A new era for Cuddesdon

Lord Blair and Lord Bragg. Photo Mike Nelson.

Lord Blair and Lord Bragg. Photo Mike Nelson.

New Principal Humphrey Southern talks to Sarah Meyrick

Ripon College, Cuddesdon, entered a new era last month with the arrival of its new Principal, the Rt Revd Humphrey Southern. Bishop Humphrey, who was until recently Bishop of Repton in the Diocese of Derby, takes up office after the departure of the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy who was installed as Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, in October.

The Rt Revd Humphrey Southern at Ripon College, Cuddesdon.

The Rt Revd Humphrey Southern at Ripon College, Cuddesdon.

Bishop Humphrey was a student at Cuddesdon himself in the 1980s, and professes himself mildly surprised to be back after 30 years. “I’ve never moved back anywhere,” he says. “Someone suggested to me the other day that it was all ‘chaps in tweed coats with pipes’ when I was here. That’s not quite right, but certainly there are changes. Cuddesdon today is a place of parity between genders in a way that seems quite relaxed. There’s real inclusion: people are seriously received and welcomed for who they are, as created by God, and I’m excited by that.”

It’s also time of great challenge and change in theological education. A recent report from the Archbishop’s Council, Resourcing Ministerial Education, has raised a number of questions about the future of ordination training, and, specifically, has called for a 50 per cent increase in ordinations. Cuddesdon has a long and distinguished history as a theological college – it lays claim to having trained a third of current bishops, deans and archdeacons in the Church of England – and is the largest provider of ordination training in the UK. There are currently over 150 students training for ordained ministry, and a growing number preparing for LLM, Pioneer and other lay ministries.

“It’s a time when our core business is up for grabs,” says Bishop Humphrey. “But there’s nothing in that report that frightens us. We already provide a range of different training pathways. That’s one of our strengths. We have students in a residential and non-residential mould, and we have a close engagement with Oxford University.

“But if that 50 per cent figure is realistic, the Holy Spirit will call people from an even broader diversity. The core of what we offer isn’t different: it’s about that shared journey into understanding who we are before God. Each of us makes that as an individual, but in community. As you walk along that journey, which is frightening, puzzling, uncomfortable, and full of joy, you encounter the people who walk alongside you, and there’s a richness.”

So what of Bishop Humphrey’s own journey to ordination? After reading History at Christ Church College, Oxford, he went to what was then called ACCM (the Advisory Council for the Church’s Ministry, now the Bishops’ Advisory Panel) and was told to go and do something else before beginning his training. Through the Diocese of Salisbury’s link with the Church in Sudan, he found a placement in Africa.

“I was sent against my will to a culture that couldn’t be more different from Christ Church,” he says. “There was no electricity, no water, nothing but a church full of vibrancy, excitement and danger. It was a rich and colourful experience that was life changing. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Thank God for the Diocese of Salisbury and ACCM and Sudan.”

It was, he says, one of the most formative times of his life. As well as furnishing him with a store of after dinner stories, he learned “something about the Gospel and culture”, he says.

“I was 22 and had never been outside Europe. I arrived in Khartoum and had to climb through a hole in the wall to get my luggage because the conveyer belt was broken. It was a fragile, delightful, completely alien world, quite extraordinary. I began to learn something about hospitality, about being entirely dependent on complete strangers. I couldn’t communicate with home – there were no phones, and letters would take three or four weeks.”

Cuddesdon seemed luxurious after Sudan, though he has particularly strong memories of the cold in the parish church. He was ordained in 1986, and served curacies at St Margaret’s Rainham in Kent, a very busy commuter parish (“I took 100 funerals in my deacon’s year”) and St Mary’s, Walton, in inner-city Liverpool. Between the two, he was seconded to a township parish in Harare in Zimbabwe following the unexpected death of the priest there.

This was followed by a first incumbency at Hale in Guildford Diocese, where he was also Diocesan Ecumenical Officer. During this time he met (at a baptism) his wife Emma, a district nurse, and their two daughters were born. Seven years later the family moved to Wiltshire, where he had grown up, and became Rector of Tisbury. To begin with, he had oversight of seven villages, but by the time he left the benefice encompassed 16 villages, with populations varying from 36 to around 1,500.

From Wiltshire, he was appointed Bishop of Repton. “It’s been interesting being the sole suffragan in a small and quite varied diocese, just one county, and a mix between the comfortable rural idyll of places like Chatsworth but also the ordinary everyday reality of post-industrial, post-mining Derby.

“My role there included a lot of responsibility around vocations and ministry, the formation of the clergy and their learning as curates. There was also quite a lot of seeing in the new ways in which clergy are supported, such as Ministry Development Reviews and Common Tenure, which is a change of culture for the clergy.”

This, he says, brings him a useful perspective on the world the clergy are being trained for. “I don’t come from the theoretical, academic side, so I’m pleased to have such distinguished colleagues, but I think I know what the Church is looking for and wanting.” He says he is excited about the Edward King Chapel, which opened in 2013 after the sisters moved to the College. “It’s not just the Chapel but what it represents – the resource the sisters offer. The decision to do something as powerful and bold as that says something about our seriousness, and what, at our heart of hearts, this place is about. It’s a place that is confident about its purpose, as we wait on God.”

Growth inspires modern facilities

CUDDESDON has seen a period of strong growth and development over the last 10 years. Student numbers are at their maximum, the research centre is thriving and the College is sharing its resources more widely through new courses, guided retreats and lectures. However, the current single student accommodation has changed little since the College was built in 1854.

