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Diocesan Summer School: Formed for Hope

The 2024 Diocesan Summer School was held at Angel’s Hills in Cyprus last week, attended by nine participants in training for lay or ordained ministry—or in the early years of ministry—from across the Diocese.

The Summer School has a close association with the Near East School of Theology (NEST) based in Beirut. NEST members Dr Rima Nasrallah and Dr Wilbert van Saane joined the faculty on this year’s programme, alongside JMECA trustee Dr Clare Amos, who takes a strong interest in theological education in the Province, and the Reverend Canon Dr John Holdsworth. Bishop Sean also spent a day with students, who came from eight parishes—six in the Gulf and two in Cyprus.

“The community aspect of learning was strongly experienced, as we worshipped, ate and learned together,” said Diocesan Director of Ministry the Venerable Christopher Futcher.

The theme was Hope, explored through a focus on Romans 5:3-5:

“… we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Four Bible studies, on suffering, endurance, character and hope, expanded reflection on this guiding text. A daily preaching workshop worked on the Book of Ruth, looking at hope in the experience of migrants, and included a field visit to hear the stories of asylum-seekers in Larnaca. 

Lectures looked at hope and resurrection, hope and resilience, hope and ecological crisis.  Evening discussions followed presentations on witnessing to hope in responding to serious illness, dementia, populism and authoritarianism. 

The final day included visits to Kykkos Monastery and the Monastery of St John Lambadistis–an opportunity to reflect on Christian art in icons and wall paintings as witness to hope.

“Our shared reflections on the last evening revealed how all of us had been challenged by our studies together,” said Christopher, “learning more about ourselves and our vocational paths, more about suffering and perseverance, more about relating Scripture to our personal lives, the lives of others, and the life of the world.

“Michael Ramsey’s words may serve as a summary of what was an extraordinary learning experience: To be a theologian is to be exposed to the vision of heaven and the tragedies of mankind.

The Summer School finished on the morning of Bishop Sean’s Enthronement in St Paul’s Cathedral in Nicosia, which many of the participants were able to attend.