Saturday 16 May was a full day for staff and students at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST). In the morning there was an Open Day for prospective students. After a hearty lunch, at 2.30pm the end-of-term thanksgiving service was held. This brought along more staff and students, with supporters, friends and relatives of students.
The service was led by the principal, Jonathan Stephen. Mike Reeves read Ephesians 3:7-13 and 4:25 – 5:5 and prayed. The principal commented on the happy atmosphere through the year and pleasing spiritual development of the students.
He spoke about recent trends in training that had seen the closure of three campuses of mainstream theological colleges and declining numbers elsewhere. It was not the case that fewer men were being called to preach, but that the system for their training needed to be reformed. Union had been WEST’s response to that need for change, which saw distance learning concentrated within learning communities of local churches. By September 2016, it will be clearer what the pattern of learning communities will be throughout UK and beyond. WEST was a hub for training leaders for churches in this post-Christian age, and prayer was needed for WEST’s staff and the hugely supportive Sarang Church.
Some leaving students were interviewed and reports of others unable to attend were read out.
Ruth Hefferman is seeking the Lord’s leading to mission work home or abroad. Outgoing student president, Ewan Jones, will be working part-time in a local church while continuing studies part-time in the MA course. Simon Mao, originally from China, was waiting to hear from a church, while Mark Bateman had combined distance learning with duties as assistant pastor in Lausanne, Switzerland. He will also go on to the MA course. Gill Williams said she had benefited greatly from her studies and looked forward to serving her local church more formally.
Borth-based evangelist, Dan Priddy, enthused about the MTh course. Tim Wilson, from the same course, is to be assistant pastor in a church in north-west England. Ian Thompson, who has ministered in both Peru and Poland, said he would be recommending WEST to others.
Three representatives of the International Foundation Course were interviewed at the service. They were from Chongshin Theological Seminary in South Korea, and each spoke of the benefit to their English language learning and walk with the Lord. They paid tribute to the friendliness of the British students, the local churches and the academic and support staff. Local pastor, Jim Grindell, prayed for them all.
The preacher was Dr Paul Blackham of Soul Church, Neath, who took as his text Ephesians 3:10: ‘His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’. He contrasted the temporal hope on offer from politicians, such as education, healthcare and jobs, with eternal salvation through the gospel ministered by the church. The local church is a lighthouse of hope, he said.
God is working his purposes out through the church. It follows that to serve the church is an immense privilege. Local churches are messy and yet God works in power through them for his purposes. The day was concluded by a convivial buffet tea.