by Assistant Bishop Tim Harris
The experience of being on a journey is a major motif in Scripture. The bigger journeys are well known: Israel’s journey to the promised land, the return from exile, and of course our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem.
A second feature of such journeys isless well recognised: the journey is very frequently an occasion to gather community. We travel in good company, and others are invited to join with us. There are lessons to learn as we travel varied landscapes, and as a community we support each other through the whole range of experiences and demands along the way.
The journey experience has certainly been true of St Barnabas College over many years, and no less so in recent times. One of the truths about journeying is that you can’t see around corners, and most often we can’t see what is just over the horizon. This is where faith and confidence that God goes before us comes in—and makes life exciting!
Our journey has taken quite a few unexpected turns over the past 18 months. At the time these have been disconcerting, and more than a little unsettling. We are enormously appreciative of the support and understanding of our students, as we have navigated a whole series of transitions.
We are no less appreciative of our supporters as they have expressed interest in developments and exhibited significant patience and trust as we have worked our way through various options and major decisions.
Our journey has been both a literal experience, from Brooklyn Park to Hindmarsh, and now to our long-term home in the St Barnabas Building, North Adelaide, and a spiritual journey of faith.
God’s providential hand
Now that we’ve moved through the doors and explored the possibilities for our new home, we have been struck by two powerful perceptions: a strong sense of at last finding a true ‘home’ (and of course coming home to where we first started) and also what a great fit the new building is for our needs as a College.
To be honest, we never dared to hope for the ease with which we have been able to move in, get ourselves set up, and now open our doors. God is good! Through the twists and turns of the past year or more, God has guided us to a home that is more spacious and provides for our needs at every point. If we had a metaphorical wish list as a College, the new site pretty much ticks off everything on our list and more (well, perhaps except for onsite parking...)!
We have seen God’s providence in other ways as well. Through a range of circumstances a new member of staff has come into our midst. Mrs Ros Devenish has moved to Adelaide from Melbourne as part of her husband Stuart’s work commitments. Ros has significant experience and understanding of theological colleges as learning communities, having worked at the Melbourne School of Theology for a number of years.
More specially, Ros is an accomplished administrator within educational contexts, with an extensive background as an experienced librarian, including working with Chinese resources (one of our planned ‘niche’ areas). We are delighted Ros has accepted our offer of a combined role as academic administrator and voluntary librarian.
Joining of pathways and travel partners
The journey motif applies no less to the convergence of pathways otherwise unknown when the journeys commenced. One of the costly factors that weighed on us as we left Brooklyn Park was leaving the ACD library conveniently on site.
In itself this was not a sufficiently large enough consideration to continue in a site that was no longer serving our needs as a College. The place of libraries is changing profoundly in the 21st century, but the ready availability of key books is nonetheless a significant concern.
Little were we to know at that stage that for the past thirty years or so a private collector in Canberra had set about purchasing (almost) every English text published relating to biblical studies, theology and mission. It was the vision of Clive and Lynea Rogers to one day bequeath this remarkable collection of very up-to-date theological books to a theological college, at that time as yet unknown.
The hope to receive an extensively resourced contemporary theological library as a ‘package’ would defy the most ambitious of leaders in establishing a new home for a college, having just farewelled our stakes in another context.
The gifting of this collection, and the enormous goodwill and support in which this gift is making its way to us is again a truly encouraging sign of God’s going before us.
So, books were packed into many hundreds of boxes, placed into three shipping containers before making their way to Adelaide. As this article is being written we have just opened and inspected the shipping containers, and are planning the next stage of unpacking and getting books onto shelves. Let us just say that any volunteers with a love of books are most welcome to contact the College!
Our plan for the library is to establish it as a research library. This means that the collection will be available for access and use within the St Barnabas Building, with the availability of study areas and workspace for students, researchers, writers and the general public.
The new building as symbol
The new configuration of the St Barnabas Building now stands as a profound symbol for our life as a Diocese, and our various ministries in that capacity. The default mode for many theological colleges isto be relatively independent and located at some distance from other centres of ministry. While the benefit may be in gaining space for reflection and uncluttered thought, the downside is that some ‘distance’ may develop between colleges and other branches of life as a Diocese.
No location is perfect (what is close for some is distant to others), but the co- location of St Barnabas sharing the same reception and common space as diocesan office is more than a convenience: it represents a significant closing of any gaps between the College and the life of the wider Diocese. We are partners in the same mission and ministry, and looking to be as supportive of each other in any way possible. Add to that the Cathedral and St Mark’s College over the road, and quite a precinct is being developed.
The vision is for the St Barnabas Building to also be a hub for a range of diocesan ministries, including Diocesan Archives, ABM-SA, and also a redeveloped resource collection for the viewing and use by our many parishes and other areasof ministry. Our hope is to improve communication, and to provide an Anglican marketplace with space for face- to-face meetings and other gatherings.
Coming home and new beginnings
As you come in the main door to the St Barnabas Building there is a heritage plaque immediately to your right. This plaque acknowledges the ‘Former St. Barnabas College’, built as it was in 1880 to provide a home for local candidates training for Holy Orders at that time.
It is good that this former life of St Barnabas College is acknowledged, and it does represent a wonderful ‘full circle’ in the life of the College. In a literal sense, we are coming back to our roots, to where it all started.
It is no less significant to look to the future. We now occupy a very different world, and life outside our doors has changed dramatically since 1880. Yet we proclaim the same good news of Jesus Christ, and the precious gospel traditions passed on and entrusted to us are grounded in truths that are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
We do not live in the past, and our calling is to represent Christ in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century. Equipping all who have a passion for ministry, lay and ordained, with an understanding in equal measure of gospel traditions and life in all its dimensions and experiences is the vision that lies before us.
Our need for Friends
The people of our Diocese are our primary stakeholders. We are here to serve the Diocese, and especially in equipping lay and ordained people for whatever sphere of ministry God calls them to.
As our journeying continues, we continue the process of gathering a company of fellow travellers and a community of the people of God drawn from a rich diversity of cultures and personalities.
We would not be where we are without the generous support of many, including those who have gone before us and in whose foresight we now enjoy the resources we do. Yet there is much to be done, and we need our supporters more than ever.
It is our intention to reconstitute the ‘Friends of St Barnabas’, and as we explore possibilities in deepening and extending our ministry as a College community, we ask all to consider becoming a partner in this vital area of ministry and as we seek to leave a great legacy for generations to come.