The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The installation of Dr Cyndy Lumley as the Principal of Westfield House was a happy event yesterday.

A little background … two points … Westfield House is the ELCE’s Theological House of Stud-ies. It began in 1962 and is in a rather special position these days by offering access, supervi-sion, and support to University of London degree courses (as an external campus), having her students attending lectures at the University of Cambridge (though they are not University of Cambridge students) and teaching Lutheran theological and pastoral subjects in-house. Most students are from overseas though there is a small stream of ELCE students (may that increase!) as well. The position of Principal was created after a strategic review last year in light of the large increase in bureaucracy, the ongoing need for promotion, and the desire to establish a diaconal programme of studies.
Dr Lumley has been involved in the ELCE for a very long time and active at Christ Church, Petts Wood, before coming to study at Westfield House and then heading over to the US (Concordia Theological Semi-nary Fort Wayne) for diaconal studies. There she stayed supporting students in their diaconal studies. The invitation to become the first Principal was very much a return home.

So back to yesterday. The weather was glorious. The pews had few empty spaces. There were lots of greetings and jokes and laughter before and after the installation service (everyone demonstrated decorum during the service) because there was very much a family feel to the day. Many people travelled many hours to attend. Someone special was ‘home’. Even this year’s students who’ve just finished the first week of lectures were incorporated and participated (and helped out) in the afternoon. I was doing my usual ELCE / The British Lutheran paparazzi thing, clicking away. After the formal photos, a student came to me and asked whether I’d take a group photo. Sure. He was getting all the students together – remember that they’ve come from different institutions and most have only just met – for a group photo with the Principal. I took the photos and they were good – everyone was smiling and excited. They were making personal memories.

The organisation was making a memory too. I had organised some formal photos – the usual type – ELCE officials and Westfield House faculty. But unlike the old class photos at school, this school photo was requested by the students. Theological education is a distinct discipline and in university history, one of the oldest fields of study (together with law and medicine). There is simply a lot to learn. (It can be very book-ish.) Like lots of tertiary study, you’re on your own in your studies, even if there are other students with you. But yesterday – these disparate students – seemed already a group – and wanted a group photo.

That struck me as interesting. I’m sure that there are many places of learning where the student body is keen to be together and work together. What I observed wasn’t unique as such but I did think that if the result of theological education isn’t community and growth in relationships, then something is missing. I think Westfield House is off to a good start!  — GS