The meeting room, for the first commissioning service of the Union School of Theology (UST), was nearly full, mostly of campus students, both degree and from the International Foundation Course.
Jonathan Stephen also introduced representatives from learning communities in England and Wales: Hull, Liverpool, London, Eastbourne, Worthing, Oxford and Porthcawl. Excitingly, there were even representatives from Athens and Rome! The sense of unity and community were tangible.
Academic dean Dr Cor Bennema introduced a sample of students from a range of the courses and settings, united in their desire to know the Lord better and to make him known.
UST president Professor Mike Reeves preached most helpfully from Proverbs 1:7, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’. He wondered if some us would be disappointed in his choice of subject.
For example, why would he not preach on the grace or love of God? But he explained this fear is not that which repels the unbeliever, but is to do with an elevated and awesome view of God.
God’s majesty and beauty attract the believer in humble adoration. When we see the Lord as he is and the loveliness of the Saviour, we are stripped of pride and the desire for lesser things. Such an appreciation is a good starting place for student and teacher alike.
It is also the crucial mentality for a future church leader: able to pursue a righteous but unpopular path, without fearing men’s faces, yet always with grace and kindness.
Pastoral dean Rev. Phil Hill referred to the passing of a spiritual giant, Rev. Vernon Higham, but spoke of the excitement of being involved in the spiritual formation of a new generation of Christian leaders. The meeting was followed by an excellent buffet lunch and warm fellowship.