“In order to remain an outstanding provider of theological education, we now need to upgrade our study bedrooms to offer more comfortable and modern accommodation to our students and visitors,” says Sophie Farrant, Development Director.

The College has therefore begun a project to refurbish two floors of two wings in the original buildings. As a result of the refurbishment – which will take place over the two summers of 2016 and 2017 to minimise disruption – 24 rooms will gain en-suite facilities, an extra study bedroom will be created, and each floor will gain a kitchenette/utility room.

The project will cost almost £1 million, but thanks to an extremely generous donation of £500,000 by an anonymous donor, and further grants and donations, the campaign is in search of the slightly less daunting figure of £390,000.

The Bible and the Bard

One of the first events attended by the new Principal was The Bible and The Bard, a special gala dinner at the Globe Theatre in London. Those attending the event were treated to a tour of the unique theatre and a conversation between Lord Bragg and Lord Blair on their shared interests in Shakespeare and the Bible.

Ian Blair, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, is a Trustee of the Globe. (He is also well known in the Diocese of Oxford as a member of the Bishop’s Council.) Before the dinner he interviewed Melvyn Bragg on his career as a broadcaster and writer, his love of the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, and the role of religion in today’s society. The event was the launch of the new Refurbishment Campaign.


Appointment of new principal

THE Rt Rd Humphrey Southern, suffragan Bishop of Repton in the Diocese of Derby, has been appointed Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon. Subject to legal formalities, Bishop Humphrey will take up the post on 1 April 2015.

 Bishop Humphrey was born in London and brought up in Wiltshire. He was a student at Christ Church, Oxford, and trained for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon in the 1980s. He was a curate in Kent and Liverpool, and served as a parish priest in the dioceses of Guildford and Salisbury. In Guildford he served as Diocesan Ecumenical Officer and Tutor for training of curates, a role he continued in Salisbury, where he was also a Rural Dean and Chair of the Diocesan House of Clergy.

In 2007 Humphrey became Bishop of Repton and has developed a particular interest in ministry and ministerial development, both of ordinands and curates, and of longer established clergy and readers. He serves as Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education and has taken a leading role in developing the diocese’s response to new opportunities and challenges in the world of schools. In addition to his involvement in the 110 Church Primary Schools in the diocese, he has had a particular ministry of engagement with sixth-formers across Derbyshire on issues of faith and faithfulness.

Bishop Humphrey has a strong interest in the wider Anglican Communion. He has served in Anglican Churches in South Sudan and Zimbabwe, and has studied Anglican mission in Australia and the United States. He chairs the Ecumenical Partnership of Churches in Derbyshire with the Church of North India and has recently been developing personal links with the Church of Pakistan. He has led pilgrimages to the Holy Land and is passionate about the plight of Palestinian Christians. Humphrey is married to Emma and they have two daughters at secondary school. The family also currently includes two ex-racing greyhounds, a horse and two goldfish.

Bishop Humphrey says: “I am both honoured and humbled to be invited to be Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon at such a pivotal moment in the history of the College and the Church. This is a time of great opportunity for the Church of England as we are challenged to grow in faithfulness, service and witness to our nation and communities, in numbers and confidence, and above all in the life of prayer and worship.

“Ripon College Cuddesdon has grown and developed so that it is uniquely well placed by the grace of God to rise to this challenge and to serve this vision for the Church. I look forward to being part of this and to the exciting times that are to come.”

The Right Reverend Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth and incoming Chair of the Board of Governors, says: “We are delighted that Bishop Humphrey has accepted our invitation to lead Ripon College Cuddesdon as it continues to serve the mission of the Gospel by training and forming ordained and lay ministers for the Church of England. His vision and experience will enhance the breadth and diversity of what the College offers as we respond to the need for confident and committed disciples, sensitive to God’s leading.”


Revd Canon Professor Martyn Percy to be the new Dean of Christ Church

The Queen has approved that the Reverend Canon Professor Martyn William Percy, BA (Hons), MEd, PhD, Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, be appointed Dean of Christ Church, Oxford in succession to the Very Reverend Christopher Andrew Lewis BA, PhD, on his resignation.Martyn Percy cropped

Professor Martyn Percy was educated at Bristol University, Sheffield University and at King’s College, London. He trained for the ordained ministry at Durham University. Since 2004, he has been the Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. The College also incorporates the Oxford Ministry Course, the West of England Ministerial Training Course, and the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology (a research and consultancy centre).

Professor Percy is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London and Visiting Professor of Theological Education at King’s College, London. He is an Honorary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, and a former Canon Theologian at Sheffield Cathedral. He has served as Curate at St. Andrew’s Bedford, and then as Chaplain and Director of Theology and Religious Studies at Christ’s College, Cambridge. From 1997 to 2004 he was the Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society.

Martyn has served as a Director and Council member of the Advertising Standards Authority, and as a member of the Independent Complaints Panel for the Portman Group (the self-regulating body for the alcoholic drinks industry). He is currently a Commissioner of the Direct Marketing Authority as well as an Advisor to the British Board of Film Classification. Since 2003 he has co-ordinated the Society for the Study of Anglicanism at the American Academy of Religion. He writes on Christianity and contemporary culture and modern ecclesiology. His recent books include Anglicanism: Confidence, Commitment and Communion (2013) and Thirty-Nine New Articles: An Anglican Landscape of Faith (2013). Professor Percy is 51, and married to the theologian the Revd. Dr. Emma Percy, who is Chaplain and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. They have 2 sons.