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Reflection: My Time in the Cambridge Theological Federation

The Cambridge Theological Federation (CTF) is an ecumenical partnership of institutions from around the city facilitating worship, study and socialising together. Students and staff at Westcott House attend fortnightly Federation worship services during term time. At the end of each academic year, a commendation service is held in which departing students and staff from across the houses are blessed before being sent into their new ventures. Ben Vertannes was Westcott’s student representative to the CTF for 2021-22 and one of several leavers invited to share a brief reflection about their time in the Federation during this year’s service. His words, delivered at Great St Mary’s on 7 June, are shared below.

Hello, my name is Ben, I’m now at the end of my third year of training for ordained ministry at Westcott House and, as of today, I’ve finished studying for the Durham postgraduate certificate through the CTF. Up until February of this year, I had the privilege to act as Westcott’s student representative to the Federation’s worship and community life committee.

From here I’m heading back to Southwark diocese where, following ordination, I’ll begin a curacy in south London, at St Peter’s church in Streatham.

What has the CTF meant to me during my time here? I thought I’d use this opportunity to share with you a few memories of Federation worship I have that are particularly vivid: because I remember standing in the side aisle at St Giles and my older daughter stretching out her hands so that I could lift her to see the drenching taking place during an Orthodox blessing of the water; I remember being hosted by Wesley House, sitting in the round,  and being absorbed by the swirling motion of friends and colleagues queueing around me to receive communion; I remember a sermon preached by a fellow ordinand from that pulpit over there, at the start of this academic year, which punctured a late summer malaise and pointed my focus back to the calling I was here to live out; and I remember a wet January day when I stepped out of all the busyness and anxiety of academic deadlines to sit still and to listen with so many others to the testimonies of survivors at a Holocaust Memorial Day service.

These are just a few experiences, but they are why the CTF exists and thrives. Our common life inspires, it intrigues, it comforts and it challenges. It has expanded my understanding of who God is and what God does. I don’t think I leave Cambridge complacent about the work involved in making ecumenical flourishing possible – about the compromise, the concessions of space, the disagreement. But I do take away a resolve to step into that work in my new context, to continue my learning, and above all to share some of the generous welcome and hospitality I have experienced thanks to so many of you, these last few years. Thank you, to the CTF.