And so we begin!

September is upon us! We’re so excited to welcome back our returning students and meet all of those who are just beginning their journey here. We thought we’d find out a bit more about a handful of our new students, their testimonies and passions, and how they have been led to study at Moorlands College.


Joy Giritharan

I wasn’t born into a Christian family because my parents were Hindus and Joy wasn’t actually the name given to me at birth; I was named after a Hindu goddess.

Joy Giritharan
First year BA student, Christchurch campus-based

I was born and brought up in Barnet, but my parents are originally from Sri Lanka! I wasn’t born into a Christian family because my parents were Hindus and Joy wasn’t actually the name given to me at birth; I was named after a Hindu goddess. It was in 2009 when Christ revealed himself to us and showed us his grace and unconditional love when helping us through some difficulties we were facing as a family. The year after, my family and I got baptised and that was the day I was given the name Joy. I chose to change my name completely because I had a new identity and that was in Jesus. Since then I have never failed to thank God for his great mercies and faithfulness towards me and my family. At my church, I have been involved with helping out in Sunday school with younger ones and I’ve had so much fun doing it!

When I failed the first year of my A levels I literally felt like my world was going to collapse. I had no clue on what to do next and whom to turn to. I felt like a disappointment and failure. That was the time when I truly asked God to show me his plan for my future. Even after becoming a Christian, I still believed that I could do things by myself. All those years I was planning my own life but when I asked God to show me his plan I knew he would open doors for me. And he did! He opened the door of theology and he also helped me do better in my A levels! Over the past two years I’ve grown to obey Christ more and more and slowly understand his will for my life and that going to Bible college is part of his plan. I’ve learnt that the plans that God has for us are greater than the ones we make ourselves.

I’m very excited to see God mould me into the person he wants me to be during the next three years at Moorlands College!


Nigel Bailey

I feel driven to plant new churches and to disciple and mentor people who wish to grow in their faith.

Nigel Bailey
First year BA student, Christchurch placement-based

An atheist until age 18, my life was changed in 1981 when I was dragged to church by a girlfriend at Methodist Central Hall, Plymouth. Coming from the ‘outside’ meant that I have never felt bound by denominational constraints. This has manifest itself in my pursuing the work of helping Methodist churches and the Pioneer Church Network partner in projects around the UK. I have experienced a deep sense of calling to ministry but do not feel that this is to be found through a conventional Methodist presbyteral ‘candidating’ journey. I have served in many ways in the church; administratively, in Sunday school, in leadership, but for the most part through music; I sing, play guitar, lead a worship band and am also a Methodist Local Preacher.

God has planted in me a desire to raise up new leaders, to equip the Church with people who are so excited and passionate about Jesus and so filled with the Holy Spirit, that they cannot help but give their faith away. I feel driven to plant new churches and to disciple and mentor people who wish to grow in their faith. In 2016 I started New Song Café in Southampton, a worship community that meets monthly around sung worship, coffee and cake; it is designed to be accessible and interdenominational; a place to which believers can confidently invite those who are un-churched. Also in 2016 I launched CATCH (Creating A Transformational Church)—a young adults discipleship group; the name nicely states its purpose. I am Godfather to two of the group members and have shed tears of joy as they have made baptismal promises. Outside of church I am a keen photographer and videographer; a hobby I combine with wild camping and a YouTube vlog of my expeditions. I am so looking forward to building new foundations for my faith through the BA at Moorlands College. There is always so much more that God has to reveal to us and he has blessed me with a hunger to come to know him ever more intimately. That is what this three years is about.


Suzanne Magee

I went on to attend Soul Survivor, where I was filled with the Holy spirit. I left my job and went on a few missions trips, mainly to Africa

Suzanne Magee
First year BA student, Midlands placement-based

I come from a non-Christian family, although I was encouraged to attend Sunday school. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God until I was 19 years old. I was introduced to Chawn Hill Christian Centre, by a friend who I attended college with, where I first became aware of God’s presence. I went on to attend Soul Survivor, where I was filled with the Holy spirit. I left my job and went on a few missions trips, mainly to Africa and after some time I went on to attend a Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). God then led me to attend a Christian counselling school in London and through these experiences, I began to understand God’s heart for me and what it means to be ‘community’ and ‘family’.

