From Tennessee Avenue to Jesus Lane
The School of Theology, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., has entered into a partnership with Westcott House, Cambridge, U.K. These two historic seminaries, both established in the 1800’s, have created a student exchange program for seminarians to experience prayer, study, and community life abroad in their middler year. The program takes place during the advent semester in Sewanee and the fall term in Cambridge.
The Rev. Dr. Benjamin King, assistant professor of Church history, and the Rev. Dr. James Turrell, associate dean for academic affairs, both of The School of Theology, felt that an integral part of a seminary education is the ability to experience Anglicanism in its many traditions. Looking to the Church’s English heritage, and with the benefit of an existing academic relationship, Westcott House was a great place to start.
Westcott House is dedicated to “pastorally and liturgically growing in compassion, creativity, and imagination to live the Gospel in every place to which God calls us.” The School of Theology shares in this formational process developing “leaders who are learned, skilled, informed by the Word of God, and committed to the mission of the church, in the Anglican tradition of forming disciples through a common life of prayer, learning, and service.” The two schools share a sense of mission to prepare clergy for service in the parish and beyond. That formed the basis for a conversation that quickly became a course of action.
The first exchange began in the summer of 2012 to allow time for the students to settle in before matriculation of the Advent/Michaelmas term. The School of Theology welcomed Lewis Connolly of Westcott House to Tennessee Avenue in Sewanee. In exchange, Alice Hodgkins, T’14, has ventured across the pond to Jesus Lane in Cambridge.
“Both seminarians are taking the same course of study that they would in their respective seminaries,” says King. “But what makes this program so attractive is the ability to see another part of the world and its church life.” King is an alumnus of Westcott House and experienced a similar program while seeking his theology degree. Both schools of theology emphasize the importance of contextual education fulfilling required time in the parishes of their surrounding community and beyond.
Connolly has begun the immersion process of living in “the South” in his final year before being ordained to the diaconate. “I heard about Sewanee’s new exchange program and I was very keen on applying,” explained Connolly. “Sewanee's academic reputation, the supreme theological library, and this being the headquarters of Education for Ministry (which is in part the subject area of my M.A. dissertation) made coming here a very good choice.”
The School of Theology received this communication from Alice and her husband, Drew, on Oct. 19:
Dear Sewanee Seminary Community,
Hello from England! I hope this e-mail finds you all well at the end of the fall break. The Westcott-Sewanee Exchange is off to a "brilliant" start! We have been warmly welcomed into the Anglican world here, and are very much enjoying the cross-cultural seminary experience. I hope to do a presentation when we return, but thought it might be nice to share some snapshots of life here, halfway through the term.
Westcott House is a part of the Cambridge Theological Federation, a group of theological colleges that house and train ordinands (postulants/candidates) for ministry in several denominations. It is one of two Anglican seminaries in Cambridge, the other being Ridley Hall, and falls in the Anglo-Catholic liturgical and theological tradition. Westcott is committed to inter-faith and ecumenical work, as well as community life. The house is beautiful, with two open garden areas, housing about 100 students, including many families. Ordinands here are required to come to chapel two times a day, for morning and evening prayer. They are also generally on attachment in Cambridge somewhere (field education equivalent). I have been attached to Gonville and Caius College (called "Keys"), and spend Sundays there as well as Thursday evenings.
Cambridge is a fascinating town - there is so much history embedded in everyday life here. For example, yesterday I went to a college, Fitzwilliam, to see a professor, and there was Charles Darwin's old house, now converted to the Master's lodgings. Cromwell's head, incredible architecture, royal lore... the presence of the past is a constant reality. It is fascinating to study alongside British seminarians here. Coming from an Episcopal seminary, the differences are tangible and fascinating. Over meals, to hear about the struggle of women as they have been denied service to the dioceses as bishops, to head off to "football", to share our own US experiences... it is great Anglican Communion bonding, and we have enjoyed building new relationships in this international environment. Academically, the experience has been wonderful. There is a lot to translate between the educational systems, but suffice it to say I am taking some classes in line with my Sewanee classmates, but have also swapped some around. One is able to take classes "in house" with the Westcott Tutors, and at the Cambridge Divinity Faculty, both of which are excellent! There is an overabundance of incredible lectures to go to as well. The worship here is gorgeous, and the experience has been very powerful for my spiritual formation.
We keep you in our prayers and look forward to studying, serving, and worshipping with you come January.
Yours in Christ,
Alice and Drew