Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wesley College, Bristol

From Birmingham I travelled on to Bristol to visit Wesley College in Bristol. I was welcomed by the principal Revd Dr Jonathan Pye and his wife Denise. Bristol has been a place of Methodist training and education for many years, although the current College was only built in the 1950s. It is an impressive building set in over 10 acres, including protected woodland, providing a peaceful oasis for study and spiritual development in this busy city.



Since previous decisions of Conference the College community and activity has become increasingly diverse, and a student I met who has lived through the changes in the last few years commented on how much the community life had improved as a result. Currently Wesley College has around 90 students from Methodist, Catholic, Wesleyan Holiness, Anglican and other traditions as well as students from all over the world. Many live in Frances Greeves House, a purpose built set of flats next to the main building and playing field, which had been considered as the place Methodist International House in Bristol could be relocated to.



There is a particularly strong link with the Methodist Church in South Korea, with a large number of Korean students and their families living and studying at the College, who also appreciate the strong links to Methodist heritage sites in Bristol. Jonathan has visited South Korea on a number of occasions as part of this educational link.



The importance of heritage is reflected in the world class Methodist archive that is carefully looked after at the College. They have over 20,000 items in the archive which, added to the 38,000 books in the library, (also home to the large library of the Catholic Diocese of Clifton), makes this an important resource for Methodist scholars around the world. The College had planned to build a visitors centre in order to better display some of the important items they look after.



The College is also a busy conference centre and is a favourite venue for a number of health and social care professional groups. Today a group of counsellors and psychotherapists from Bath were meeting, although for the second time in a week I wasn’t able to stay long enough for a drumming workshop.


It is also the place that members of the local community may come for lunch or, as I found out this morning, even breakfast. The catering staff look out for some of the most vulnerable regulars and they clearly offer them a welcomed pastoral care.



Staff and students were clearly hurt and upset by the decision of the Methodist Council to recommend to the Conference that Wesley College should be closed. They believe they have made major strides to develop the College in recent years and are not seeking to re-visit previous decisions of the Conference. They are convinced that with only limited support from Connexional resources they could ensure Wesley College has a creative and important role to play in the future. They hope that all members of Conference will take time to carefully read the extensive Review Report that can be found on the College website.



It will clearly be an important and difficult debate at the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth, and I hope all those present will feel fully informed. Whatever the outcome, and during this time of uncertainty, we must all keep the staff, students and local community in our thoughts and prayers.

2 comments:

sylvia said...

WHY DON'T YOU GET THE LADY FROM TV OR SOMEONE LIKE HER TO MARKET THE COLLEGE?
AN AWFUL LOT OF OLDER PEOPLE WILL BE VERY UPSET IF IT CLOSES ESPECIALLY THE MANY PEOPLE WHO USE THE EXCELLENT RESTAURANT.
I AM SURE IF IT GETS TAKEN OVER AND USED AS A HOTEL OR WORSE, MADE INTO FLATS, SOMEONE WILL MAKE A KILLING. IF THEY CAN MAKE A PROFIT WHY NOT US AS METHODISTS?
MY FAMILY OF EIGHTEEN REALLY LOOK FORWARD TO VISITING THE COLLEGE.

manfred said...

I think that Staff and students were clearly hurt and upset by the decision of the Methodist Council.