A New Season awaits St Barnabas College

by Rev'd Dr Matthew Anstey

When I was asked to write a reflection on my eight years as Principal of St Barnabas College, I thought of many things.

I thought of just how amazing the journey has been – exhilarating and yet daunting, energising and yet testing. It’s been all this and more.

I thought of all the people I could thank for their contribution to the life of the College – staff, students, lecturers, colleagues, friends, lay and ordained folk in the Diocese and the Province – and realised it would take the rest of the article if I named them all! So instead, I name just four very special people towards the end of the article.

I thought of the many highlights of the last eight years:

  • Staff & Lecturers: we’ve been blessed by staff and lecturers and volunteers from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Uniting, Baptist, Salvation Army, Greek Orthodox, Churches of Christ, Pentecostal, and Lutheran churches, who come from all sorts of different ministry and life and cultural and theological perspectives, bringing a wealth of wisdom, experience, and expertise. I’ve loved working at the College with a wonderful array of people who so generously give of their gifts and time and passion.
  •  Students: it’s been fantastic to see growth in student enrolments, especially of lay students, but also of students from a diversity of denominations and age groups and theological traditions. The growth in students undertaking honours and doctoral programs has been a particular highlight.
  • Visiting Scholars: we’ve been blessed with the public lecture by Professor Miroslav Volf; the month-long visit by Professor Ellen Charry (our Inaugural Visiting Theologian) and the two conferences she participated in, Flourishing in Faith: Theology and Positive Psychology, and The National Anglican Women’s Conference; the two-week visit of Professor Richard Middleton in 2017; and guest lectures by scholars such as Dr Stephen Barton, Dr James Alison, Professor Dorothy Lee, Dr Ben Myers, and Professor Liz MacKinlay.
  • The New Library: it goes without saying that the donation of 75,000 books to the College in 2015 was a transformative event in the life of the College. This year we commenced borrowing for students and staff and in 2018 the hope is to extend this to the general public. This is a gift which keeps on giving.
  • The Return to St Barnabas: the move in 2015 to the original St Barnabas Building opposite the Cathedral was very significant and placed the College in the heart of the Diocese. Yes, parking is not ideal, but overall, it’s fabulous being back where the College was founded in 1880.
  • The 2016 Rebranding: the whole process of stakeholder research, scoping, planning, revising the new brand story of the College – Encouraging people to know and love God through learning in community – was a unique opportunity for the College to articulate its identity more clearly and reposition itself in the market more strategically. (And we love the new logo and colour scheme and website too!)

I also thought of all the lessons learned and hopefully wisdom gained, both personally and institutionally.

At an institutional level, St Barnabas College has had to remain agile, flexible, and innovative in the ever-changing theological education sector. This has been challenging at times, because balancing the needs of academic studies vis-à-vis those of transformative ministry training and formation requires constant attention and care. And finding ways to offer learning opportunities in theology and Scripture for people across the Diocese means we’ve had to build our capacity to deliver creative and relevant content. Such challenges will remain.

At a personal level, I want to acknowledge and thank by name four very special people: Liz my wife, and our children, Tayah, Rhianna, and Jaden. They have been more impacted by St Barnabas College than just about anyone, even though none of them has enrolled! And though this impact at times has been tough, we have come to love Adelaide dearly and our decision to remain here as a family after I conclude as Principal brings us much joy. It’s a big change for us at many levels and the continuity of friendships and schools and the Anglican community here is very important and a gift to us. We are very much looking forward to the next season of life that our good God will bring us.

And, finally, I thought of the future of St Barnabas College.

It remains my firm belief that theological education is vital to the future of the church and its mission. Each generation of Christians, be they priests or poets or potters or public servants, must relearn the grand story of God (and some must learn it in Hebrew and Greek), and how all the parts of this story fit together, and how the story is refracted through culture and yet also responds to the pressing issues each context poses.

And so, each generation in its own way must nurture its theologians: those (at times peculiar creatures!) amongst us who devote themselves to pondering the most important questions about the most important matters that there are.

And one of the reasons I love Anglicanism is that it “gets” this, and it gets that this pondering, this nurturing, this vocatio, is undertaken in the midst of a community immersed in prayer, in Eucharist, in mission, and, no less, in suffering. And it gets that, in a very real sense, this calling is undertaken by us all, theologians large and small.

Thus it is my firm belief that we will always need places like St Barnabas College. And well might one believe, given the unfolding calamities of the twenty-first century, that theological colleges like St Barnabas College are needed more now than ever before.