I’m from Stourbridge, West Midlands and have been married for ten years and have two children of primary school age. Since becoming a homemaker and stay-at-home mum, I have been volunteering and serving at church. This has included doing family work, opening our home to people and facilitating coffee mornings for new mums. Through the people I have met and the conversations I’ve had and praying, I have realised there is more for me to learn: “there’s always more with the Lord”. My husband and church are in full support of me and I’m really excited to be starting a family ministry within my home church. I’m looking forward to being challenged, to grow and meet new people at Moorlands College.


Jonathan Phipps

I told my friends I was going on a date, but really I went to an evening church service with my friend and her family.

Jonathan Phipps
First year BA student, South West placement-based

I grew up in South Devon but have lived in North Cornwall for the last six years, and since then my wife and I have become part of an awesome little community.

I became a Christian through a friend at university in Bath. I told my friends I was going on a date, but really I went to an evening church service with my friend and her family. It wasn’t really until six months later, when I moved to a little village in Cornwall called Polzeath, where I really started to have a deep relationship with God and fully delve into my new-found faith.

At this point I met the co-founders of a project called the Tubestation, which is a church set up to share the gospel with the surfing community. They invited me to join a band they played in called the Grenaways, and a few months later I got the job of running the Tubestation café. Whilst I was part of this amazing project I was mentored by the pastor of the church and discovered the hope that we have and share as Christians. This inspired me to create projects to help people get closer to God, bring people together and to show everyone the importance of a life filled with faith. My favourite projects were the caravan chapel, a project set up to be a Christian influence in a seasonal workers’ campsite, and the Tubestation community garden.

After four years of running the café I felt my life being pulled into a different direction that included church leadership and pastoral work. Over this time I have found a passion for studying the Bible and teaching what I have learnt to anyone that will listen. This has lead me to where I am now, and I am super excited for the future and for being part of Moorlands College in the South West.


Zoe Elsdon

I was brought up being taken to church. My parents thought this was the right thing to do… Things haven’t always been easy since then but God has continuously been my rock.

Zoe Elsdon
First year BA student, South West placement-based

I grew up in Torbay, Devon, and although I was raised in a non-Christian family, I was brought up being taken to church. My parents thought this was the right thing to do, as they too had been taken to church as children. When I was 11, I went to Devon Christian Youth Camps (DCYC) for the first time and that was where I gave my life to Christ. Things haven’t always been easy since then but God has continuously been my rock.

Since leaving school I have had various jobs in social care and retail settings as well as volunteering with youth clubs and uniformed organisations. However, in 2016 I felt God calling me to change my direction towards working with Children and Young people. In the September, I started studying with South West Youth Ministries (SWYM) on their ‘Be Transformed’ course with a placement in Children and Families work. It has been a challenging year in which I have learnt so much, I have grown deeper in my relationship with God and I have gained so much valuable experience.

I’m excited to be starting the BA with Moorlands College as I know God can only build on all that he has done through me this past year.


Rosie Graham

I felt God was prompting me to start my Master’s degree. It was something I had thought about before, but had neither the time nor the means to do it. Within a week, he had provided everything!

Rosie Graham
First year MA student

I was born in London and grew up in a strong Christian family, with a Pastor for a dad, and became a Christian at a young age. When I was 11 my parents felt it was right to leave London, so we moved to Essex where my dad continued to be a pastor at a new church and where I regularly got involved with the various things going on. When it was time to go to university I found God sending me to Moorlands College to do my BA in Applied Theology, something I had never considered but absolutely loved.

I am now still in the Essex area but with my husband Pete, whom I met at Moorlands College back in 2010. I work for a schools work charity that go into all the primary and secondary schools in and around our town taking lessons, lunch time clubs, assemblies and support groups or one-to-ones. I am also involved in various things at our church from running the women’s prayer and breakfast events to youth sessions and family services.

At the beginning of this year I felt God was prompting me to start my Master’s degree. It was something I had thought about before, but had neither the time nor the means to do it. Within a week, he had provided everything! I am excited to further my studies in Applied Theology, with an emphasis on Christian Leadership and am open to learn all I can. I am looking forward to meeting others and sharing in discussion and fellowship and to take what I learn and study into my day to day work to glorify him. I am so grateful to have this opportunity and cannot wait to begin! (Let’s hope I remember one or two things about essay writing in the few years I’ve been away!)


Pete Graham

I was born in Jersey, Channel Islands… I had a desire to go to Bible college and soon began my BA in Applied Theology at Moorlands College. I met my wife at Moorlands and we now live in Essex.

