The new building at Wales Evangelical School of Theology (West) was packed with about 200 students, staff and supporters on 14 September for a dedication service marking the start of a new academic year.
The tone of the meeting was of thankfulness and praise to God. Most gratifying was the significant increase in the number of new undergraduate students — 27 — many of whom were introduced to the congregation.
Three were from the same congregation, Quedgley Baptist Church in Gloucester, and another two were on Fellowship of Evangelical Churches scholarships. In addition, there were several students on the six-month International Foundation Course from South Korea and Hungary.
Two of the three new academic staff members were introduced. Dr Cornelis Bennema, from the Netherlands, has been engaged in mission and theological teaching in India over the past 11 years. He is a biblical theologian and Johannine specialist.
Rev. Phil Hill, born in Bridgend, is an experienced pastor. Most recently he has been teaching Palestinians at a seminary in Nazareth, Israel. He teaches pastoral theology.
Dr Bennema read the Scriptures and Mr Hill led in prayer. The third new staff member, Dr Michael Reeves, was at a prior engagement. He was formerly UCCF’s theological adviser. As theologian-at-large, he teaches systematic theology and, in time, will supervise research at the college, and preach and teach at conferences at home and abroad.
Through the kindness of a South Wales-based Christian charity, WEST has been enabled to buy the freehold on the Bryntirion site, and the Evangelical Movement of Wales has been able to obtain new offices in Bridgend. It was a win-win for both organisations. WEST can now accommodate recent growth and plan for further expansion.
A new partnership has been agreed with Tyndale House, Cambridge, which will give WEST staff and students access to world-class research facilities.
Prayer was requested for the urgent reroofing of Bryntirion House, the visit of WEST’s Principal and Chief Operating Officer to Chicago and Phoenix, and the October board meeting in Seoul.
WEST board member, Rev. Graham John, of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Swansea, preached pointedly to the new students from 2 Corinthians 3. He posed two questions: what is the purpose of the Christian ministry and where does the power come from?
In answer, he first spoke of leaders’ need of the Lord’s people — their testimony, prayers, fellow-feeling, mentoring and encouragement. He then looked at the source of Paul’s confidence. This was not his intellect, learning or abilities, but his hold on Christ.
Like Paul, the need for godliness is primary. Effective ministry is dependent on the quality of pastors’ lives. Competence in ministry comes from God himself. Lastly, it is vital to remember the privilege and glory of this work. It is worth investing one’s best time, as sustained theological study is an unrepeatable privilege.