It is hard to believe that I came to Queen’s nearly five years ago to take up the position of Director of the Global Christianity Programme. It wasn’t called that then and there was great uncertainty about whether the post would even last beyond the first year. Despite the constant crises around funding, and the UK Government’s determination to make it as hard as possible for people from the Global South to enter the country and study, I look back at some of the major achievements of the last half-decade with both astonishment and a certain sense of satisfaction.
A total of thirty-five students from five continents, have benefitted from the Programme in that short time, along with a number of visiting faculty and church leaders. We have managed to secure scholarships for both Anglican and Methodist church leaders to undertake postgraduate work at Masters and doctoral level and provided a course of contextual theology to introduce them to Life in British Church and Society. From our alumnae/i, we now have two bishops, nine involved in theological education, and ten directly engaged in ministries of justice and reconciliation, including HIV work, gender justice, action on poverty and conflict transformation.
We have also hosted and organised a major international conference on Reconciliation in Methodism and beyond and a Europe-wide seminar on the role of the Church in 21st century Europe. We hope to publish proceedings of these gatherings to add to theological debate and the ongoing mission of the church.
Sadly, despite our ongoing efforts to resolve issues around funding, it has not been possible to secure a stable basis for the work of the Programme. Personally, this has taken a bit of a toll on my own health, having to lurch from crisis to crisis and facing almost constant uncertainty about my future. Like so much in the Church, there is much praise for the work, and even talk of it being ‘essential’, ‘crucial’ or ‘vital’, but no-one is prepared to provide the necessary funding. It is a salutary reminder that good and valuable work doesn’t always attract popularity or cash.
So, after five busy and productive years, I am moving on from the Queen’s Foundation in the summer. I have been given permission to study for the next two years and will be working in a local Circuit on a very part-time basis during that time. I hope also to continue to be involved in Methodist academia whilst I try to make significant progress in my research, and to continue to practice reconciliation at home and abroad. I also hope to spend part of the next year reflecting on this extraordinary experience and privilege of working alongside colleagues from around the world who have continually inspired me in my own ministry. I have learnt far more than I have taught and want to capture some of that learning for my own benefit and that of others. I don’t often use this kind of language but I feel truly blessed by the relationships I have formed in the last five years and thank all those whose life, witness and ministry, often in awful and difficult circumstances, has been a continual reminder to me of the power of the Gospel.