Ben Adams, a student of Candler School of Theology, Emory University, studied the Diploma in Theology for Ministry at Wesley House in the 2016/17 academic year. Below is his speech given at the reopening of the college during that year.
This rebirth of Wesley House has given it a unique place in global theological education and I’d love to share some of those experiences with you.
The first is the richness of the academic experience. The coursework through the Faculty of Divinity, the Cambridge Theological Federation and Wesley House has allowed me to take this year to explore and dive deeply into the subject areas that interest me most- which for me is largely at the crossroads of political theology and racial reconciliation. The wealth of resources of Wesley House are once again available to us in the library which was closed for much of the year- but it goes without saying that we now have the most beautiful library in the Federation. My favourite aspect of the new space is the theological design of the library. With windows both in the courtyard and facing Jesus Lane, the library reminds us that we must always take what we’ve learned and be able to apply it on the street. In the ivory tower that is the University of Cambridge, that can sometimes be lost; but Wesley House has kept its Wesley roots: the world is our parish.
The second piece, and probably the one which most drew me to this place, was the global nature of this space. Not only does Wesley House attract students from across the globe, but as it is entering phase two of its existence it is also sending students out into the globe. Sam was able to go to Rome for three weeks over Christmas and I just returned from a month in the Holy Land over Easter. I can say with certainty that spending that month in the Holy Land has done everything theological education is intended to do- force me to simultaneously consider big theological themes and the day-to-day lives of others. Witness God’s presence in the world and practice ministry. And strengthen my personal faith. While in the Holy Land I not only experienced the rare collision of Orthodox and Western Christianity’s sharing the same Holy Week, but I also volunteered with several of the Methodist Church’s ecumenical partners who are working to walk alongside Palestinians and Israeli’s as they suffer through the never-ending conflict of the construct of the wall, and the policies that seek to divide rather than unite. Interestingly my Holy Land experience was on the heels of an experience I had had earlier in the Lent term. I sit on the General Commission on Religion and Race for the United Methodist Church and our winter board meeting was held in San Diego California. One of those days was spent on the board of the U.S. and Mexico listening and learning from those who are most impacted by the border and its policies. These two experiences have been a significant part of my theological education and I’m so grateful to Wesley House for being able to facilitate such a transformation opportunity.
But of all the things for which I am grateful from Wesley House it’s the richness of its spiritual life that comes from living in an intentional community. There’s a joke that seminary of theological training is where your faith goes to die. That’s not true here. I am so glad that that is a cornerstone of this community- it doesn’t happen too often in the states. At the heart of this college is our chapel, and the times of prayer and worship are what define the rhythms of the day. As we live and learn together, and develop greater proximity to one another, so too do we gain closer proximity to God. The joke about losing your faith doesn’t apply to me and it’s because I’ve lived here.
Wesley House is a unique theological college. One that is academically strong, globally rich, and thriving spiritual.