A community of learning
There was a time when the only people studying theology were those who were studying for the ministry of a particular church. But that was then and times have changed. These days, the majority of theology students aren’t planning on become reverends. So, what is drawing people from all walks of life to study theology?
“I am a student at United Theological College (UTC) and although I am not in ministry, theology at UTC has deepened my understanding of the vastness of God. This, I believe, is framing and setting firm foundations for any future call into ministry or teaching.” notes Mariana, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
“My journey is one that has been a long time coming,” says Denis, a first year Bachelor of Theology student. “I have always wanted to be a disciple of God but didn’t know how to go about it. UTC is a great opportunity for me to study the word, to give myself purpose and direction, and to give me the skills I need to hopefully help others.”
“Having been involved in our local church for many years now, and also as a lay preacher, I am challenged by the changes in society today. To better equip me I feel that I have to bridge my knowledge about scriptures and society as a whole. Thus my desire to pursue further studies. I also feel God’s calling for me to go into ministry. This is my first semester and I am enjoying it.” says Sosi, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
Diversity is key
United Theological College (UTC) was formed on 1 July 1974 by the resolution of the Congregational Union, the Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church in NSW. It later became the theological college of the NSW Synod of the Uniting Church. Today, UTC is part of the Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Theology.
UTC offers theological education and ministerial formation to:
• those preparing for specified ministries in the Uniting Church
• anyone seeking an intelligent and deepening understanding of the Christian faith
• undergraduate university students studying theology as part of their degree in some other subject
• postgraduate and research students in theology and ministry studies.
UTC is a diverse community. There are students from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Australia. It intentionally tries to mirror the multicultural society that is Australia’s defining characteristic and, perhaps in some small way, this serves as a positive model of what might be achieved in the wider community.
UTC is able to support this diverse community by treating learning as a place/space of hospitality (in theory and practice) through community and relationship building.
Thanks to the dedication and commitment of lecturers, administrative staff and the remarkable resource of Camden Theological Library, the College strives to maintain a high level of higher education as well as ensure support for the diverse community of learners, which comprise laity, clergy and candidates training for ministry.
“We believe we are not just providing a model for theological education, but also for living out our Christian faith and discipleship in the wider community” said Seforosa Carroll, First Year Mentor.
“UTC is fantastic as it offers an environment that encourages academic and spiritual exploration, as well as supporting a culture of community and respect. The lecturers are both learned and passionate about theology, they do not merely teach theology, they engage with it and inspire students to continually dig and press into the depths of its richness.
It is evident that they love God, love what they do and that they want their students to excel at whatever level they may be at. The best thing about being a student at UTC is the opportunity to be in an environment where community and academic explorations go hand in hand”, claims Mariana, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
All the support you need
All students are supported in their learning by a team of student support staff. This team comprises the first year mentor, student administration, study skills tutor and Camden Theological Library.
Although each of their support roles differ, they all share a common objective: to provide the very best for each student by ensuring that the student is aware and is able to access all the possible resources provided by Charles Sturt University and United Theological College for a positive and successful academic study.
“We understand that for many, the study of theology is a faith journey, and not just an academic one. Therefore, we provide for the pastoral support and care of the student throughout the first year mentor”, said Ms Carroll.
“We value the importance of relationships and the empowerment of individual student learning. We value the experience, traditions and cultures each student brings and encourage students to integrate these with the wider Christian tradition through ongoing theological reflection.
“It is our goal that each student (distance education and on campus) is able to feel a genuine sense of belonging and engagement with their peers and the different services the University offers”, states Ms Carroll.
The student support staff at United Theological College value collaborative teamwork. In conjunction with teaching faculty, they make every effort to ensure students have a positive academic learning experience.
We value the importance of relationships and the empowerment of individual student learning.
“I decided to come to UTC as I was encouraged to do courses as I am interested in becoming a youth minister. I am grateful for support I’ve received so far.” says Simon, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
“I’ve been a student administrator working with United Theological College since October 2008. It has been my absolute pleasure to work in such a dynamic, fun, fulfilling environment. I know I can speak for all support staff when I say we pride ourselves on delivering a high standard of service to students and faculty alike”, said Renee Keely, Student Administration.
“Our student administration area is always welcoming to any students who have questions regarding study, enrolment, applications, pricing, and adjustments to transcript or just to have a chat about what is on their mind or their concerns.
“We go out of our way to answer any questions, to listen attentively and to ensure that the student goes away feeling confident in our service. We deal direct with Charles Sturt University Student Administrators and Admissions, the Course Coordinator and assist Faculty where necessary. We feel very strongly about our work and enjoy the interaction with students and being part of a University that constantly strives to better itself and services to its students”, stated Jenny Stockton, Student Administration.
