At the beginning of the academic year, about twenty-five of our tutors met to consider the future of teaching and learning at All Saints. Taking place within the wider context of our ongoing conversations about the new curriculum, due to be introduced at the beginning of the new academic year (2020/21), the day’s reflections were based on the notion of ‘being with’ as developed by Samuel Wells in his stimulating book A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God (Wiley Blackwell, 2015).
We explored how ‘being with’ people, rather than ‘working for’ them, or even ‘with’ them, or ‘being for’ them, leads to a more holistic approach to teaching and learning and thus to a fresh and exciting vision for theological education, the kind of vision we are keen to embed more consistently in our new curriculum.
Of course, a commitment to ‘being with’ people also has profound implications for how we engage in mission and ministry, and we discussed this focusing on key areas such as interfaith dialogue, ministry and pastoral care, and leadership.
But the highlight of the day for me was to have had an opportunity to ‘be with’ Sam Wells himself, even though that had been possible only via Skype. It was helpful to hear him describe a ‘being with’ approach as an ‘eschatological’ endeavour, as something we ultimately aim for, which does not preclude us also having to work for, work with or be for people. And it was very moving to experience Sam’s disarming candidness and learn about some difficult personal situations that had led him to place such a high value on truly being with others, having learned from bitter experience how anything less than that can cause more harm than good.