Reflections from the Oxford Summer School 2023: Nurturing Leadership and Shaping a Positive Future

Oxford Summer School 2023. Photo Credit: Dept. Continuing Education, Oxford

Greetings everyone,

It's been a while since I was away, and I'm eagerly anticipating our upcoming service on the 27th of August when we'll reunite.

I also wanted to share a glimpse of my experience at the Oxford Summer School class of 2023. As I look forward, it brings me comfort to recognize that this exceptional group of leaders is dedicated to shaping a more positive world in the "new normal".

I'm deeply thankful to be home after this summer program at the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education. During this period, I had the privilege of residing at the charming Christ Church, Oxford, in the UK which served as both my accomodation and class venue.

More than 40 students from various corners of the globe have engaged in lively debates, collaborative brainstorming, thought-provoking questioning, and dedicated learning sessions within the inspiring grounds of Christ Church. The courses I participated in were exceptionally captivating:

In the mornings of the first week we had "It’s Good to Talk: The Value of Dialogue with Prof. Canon Nicholas Turner." This subject went into ongoing dialogues with the divine and Scripture. Focusing particularly on inquiries in the gospels and exchanges involving Jesus, it unearthed plentiful insights that went beyond mere answers. The course contextualized dialogue within the Old Testament's interaction with tradition spanning themes of renewal and challenges.

The afternoons of the initial week were dedicated to "Trying to Live into a New Normal" with Professor Anthony G. Reddie, an exploration of Black and Liberation Theology. This was a personal favourite, as Professor Reddie's course delved into "Theological Anthropology" and the trials of coexistence. Drawing parallels to Queer Theology it proposed a fresh post-pandemic human paradigm through introspection and theoretical frameworks. Anthony is the author of "Is God Colour-Blind?: Insights from Black Theology for Christian Faith and Ministry."

Transitioning to the second week our mornings were devoted to "Christian Leadership in Crisis" led by The Revd Dr Jonathan Brant. This course dissected Christian leadership within crisis scenarios, analyzing failures, and drawing insights from various disciplines. It incorporated elements from cinema, ethics, psychology, and scripture to enhance leadership skills. The sessions encompassed challenges, virtue ethics, management psychology, scripture, and personal reflections all aimed at enhancing the contribution of Christian leadership to societal crises.

The afternoons of the second week were dedicated to the course "Psychological Approaches to Religion: Friend or Foe to Christian Theology" under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Emily Burdett. This course delved into the interplay between psychology and theology, exploring how psychological methodologies shed light on religious cognition and behaviour. Topics spanned the psychological evolution of religious thought, the origins of religious traditions, and the integration of psychological insights with Christian theology and Theory of Mind in children.

Engaging with these theological subjects broadened my comprehension and outlook for the future of my ministry. The inclusive and forward-looking environment nurtured new ideas. Beyond the wealth of knowledge I gained from these courses the fellow participants in our cohort were profoundly motivating. Establishing meaningful connections with people from diverse corners of the world was truly enriching. I extend special appreciation to the amazing friends I forged during this journey.

Overall this experience has been a wellspring of profound enrichment and motivation. I can't adequately convey my gratitude to all those who shared this journey with me and supported my embarkation on this Oxford Summer School.  I want to express my gratitude to all those who have lent their support to my academic endeavours, and to my family. I eagerly anticipate channeling this freshly acquired knowledge towards shaping a better future for our community. With these newfound insights I am looking forward to playing a role in leadership initiatives that steer our ministry towards a more promising tomorrow, one founded on a shared vision of equality.

With grace and peace,

Pastor Shane St. Reynolds.