Byline: By Matthew Cresswell
MANY PEOPLE, from all walks of life, end up at Bible College. Some sign up with the sole intention of becoming a missionary, some go specifically to get deeper into the Bible while others simply want the chance to take a year or two out of life's hectic pattern to rediscover their faith. Although some colleges do offer the chance to train for the Anglican ministry and ordination, most are specifically geared for people who do not have clerical intentions.
As the world of higher education expands, Bible colleges are also offering a wider and more varied range of subjects to study. There are colleges which have modules in music, Islamic studies, Christian apologetics, cross-cultural studies and youth work among an expanding gamut of other options. Many colleges encourage their students to apply their learning and work in prisons, hospitals and youth clubs in order to achieve a full hands-on-training.
Tom Benham, aged 27, is a student at All Nations College in Hertfordshire. Now in his third year he used to be a PE teacher but now intends to use this knowledge to eventually become a full-time Christian sports worker and evangelist. "I really want to reach out to non-Christian sportsmen with the intention of using sport as a tool," he explained. He said that studying at All Nations had been an important time. "It's a very good missionary college" he said, "It has a strong emphasis on spirituality and overall personal development." He added: "We spend time allowing God to get rid of the rubbish in our lives and to start building us up again." Not surprisingly, given its name, All Nations is a very multi-cultural college with people from various different nationalities. "There are 35 different nationalities represented here" said Tom. "There is a great opportunity to really understand your brothers and sisters from different cultural backgrounds." All Nations College offers several undergraduate programmes. These include a one-year certificate course, a two-year diploma and a two or three-year Bachelor of Arts degree. All their degrees are affiliated with the Open University. There is also a post-graduate study option which includes PG certificate, PG diploma, a masters and a diploma. However for those who cannot afford to take a whole year or two out of their other commitments students can enrol for the any one of their short-term courses such as the En Route 10-week course, the International Dance School course or the Islamics course.
Angie Harris, the admission registrar at All Nations, said that her college encourages a holistic approach. "We like to talk about integral mission" she explained. "This involves the head, heart and hands." Such an approach, she reasons, gives their students not only an academic grounding but also develops their interpersonal and practical skills. There is also a strong tutorial emphasis where students are encouraged to talk openly and constructively about their development. One influential college in Wales which attracts students from far and wide is the recently re-christened Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST), previously known as Brynterion. Based on a strong Reformed tradition of theology WEST, which was established in 1985, has a high academic standard and has more PhD students than any other Bible College in Britain. Like All Nations, students can complete a diploma, Bachelors degree, MTh, MPhil or a PhD. There is also the option to carry out a correspondence course, foundation courses or attend sabbaticals and furloughs.
One student currently in her sixth year at WEST is Natalie Tun-bridge who is now one year in to her PhD. She had previously completed an undergraduate course and a Masters before embarking on her doctorate in contemporary spirituality. "It's a good college which is in the Reformed tradition and is both Bible-based and Christ-exalting," she says. Nat is a residential student and appreciates the strong emphasis the college has on nurturing the spiritual life, which begins at 8. …