Philip Jenson retires
As he begins his retirement, having served 15 years as Ridley's Old Testament Tutor, the Revd Dr Philip Jenson looks back over his years at the college.
Is there a better job in the Church of England than being a tutor at Ridley and teaching the Old Testament? It might be a personal opinion, but I leave after fifteen years with a ‘no’ as my answer. Over the years I have seen how students arrive knowing less and less about the Bible of Jesus. Yet the Old Testament is foundational to all we know about God, expressed in a wonderful range of styles. Here we find terrific, full-blooded narratives of flawed lives, gracious instruction on how to live well (the Law), searing criticisms of injustice along with hope for the future (the Prophets), poetry plumbing the depths and the heights (the Psalms), and aspirational wisdom (Proverbs). If I have been able to give students a glimpse of these riches, then my teaching has not been in vain.
Without the Old Testament it is also impossible to understand the New. I have particularly valued the MA module I teach on Biblical Theology. We can only begin to understand Jesus Christ in the context of the God who created the world and who, through calling a people, begins a strange and costly story of redemption. My chief worry is that the corporate and covenantal character of this story is being overwhelmed by the emphasis on the individual and the interior in our secular age.
Of course, there is a great deal more to being a tutor than teaching. There is the unglamorous but absolutely essential need for efficient and creative administration, and I have been involved in this since I arrived. Most recently I have been MA Course Director and Chair of the Common Awards Exam Board. Administration can be frustrating and tedious, but also rewarding in helping students be clear about what and how they learn. I was also appointed college librarian when I arrived, and never managed to pass that on. Although others do all the real work, the development of the new library in the basement has been a memorable end to my custodianship.
Most satisfying, though, has been the personal relationships that are possible in a residential college. It has been a privilege to belong to an amazingly gifted staff team. But, above all, I have valued seeing how men and women grow during their time at college. Those who arrive confused and uncertain leave more or less transformed and ready to serve the Church with zeal and some useful knowledge. My hope is that this will continue to be at the heart of all that Ridley plans, practices and teaches.
The Revd Dr Philip Jenson
Former Tutor in Old Testament