Newness: New Year, new you?
At the New Year, there is a clamouring for people’s attention to sign up, buy into, take up, and start afresh. In some ways, SBC is no different! There’s a whole host of opportunities in this coming term to join us on a journey of discovery at SBC. In the immediate, there is still time to sign up to take a class this coming term – starting at the end of January you can join us for a class on Christian Ethics, the Practice of Pastoral Care, or Listening to Scripture. Besides that, for those already involved in ministry and with previous experience, you might be interested to join us for Creative Homiletics – exploring innovative ways to communicate. We also have a January intake for students wishing to join us on the full Bachelor of Divinity course (or come along to our Open Day in March and think about joining us in September). In 2018 take the plunge and stretch your knowledge of theology!
Where SBC differs from many of the other voices vying for your attention is in our critical distance from the phenomenon of “newness”. Often new is equated with better and so we’re encouraged to ditch the old and embrace the new. Of course, there are times where it is necessary to reform, update, or move forward – but too often the “cult” of newness forgets the importance of history, the value in the tried and tested, and the richness of tradition. The culture around us encourages us to use up and renew, rather than mend and preserve; all around us we are fed with an insatiable appetite consumption and the fanfare of the “new” obscures the reliability of the “old”.
In many sectors of society, we can see this occurring. Two examples, close to SBC’s heart: Many educational institutions have embraced forms of online / distance learning, but despite its advantages, we are now seeing a re-evaluation due to its potential negative impact on pedagogy; churches are often painted as out of touch, and despite the advantages of good contextualisation and modern forms, there is also renewed interest in the traditional. Writing in the context of church, Martyn Percy thinks
‘innovation should be judged by tradition. . . . infancy is not better than maturity; . . . simplicity is not better than the demanding and dense complexity of wisdom.’
Earlier this week, we took an afternoon to think about how we would like to see some of our classes develop – taking stock of changes in the theological and educational landscapes. We reminded ourselves of some of our core values: embedded, equipped, embodied. We are a College that is embedded – embedded in Christian tradition and embedded within a vibrant University. We are a College that looks to equip our students for the “real” world dealing with the complexities of theology and the demands of relationships. We are a College that is embodied both in our teaching pedagogy and in the development of a learning community providing friendship and mutual edification. We want to avoid being caught up by “newness”, but remain connected to our context; we want to build and develop, rather than only provide the simple or surface. At the start of a new year, why not consider joining us on the journey, not just to do something “new”, but to develop a greater sense of your place in the world.
 Percy, “Old Tricks for New Dogs?” in Evaluating Fresh Expressions, 36.