Peter Graham
First year MA student

I was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, and whilst I grew up in a faithful Christian home it took me some years to come to Christ in relationship. As I became more interested in the Bible, I had a desire to go to Bible college and soon began my BA in Applied Theology at Moorlands College. I met my wife at Moorlands and we now live in Essex.

Today I work for a church that is very active in the community, and am involved in projects ranging from Foodbank and prayer meetings for the elderly, to youth group sessions and men’s groups. I have found my degree helpful in both preaching and teaching, as well as and serving Christ in the community. I am excited to begin the MA in Applied Theology to further my knowledge and understanding, and to equip me in bringing theology into people’s everyday lives and struggles in a relevant way.


Matt Towler

I have really grown in my faith and never would have thought of going to a Bible college, but I feel like God has led me this far.

Matt Towler
Foundation Year student

I grew up in a Christian home but lost interest when I became a teenager. It was only when I was invited to go to a Christian youth festival where I fully became a Christian. I gave my life to Christ and ever since, my outlook on life has been changed. I have really grown in my faith and never would have thought of going to a Bible college, but I feel like God has led me this far. I now go to Bransgore Community Church and have been involved in many church projects, including helping with a dementia café and the church youth group. I have come to know God and that He wants a relationship with us, so that is why I’m drawn to learning more of the Bible. I am very excited for the future and my walk with God.


Freya Hargreaves

God made it clear to me that he wanted me to become a youth worker, not a nurse. I suddenly found myself faced with a choice: My way? Or God’s way?

Freya Hargreaves
Foundation Year student

I was born in Portsmouth, where I lived for three and a half years before moving just outside to Waterlooville, where I have lived for the past 15 years. I was raised in a Christian home and don’t remember a time when I haven’t known God and his incredible love for us all. Over the years, particularly my early teenage years, my faith has wavered. I’ve questioned it and doubted it, but always came back to the conclusion that God loves me and I couldn’t do life without him. Ever since I can remember I had always planned to become a nurse. However, I have since realised that God’s plan for my life is very different, and better, than mine.

When I finished my GCSE’s in 2016, I really felt like God wanted me to take a Gap Year serving in my church. As I started working in my church I experienced God in a way I never have before. I learnt one of the most important lessons I think I could ever learn; ‘to let go and let God.’ Throughout this year, God has completely changed my life. I have been pushed as far outside my comfort zone as I think it is possible to get, but I have loved every minute of it and have seen God working in amazing ways. On top of this, half way through the year, God made it clear to me that he wanted me to become a youth worker, not a nurse. I suddenly found myself faced with a choice: My way? Or God’s way?

After a lot of thinking and prayer I chose to go God’s way and applied to study at Moorlands College. I am now a very different person to at the start of this year, and have a much stronger, deeper faith and knowledge of God’s presence in my life. I am so excited to find out what else God has planned for my life, especially as I take this next step and start studying at Moorlands College!

 

A time to (re)build?

Ruth Coffey

The month of September. The start of a new term usually meant getting new shoes and perhaps a new uniform. Both would indicate just how much you have grown in the previous 12 months. It also meant (and this will indicate my age, perhaps!) new pens and colouring crayons. Or at least you would spend an hour or two sharpening your old ones.

September is often the time for new beginnings: starting school has produced plenty of pictures on Facebook and other social media as we have captured that historical moment of shoes that gleam, and clothes that look slightly too big (to allow for growth), and a tentative smile.

It’s also a time for new educational courses and new church programmes. Everything gets going again.

It heralds the end of a summer with its different schedules and holidays, and draws in early Christmas thoughts as shops begin the countdown.

For Moorlands College life, and especially the staff, it demands final preparations for another year, another cohort of students with new programmes and timetables.

So how is September for you? Is it exciting because you love change and uncertainty? You’re raring to go into the unknown? Ready for anything life throws at you? Or, like most of us, I suspect, a little nervous, wishing it was June again or Christmas was already here.

The challenge is that many of us can be prepared fully for what we know is coming but still encounter uncertainty. There can be a difficult diagnosis, an unexpected death, a sudden job redundancy or a Hurricane Irma.

With these unexpected events, we can prepare for the possibility and in some cases the inevitability, but at that moment how do we cope?

On many of the news bulletins concerning the hurricanes in the Caribbean there have been warnings: get out, and get out now. One man stated he was not moving as his property had storm proof windows and was made of solid brick. He had prepared well. But he was to face the same storm as everyone else. For many they lost all their possessions, and some their lives.

