Alumni Update from the Principal

Principal David Wilkinson updates our alumni on the events and successes of the last month. Pictured here on Arrivals Weekend with Hattie, Head Frep.

September began with a whirlwind of events before even term starts. We had two alumni reunion events, with graduates from 5 and 6 years ago coming back to Durham for a weekend.  Some talked about coming home, and I was thrilled to hear of all of the things they were doing – from those working with the royal household, to those with the cabinet office, to those teaching in primary and secondary schools and to those working in private industry. It reminded me of the influence that those who had been formed at Johns were now exerting in making the world a better place.

Then we had a number of conferences associated with our major research project, Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science. We had colleagues from the 12 theological colleges and courses around the country who are part of our Science in Seminaries strand, where we help theological colleges to embed good science into parts of their core curriculum in theology.  We also welcomed a number of colleagues from our Scientists in Congregations strand which has supported over 80 local church projects. As part of that we are currently supporting Riding Lights Theatre Company with a play that will tour exploring the implications of robotics and AI, a new pilot project Messy Church Goes Wild and a group of churches in Sunderland exploring the resources of neuroscience in ministry in the area of addiction. These conferences brought together our core team, international delegates and those leading the projects to reflect and learn and share good practice.

While this was going on, we also had a week of the DThM summer school, our professional Durham doctorate in theology and ministry with a huge cohort in this successful programme.  And then another large cohort being inducted into the MA in theology and ministry. Here alongside full time students are many part-time students in both lay and ordained ministry with a wealth of expertise and imagination in using theological resources to inspire and sustain mission. All of this before term has officially started.

All of this was set against two events which caused us to pause and remember, one local and one of course national.  The local was a dinner to remember and give thanks for the life and work of former Astronomer Royal Sir Arnold Wolfendale, the person who shaped Durham physics.   Sir Arnold died during the pandemic and so it was only in September that a day of lectures on his scientific legacy could be hosted in the Physics Department.  The dinner in the evening at Johns was hosted by the Vice Chancellor and by me, as Sir Arnold had always been supportive of Johns and had been my own Physics PhD supervisor.

The national events following the death of Her Majesty the Queen had particular significance for Johns, from the Bowes family connection to so many of our alumni having a prominent role, especially of course the Archbishop of Canterbury.  For a College which continues to treasure the contribution of faith and a life of service, the Queen’s embodiment of those things, was both a reminder and encouragement to us.  We joined in prayers of thankfulness for her extraordinary life and support for King Charles and the family as they grieve and move forward in new roles. 

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