Westcott House began its life in 1881 as the Cambridge Clergy Training School whose first president was the then Regius Professor of Divinity and later Bishop of Durham, Brooke Foss Westcott. A pioneering and respected New Testament priest-scholar, the school was the product of Brooke Foss Westcott’s own passionate concern to raise the standard of clergy training and so took the name of its founder after his death.
Changing with the times
Over the years Westcott House has evolved and changed with the times. Nonetheless, in significant ways we keep the vision of Bishop Westcott alive. Our mission is rooted in his belief that a deep engagement with Scripture and the sacraments forms us into the image of Christ, leading to passionate service for the renewal of the Church and the common good of society.
Bishop Westcott believed that the spirit of Scripture was ‘opposed to all dogmatism and full of all application’. Bishop Westcott’s emphasis on the Christian life as a form of biblically-motivated action in the world found its natural expression in a strong emphasis on the incarnation. Deeply inspired by the writings of the Church Fathers, particularly Irenaeus, Westcott saw Christ as the heart of Christian faith and regarded the incarnation as the ‘central event’ in the life of the world. This was the event through which God has reconciled the world to Godself and all of humanity to one another.
This emphasis on being formed into the image of Christ through Scripture and sacraments led to a practical outworking of the Gospel that Westcott sought to live out in his own ministry through his aspiration for a transformed world: ‘The Gospel of Christ the Word Incarnate, of God entering into our life, is indeed good tidings, good tidings to the poor’. Westcott’s diplomatic resolution of the Durham miners’ strike in 1892, as well as his presidency of the Christian Social Union from 1889, prophetically called and inspired the wider Church to attend to issues of social justice at a time of deep and systemic inequality.
Faithful lives dedicated to worship and service
Formation at Westcott House still revolves around opening the Scriptures and sharing in the sacraments to discern the presence of Christ who calls and unites us to join in with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in ministry and mission. As a priest, scholar, educator and prophet, Bishop Westcott’s legacy to the Church of England challenged division in the Church and called for faithful lives dedicated to worship and service. This is the spirit which Westcott House still seeks to honour today, drawing students from all backgrounds to an historic centre of Christian learning in order to prepare them for passionate ministry and mission, to contribute to lifelong learning, and to deepen committed and active discipleship.