Being prepared is commendable, being prepared is sensible. But in those new beginnings and unknowns, where does our trust lie?

Jesus told many parables, earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. He told one that compares two builders (Matthew 7:24–27). He was a carpenter by trade so knew about shoddy workmanship. But he was not highlighting a bad building job, he was commenting on the foundations. A good foundation for a new build will help stand against storms. The worst weather will not move it! He went on to say that a wise builder builds on wise words that have been listened to and acted upon. But a stupid builder will hear instructions and not act on them.

The shortcuts in building regulations are seen clearly through the tragedy of Grenfell Tower. Now, investigations of that case have exposed the shocking reality that only two per cent of similar UK council tower blocks have full sprinkler systems.  A wise builder will hear and act on those instructions.

At this new beginning, wherever we are, so should we.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

Ruth Coffey is Foundation Year Leader at Moorlands College.

Defeat = Victory. Neighbour = Enemy. Bible = Truth?

Dr Chris Sinkinson

Whatever Donald Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, intended by using the term ‘alternative facts’, she successfully coined a phrase that will ensure her place in history.

In a televised interview discussing the 2017 Presidential inauguration she was responding with alternative facts to the general consensus that the attendance had not been high. Quick as a flash, the interviewer responded, “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

Conway had probably only meant that the disagreements over the numbers at Trump’s inauguration were based on incomplete evidence. What she meant by alternative facts were probably ‘additional’ facts or ‘ignored’ facts (though perhaps I am being generous here). However, the language plays into the impression that truth is relative—specially for governments—and can be made to suit any purpose of those in power. Apparently, in the wake of Conway’s comments, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 rocketed. His description of a dystopian future in which government used “Newspeak” to control the masses was taken by many to be prescient. The world of 1984 has plausibility with its descriptions of the Thought Police and Big Brother because, in a sense, we know it has always been this way. Whether it is Stalinist Russia, Hitler’s Europe or Kim Jong-un’s North Korea there is little surprise in reading political statements that bear no relation to objective reality.

Governments have understood that power requires control and that includes the manipulation of knowledge through language. Describing a defeat as a victory, or a neighbour as an enemy, is a useful way of shaping the attitude of a nation. Remarkable examples from the ancient world abound.

When we are asked why the ancient Egyptians provide no unambiguous record of the Exodus we should remember the antiquity of ‘newspeak’. The Egyptians did not record defeats or failures. One of the greatest chariot battles fought in ancient history was the confrontation between the Egyptians and the Hittites on the plain of Kadesh in 1274BC. The battle is recorded in great detail by Ramesses II and, since the decipherment of hieroglyphics, well known to scholars. Having initially suffered a set back as a result of being lured into an ambush, Ramesses had bravely and successfully organized a counter attack on the Hittites and delivered defeat upon them, driving them home. At least that was the story known to scholars until early in the 20th century.

 

[We] should remember the antiquity of ‘newspeak’. The Egyptians did not record defeats or failures.

 

Then in 1906 excavations began in Turkey at the ruins of Hattusa, capital city of the ancient Hittites. There, among the remains was a vast royal library of clay tablets. Among the 10,000 documents were three copies of the Treaty of Kadesh. At last, it was possible to read about this same great battle but from the perspective of the losers. And it turned out that they did not consider themselves to be losers. The Hittites claimed that the victory was theirs, and it had been the Egyptians who had begged for peace.

Another great example of ancient ‘newspeak’ was a selective approach to history. The British Museum displays a list of kings from the time of Ramesses II, notable for what it fails to record. King follows King apparently in seamless succession but we know from elsewhere that a number of pharaohs are absent from the record. Kings associated with the failed attempt to impose monotheism on Egypt are discreetly ignored and make no appearance in this selective history.

So it should not surprise us that some matters of interest to Biblical history are not given a place in contemporary accounts. Such records were closer to propaganda than to history and served to bolster the prestige and position of their leaders.

Is the Bible itself another example of ‘newspeak’ and propaganda? At this point, the comparison breaks down. Think of how brutally honest the biblical writers are about their leaders and kings, their people and problems. Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon were the founding fathers and heroes of Israel’s emergence. But we read of their frailties and failures. There is no attempt to whitewash their biographies or gloss over historical defeats. Isn’t it interesting that the people of God are known by the name ‘Israel’, he who struggles with God, hardly a glowing reference?

 

Is the Bible itself another example of ‘newspeak’ and propaganda? At this point, the comparison breaks down.

