Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Queens Foundation - a place of excellence

Yesterday the Vice-President and I visited the Queen's Foundation and met with the staff and the students. We talked together, worshiped together and shared meals together and I came away energised by the encounters and carrying an olive tree (more about that later).

This picture shows Daleep and I with the staff, the Methodist Students and the overseas students. We were in the chapel because it was pouring with rain outside.

Had we been able to take the photograph outside we would have been joined by the rest of those who had been at lunch with us, and there would have been about 130 people, that is about half the total number of those who form the vibrant, diverse and gifted community here.

Our day began at lunch-time, when Daleep and I were able to talk with some of the Methodist Students. It is still quite early in the first term for the first year students but they were clearly enthusiastic and engaged. It was good to meet Tim, who had candidated from the Darlington District (where I am Chair) and to see him playing in the music group at worship in the evening.

After lunch we met with the staff. It was a joy to be able to spend time listening to and sharing with this group of highly skilled, academic and gracious colleagues. The past two years have not been easy for any of our training institutions, including Queens. I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, excellence and grace of the tutors here. I would have loved to have spent much more time with them and would grab any opportunity to share with them or to learn from them, the students here are very well served.

Some of the staff of the Queens Foundation - From the left - Back row: Revd Gary Hall, Simon Sutcliffe, Deacon Eunice Attwood, Revd Dr Judith Rossall, Dr Rachel Starr, Revd Dr Joseph Suray, Deacon Kerry Scarlett, Revd Sam McBratney. Front row: Revd Helen Cameron (Senior Methodist Tutor), Daleep, Ruth, Revd Canon Dr David Hewlett (Principal)
After the conversation with the staff we met a group of students and were led in this session by Daleep. There was an engaging and lively discussion on the theme of global discipleship. The group of students included a number of the overseas students who came from Kenya, Zambia, and India; our conversation was enriched by them. The links with the world church are foundational in this community as are the strong ecumenical links. Of course, the students from Britain were equally varied in their background and were just as engaged in the conversation.

With the staff and overseas students
We had a break for a cup of tea and some cake and then Daleep and I were able to talk with Helen and David. It was good to have that opportunity.

After a full and interesting afternoon we went to the chapel for Foundation Worship. The chapel was very full with over 80 students and staff. Helen presided at this communion service, I preached and Daleep led the intercessions. The gospel was read in Tamil, the Lord's prayer was spoken in many different languages, hymns and songs were sung from varied traditions and nations. All of this helped us to recognise and rejoice in the diversity of God's people.

After supper and the opportunity to talk to another group of students during the meal, I left Queens feeling nourished, challenged and thankful for this community which is such an important part of the Methodist Church in Britain.

Please pray for the staff and the students here at a transitional, exciting and challenging time. And please, give thanks for this gift to the connexion.

I left Queens with the gift of an olive tree. This had been an important symbol in the worship there during the first part of the week, worship that was linked to Psalm 52:

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
for ever and ever.
(Ps 52:8)

I will cherish my olive tree and will remember the chapel in which it was the focal point of a community's worship. I pray that this community will continue to grow and to flourish and will be given the nourishment, resources and support to do so.

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