MA in Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue
2002 – 2005
MA in Philosophy and Religion
2005 – 2007
In 1999 aged just 51 there came a moment in my life when I needed the challenge of academia to give me a necessary focus. I could have taken any course, perhaps plumbing, but I was drawn first to the Birkbeck College Diploma in Theology. Three years later my Diploma achieved and having got firmly into religious studies, I wanted the challenge of taking this a stage further by way of postgraduate study. My application to study Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue at Heythrop College, University of London was approved. I embarked on a journey of discovery of Christianity’s relationship with Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Acknowledging that Heythrop College had a Jesuit Foundation, my only other experience of the Jesuits had been as a youngster living in a Jesuit Parish near Manresa in Roehampton. Reassuringly when asking the College Principal about a certain Father Bywater I was told that he was still alive and living in a home for priests and that he was a nonagenarian. This rather brought the past and the future together.
My impression on leaving college after the first lecture was that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was probably the only lay person in the class with most being Anglican clergy, including a Canon from St Alban’s Cathedral. However, I persevered and ultimately graduated. I amazed even myself. Not satisfied with one MA I embarked on a further course of study in Philosophy and Religion at Heythrop.
Was this a sign of madness? Who knows?
Modern global communications has meant that peoples from all manner of religious backgrounds now meetdaily in commerce and at work. Understanding the religious “other” is a key element in co-existence. This, I think, is paramount and the encounter with other religions is a vital part of an understanding of the motivations of diverse peoples. I was introduced to the ideas of John Hick and his understanding of Theocentrism.
By the time I embarked on my second MA I was used to the drill, as it were, and my new studies allowed me to embrace an understanding of ethics and contemporary religious thought broadening my knowledge in key areas of how we conduct our lives. The module on Twentieth Century Religious Thought brought me into contact with the theology of Barth, Moltmann, and Balthasar from the Christian side and introduced some of the ideas of Levinas and Buber from the Jewish side, which even now elude my understanding.
Needless to say that studying religion and philosophy at Heythrop has increased one’s knowledge by a considerable degree and in the course of my work at the time it was gratifying that people acknowledged the importance of theological study in the modern world.