Shhh, it’s oh so quiet…
The Camden Theological Library plays a key role in the learning experience for students, and is a welcoming, supporting environment for ministers and lay-persons who are searching for resources.
“Each member of staff has an active relationship with a Uniting Church faith community and regards it as a privilege to be able to share in creating an atmosphere that is conducive to study and to support people of widely differing skill levels, cultural backgrounds and educational levels” said Moira Bryant, Library Manager.
“As a female, Muslim PhD student attending UTC Campus, one of the most satisfying experiences has been my encounters with the staff of the Library who have at all times been a source of great support and guidance during my learning journey,” Nada, a PhD student says of the library experience.
“The first year of my studies was quite challenging, and the first reference point for me has been the wonderful staff who have always been there for me, listening to me and providing me with positive reinforcement and answering questions no matter how difficult the questions were.
“I have been struck with their professionalism and their cultural and religious sensitivity during my communication with them. I truly felt that the experience was inclusive and made me feel part of the community of learners. It has been an absolute pleasure to know and work with such capable and engaging staff. This has certainly had a positive impact on my learning.”
According to Moira, the students who come to study here are a constant source of inspiration. “I know of no student who has not felt deeply and prayerfully led to study here at UTC and for many theirs has been a costly journey.
“All have families, all have commitments, some have come from overseas, some do not have English as their first language, and many have financial and personal challenges. All are trying to seek greater knowledge and are discerning their particular path either to ordained or towards other ministry so they can go forth better empowered to be disciples for the church and in the community.”
“This is one of the reasons why studying here at United Theological College has been manageable – because of the help and passion of the librarians – they genuinely show that they are here to help the students.” says Jimmy, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
Reasoning, Values and Communication
Carolyn Craig-Emilsen currently teaches the Reasoning, Values and Communication course, which encourages the development of skills in essay writing and reasoning.
“It is my privilege to teach Reasoning, Values and Communication, which is offered in first semester and introduces fundamental practical skills in how to research, develop skills in reasoning and write academic essays.
“I aim to create one-to-one tuition in a friendly, supportive environment and offer guidance on effectively planning study and all the skills involved in academic writing. By building trust and relationship, and by encouraging the development of skills, I believe students can be empowered to become confident and fully engaged learners.
“My hope is this empowerment will have a positive impact on their call to ministry in whatever form. I work as part of an integrated team with Sef Carroll, the first year mentor, Moira Bryant and the Library staff, Renee, Jenny and Joanne from Student Administration, and Gerard Moore as Head of School. I value and respect this team approach very much and believe it is a significant factor in creating a cohesive educational community”, said Carolyn.
“Academic writing is an exercise which is both rigorous and demanding. Carolyn has been able to correct our work without imposing changes to our ideas and expressions,” says Mariana, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
“Carolyn has helped me to improve my essay writing skills and my better marks are evidence for the improvement in my work. This has given me courage to succeed,” says Aivi, a first year Bachelor of Theology student studying under Carolyn.
Access all areas
First year mentor Seforosa Carroll works with student support and teaching faculty and believes that commitment, respect, friendship and the common goal of ensuring the best for each student has been the key to successful collaboration. “My role is a combination of several things; it includes course advising, pastoral care and liaising with faculty and the student support team, ” she says.
“It is also about ensuring that all students are aware and are able to access all the possible CSU resources available for a positive study experience and successful academic study. Often this means walking alongside students as they work through what they want to achieve with their degree, balance family and church commitments with their study schedule, and discern where God is calling them. Maintaining a community of hospitality that encourages and empowers learning is an integral guiding principle for me in my work with students”, states Ms Carroll.
For first year Bachelor of Theology student Sisilia, Sef provided all the support and encouragement she needed to make a great start. “Sef encouraged and supported me especially in the beginning of my journey. She has made me feel welcome and assisted me with various inputs and discussion about assignments.”
Jimmy, a first year Bachelor of Theology student has found Sef approachable and helpful.
“Sef helped us Pacific Islanders feel part of the community here. Her support and help and her smiles and friendliness give us strength to study. She encourages us to succeed in our assignments.” says Lofa, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
“Having Sef as my first year mentor helped direct me to the right subjects and pathways for my Bachelor of Theology” says Limoni, a first year Bachelor of Theology student.
If you are thinking about theological study at United Theological College, whether it be for interest, period of discernment, ordained ministry or a career other than ordained ministry, be assured that you will find the support you need. For more information please head to www.utc.edu.au or www.csu.edu.au or call us on 8838 8914 to find out more.