3rd March 2016

Five alumni returned to Newbold College last week to speak about inclusivity in ministry during Newbold's Week of Spiritual Emphasis. Drawing on themes of friendship and unity, their own personal journeys as students, and their experiences as pastors, they spoke about how the inclusivity of the Newbold community prepared them to face challenges of inclusivity in their own churches.

Pastors Julian Thompson, Sam Gungaloo, Jonathan Holder, Matthew Herel, and Andrew Davis were classmates at Newbold, and each spoke openly about the challenges they faced as students, and the value they placed on the friendships, relationships, and networks they developed at Newbold.

Witnessing each other's struggles, they vowed that they and the rest of their WOSEclassmates would support one another so that no one was going to be left behind and they would all graduate together.

"Newbold is a close-knit environment with people of many different backgrounds and ages. As such it is naturally nurturing and inclusive", said College Chaplain, Pastor Alastair Agbaje, another Newbold alumnus. "As students, our speakers intentionally built on this aspect of College life and created a support network that continues to benefit them after graduation and into their ministerial employment."

The group keeps in touch regularly with their contemporaries from College. Sharing inspiring sermons, resources, solutions to issues and challenges they have been able to continue to move forward and continue to grow together in God.

"Newbold challenged my thinking", said Jonathan Holder, who now pastors in the Leicester area. "I came to a place where I saw Adventism being practised in a different way to what I was used to", he said. "I can see now that this was part of my preparation for an inclusive ministry, where as a pastor I meet people who are different from me, whom I have to work with and introduce to Christ, and I find myself learning through these processes."

Pastor Herel, from the Gatwick and Horley churches, described himself as an introvert who had fears about establishing relationships at Newbold. He reminded the audience of someone in the Bible who had a similar problem. "Gideon was afraid of his enemies, but to Gideon's surprise God spoke to him and called him 'mighty warrior'. God sees us for what we will become. So in 2008 when God called me to ministry, He was not basing this call on who I was then but who I would become when He had equipped me. This is true for all of us."

Pastor Agbaje said the topic of inclusivity was chosen because it is a challenge that many pastors, particularly new ones, face. "Newbold is the perfect environment to foster lasting relationships", he said. "It's a small place, and because of that tends to be a very inclusive community. It doesn't allow you to get lost and left behind! Our students and staff are open to different attitudes, theological perspectives, and are welcoming of people regardless of their background, gender, or area of study." Pastor Agbaje encourages students maximise this aspect of College life. "It is what is helping many of those who are in ministry now. At Newbold 'people' are important, and our students feel that from the students and the teachers as well. Make sure that you build your friendship groups, no matter what discipline you are studying ‒ this is going to be your support network in the future!"

Theology student Adriel Mingo attended talks during the week and said as a result heNEWBOLD had learnt that when one comes to the point where they realise they cannot meet God's expectations alone, "that is when you've come to the right place. It's then you realise that it's not about you, but about Jesus' perfection and righteousness."

Pastor Agbaje described the week as dynamic. "Each speaker allowed themselves to be vulnerable, connected with the audience, and shared their journey in an authentic manner. They shared positive memories about their time as students at Newbold and how it changed them, and they attributed this to the nurturing inclusive community on the Newbold campus."

The theme of inclusiveness was also supplemented by a workshop with Pastor Patricia Douglas from the North England Conference.

While all Theology students were encouraged to attend, Heart2Heart was designed to help female Theology students address the challenges of growing a successful ministry as a female pastor. The workshop and afternoon of fellowship that followed looked at ways for all students to make a successful transition from Newbold to full-time ministry, with a particular emphasis on female students.

"Pastor Douglas came and shared many amazing insights, focusing particularly on calling, the importance of time with God, and Christ-centred leadership", said Dee Edwards, President of the Newbold Ministerial Society. "Many of the pearls of wisdom were equally valuable for both male and female ministerial students. It was a wonderful day that really gave students confidence, and invaluable guidance. For me it highlighted the lack of theological education from a female perspective. So I was really blessed and hope Heart2Heart can be an annual event in the academic calendar to benefit all ministerial students."

[Judith Makaniankhondo / Kirsty Watkins]

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