 

The world of alternative facts is not new and Orwell’s book remains relevant because it deals in timeless concerns with power’s manipulation of truth. Apologetics and preaching are not the business of dumbing down or selling out but of proclaiming true truth in this world of alternative facts. There is reason to be optimistic that truth will endure long after falsehoods are forgotten.

Dr Chris Sinkinson is a Lecturer in Old Testament and Apologetics at Moorlands College.

The hope of inclusive grace for excluded gangs

Colin Bennett

The BBC recently reported that police have banned 18 violent gang members from certain parts of Birmingham. Reading about the intimidation and violence that our country experiences is unsettling.

How as Christians can we respond to this? What has the Bible got to do with modern violent gangs in Britain?

Jesus was born into an age of extreme violence. It is so hard to imagine the daily acts of painful hatred and bloodshed He witnessed. And this is where the Bible also comes in terms of relevance to brutality. If the Bible were a film, then some scenes would definitely be 18-certificate rated. If you are unsure, just imagine briefly the slaughtering of the innocents in Luke 1. If you have ever seen the film The Passion, you will understand completely. We in the western world, who are under 70, have grown up as a generation that has not experienced the large-scale brutality of previous generations. It is hard for us to really grasp the uncertainty, daily threats, and fear our ancestors have lived with.

This leads us back to how relevant Jesus and the Bible are to violent young gang members today. What do you think Jesus says to them?

Firstly, Jesus has compassion on each of them. He wants to help them understand who He is and who they really are. Jesus is God. He made each young person in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He alone can help them to be free from the chains of sin and to experience life with God. Even one of the 12 disciples, Simon the Zealot, was a violent gang member. Yet Jesus chose Simon to be one of His disciples who was responsible for the spread of Christianity. Jesus wants a relationship with each one of these young people. He wants them to be His disciples today.

 

Simon the Zealot, was a violent gang member. Yet Jesus chose Simon to be one of His disciples

 

Secondly, we all have baggage. This can hinder us in our lives massively. Every person I have met has a story of baggage that has hindered them in some way. Baggage handling is challenging; whether it is something that has happened to them, their family, or their friends. The first step in overcoming baggage is owning it. Confession is good for the soul and being able to yield to God all of our fears, failings and sin is a wise move for anyone.

It is vitally important for the young person who wants to be a violent gang member. In my role as a youth worker, I have met some young people like this and often the root of their baggage is fear. Fear of being weak, or seen as weak; fear of ending up a failure (“not like my Dad!”). Psychology teaches that fear can easily turn anyone to fighting or fleeing. 1 John 4:18 teaches us that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.”

For adolescents, the fear of being alone is massive. I once worked with a violent gang who used to physically and mentally bully one of their members mercilessly. I asked the boy why he stayed in the group. He said, “It is better than being alone.” He truly needed Jesus to break through and deal with this fear. This is where the Church steps in!

 

I once worked with a violent gang who used to physically and mentally bully one of their members mercilessly… He said, “It is better than being alone.”

 

Thirdly, the strongest gang in the world is the Church of Jesus Christ. His family holds love as the key. The perfect love of Christ, shared by His family, is able to overcome all obstacles—even the most violent gangs and their members. Ultimately, fear is unstable as a foundation. The loving family of God is more secure and stable than any violent gang, because it is based on love. A tough and tender love that leads to an eternal hope (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). Not hate and fear. Not one that decays, as all gangs eventually will.

And yes, we all need Jesus just as much as any desperate gang member does. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We need him to lead us by His Holy Spirit through life and into our heavenly home.

Forever in God’s joyful heaven. Amen.

Colin Bennett is our Vice Principal (Development) and Director of Training for Community and Family Studies.

Revisiting the Same Old Truths

At New Wine 2017 last week, Helen Morris appreciated the chance to learn new things alongside a crowd of thousands of other Christians. Being challenged, growing in knowledge, and developing fresh approaches to our thinking are all an exciting part of our faith.

But they’re not the most important things. The Christian faith needs depth, as well as breadth—and a recent college trip to Israel reminded Helen of the importance of keeping our eyes focused on the same, old, ancient truths.

Plant a Tree

Martin Luther is once credited as saying, “If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.” Alistair McKitterick, a lecturer at Moorlands College, explores whether this saying contains a helpful biblical principle.

In particular, he questions whether the world even has an end. And if getting to heaven is not the Christian’s end goal, how and where will we ultimately dwell with God?