of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and guest speaker at the celebratory service, spoke of the impact the graduates would have in the world today. Reflecting on recent news and current affairs, he asked, “How does God want us to walk out in a world like today? He wants each of us to have a heart that is totally His.”

The Class of 2017 was the biggest year we’ve had so far, with students from all three of our regional centres coming together to celebrate the completion of their studies. We also celebrated the success of our Midlands Regional Centre, which was originally set up in 2014 and saw its first group of students graduate this year.

Above: A few of our Midlands Regional Centre graduates with Sharon Prior (Senior Tutor/Lecturer), Rachel Retallick-Cheel (Centre Manager) and Colin Bennett (Vice Principal of Development).


At each graduation service, we present an outstanding student with the Academic Prize to commend them for their efforts. Jonathan Senior, who graduated with a BA (Hons) First Class Honours in Applied Theology, won the prize this year. When discussing the achievement, Jonathan said, “I am thrilled to have received the academic award at Moorlands College. It was thanks to the quality of teaching and student feedback. After initially getting in trouble for using unnecessarily big words like ‘expostulate’ I never looked back and very much enjoyed engaging with God’s word!”

Above: Academic Prize winner and Christchurch campus-based graduate Jonathan Senior (centred) with his parents.


Many of our graduates will now take up roles as church leaders, children’s and youth pastors, teachers, evangelists, charity workers, missionaries and church planters across the UK and beyond.

Megan Barrett graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) Applied Theology (Youth and Community Work). She is now beginning her career working with Message Wales, a project working with schools, prisons, communities and local churches to share the good news of Jesus.

Above: One of our Class of 2017 graduates, Megan Barrett.


Megan shared, “My experience studying at Moorlands College was challenging and hard, but also incredibly fun and life transforming. It not only continued to stir up my passion for studying the Bible, but it also equipped me with the tools to be able to study God’s Word at an even deeper level. I am so thankful that God called me to Moorlands College and I cannot wait to see Him continue to do amazing things in my life, and in the lives of the young people that I’ll meet in my role with Message Wales.”

The 2017 graduates, from both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, were as follows:

BA (Hons) Applied Theology: Daniel Alcock, Rachel Bate, Christopher Benbow, Anna Boorman, Michael Britton, David Brock, Rebecca Brown, Sophie Canfield, Amy Capner, Damien Chambers, George Cook, Emma Cribben, David Duche-Ruilova, Debra Durrant, Daniela Eisentraeger, Matthew Evans, Giles Fairman-Bourn, Benjamin Fitzsimmonds, Zoe Gorton, Simeon Grimshaw, Graham Hayes, Maren Hedermann, Jonathan Hillman, Amy Hitchmough, Melissa Hobbs, Joshua Hooker, Christopher Humphries, Ruth Jones, Thomas Langston, Nathan Leigh, Mark McEvoy, Linnea Madeleine Murray, Paul Muzzall, Lee Pollit, Jonathan Schnarr, Alexander Scott, Jonathan Senior, Matthew Smith, Lucy Stone, Paul Sutton, Craig-Sweeney-Essex, Jodi Thomas, Clarissa Vanstone, Peter Wallace, Daniel Warren and Jessica Williamson.

BA (Hons) Applied Theology (Youth and Community Work): Christopher Adams, Christopher Bancroft, Megan Barrett, Daniel Bennett, Adam Brown, Tabitha Crawforth, Fiona Cursiter, Samuel Dallimore, Israel Douglas, Hannah Fenton, Samuel Hughes, Daniel Knight, Timothy Ogutu, Amie Ramsden, Scott Rushby, Ruth Slade, Joshua Taylor, Jessica Walker, George Wortley and Alison Wright.

MA Applied Theology: Nicholas Arkley, Carelle Begley, Clair Bent, Simon Burin, Derek Dayman, Simon Ellis, James Findlay, Robin Gerrard, Andrew Gaudion, Aaron Griffin, Wayne Hadley, Mark Macklin, David Sharples, Neil Tinson, Steven Watson and Michael Wildsmith.

MA Applied Theology (Youth and Community Work): Emma Holland

Certificate of Higher Education Applied Theology: Mikael Blacklock, Daniel Connold, Thomas James, Emmie Mwembo and Joshua Soal.

Postgraduate Certificate Applied Theology: Joshua Butler, Maureen Pimenta, Andrew Smallridge and Thomas Ward.

Postgraduate Diploma Applied Theology: Kimberley Dean, Darlington Machingauta and Greg Whittick.

Above: More of our grads from the Class of 2017.