I’ve been teaching at Whitley College for just over a year now. During that time, I’ve formed a heap of impressions about the place. Here’s ten of ’em:
- It is a community soaked in the rhythms and practices of prayer and of Bible reading. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, staff and students gather together to read Holy Scripture and to pray for the world, the church, the denomination and congregations we serve, and for students and residents of the College. There’s something almost monastic about the place.
- It is a community – and this is not unrelated to the rhythms of prayer and of Bible reading – marked by friendship, food, and a sense of belonging. As a modern commuter college with a large number of part time students, and a significant number of more-recent arrivals to Australia, and a timetable that spreads over the whole week, this is no easy feat, but I feel that Whitley makes a really good fist of being a community marked by God’s hospitality.
- It is a community of learning and of formation. It celebrates the truth that there is no incongruity between loving God with our hearts, with our hands, and with our brains. It is, in other words, a community which encourages the integration of worship, service, and academic scholarship, each existing only in a tandem of formation with the other two in a delightful expression of the gospel’s great freedom. Whitley is sometimes charged (most often by those with little or no direct experience of the place) with being ‘liberal’. If by that is a suggestion that its faculty have abandoned commitment to the one great apostolic, catholic, and trinitarian faith of the church, then I’m yet to see any evidence that would support such a charge.
- It is a community of wonderful cohorts of students – people who are engaged with their studies, engaged with the world, and engaged in communities of faith and of Gospel service in the world. This includes an impressive and growing postgraduate community pursuing higher-level study and research.
- It is a community marked by an incredibly-rich texture of cultural and theological and other diversities. It is, in fact, a microcosm of the transposable nature of the Body of Christ. Insofar as it is this, it is also a community in which people really are served to better live in and with an increasingly diverse Australia.
- It is a community that seems to carry a unique sense of vocation – and the burdens that attend such – to serving Christians in theological education in those many under-resourced parts of our region.
- It is a community which, like God, loves the world. The world, which is on God’s heart too, matters here. Put otherwise, Whitley is characterised by a spirit of deliberate refusal to exist in some kind of religious bubble, or to let the world go to the dogs, as it were.
- It is a community that loves the church, that is always trying to ask questions of the church about how it can better serve the church’s work and witness to Jesus in the world. Being a denominational college serving in a diverse university context is never an easy space to straddle, but it seems to me that Whitley really does seek to walk that space with genuine integrity and with an attitude of service.
- It is a community which usually meets in gorgeous and conveniently-located Parkville, with great access by public transport. I take the train to Royal Park, from which it’s less than a 10-minute walk through what often feels and sounds like an avairy of parrots, and usually has me arriving at work in a good mood.
- It is a community where people testify to feeling safe and to feeling stretched – safe to explore questions that faith asks, and stretched to know that faith’s destination is as mysterious as is the journey. This is important to me.
There are, of course, other things to be said, including things about which I’m less sanguine, and these may be said in due time, but these 10 will do for now.