Blog — 6th December 2022
In the May 2022 issue of Link Magazine, we introduced NTC’s new one-year MA programme, Inhabit, which is anchored in intentional community, formation, and witness. Beginning in the academic year 2022-23, a cohort of students from around the world began living together in community, participating in the Inhabit Rule of Life. Following in the tradition of monastic communities across Christian history, Inhabit students live according to a “rule” that gives shape, structure, and practices to the formation of Christian community and witness. While the language of a “rule” is associated with St. Benedict, John Wesley also provided rules and methods to his band-societies, and Wesleyan and Methodist “ways” or rules of life were later developed. Inhabit will explore and incorporate ancient, Wesleyan, and contemporary rules of life.
Inhabit‘s pilot year (2022-23) has just begun, so we sat down with Samuel Cheung to talk about what his experiences of Inhabit has been and what hopes he has for the coming year in the programme.
Choosing to Study at NTC for an MA
“I might be a bit of an outlier in that I was drawn to NTC primarily for its geographic location.” Samuel isn’t alone. Our campus is spread over 3 acres with an upper lawn and lower meadow at the back overlooking the Mersey valley. The width of the spaces, surrounded by greenery, and the scents and colours of nature all make NTC an ideal place to be refreshed and inspired. NTC’s location in the UK piqued Samuel’s interest.
He wanted to study abroad and found NTC’s lecturers to be well-qualified and engaging. “The United Kingdom felt like far enough to stretch me as an American but not so intimidating that I would feel completely out of my element since I came from a Nazarene university in California. It was only as my interest progressed that I realized I’d also want to try the largely different British education system and that the lecturers were all people I’d like to learn from.”
The United Kingdom felt like far enough to stretch me as an American but not so intimidating that I would feel completely out of my element since I came from a Nazarene university in California
Being Drawn to the Inhabit Programme
Samuel was largely drawn to the ancient spiritual practices Inhabit offers because he had already developed some of these spiritual practices in his American programme. “I was part of an emerging spiritual formation programme back in the States that draws from the monastic tradition to equip people in a variety of contexts. Inhabit felt like a way to continue that formation in community. I was particularly interested in how it was tied to the specific place of the campus. Because of the pandemic and other logistical reasons, the programme I was involved with in the States didn’t have any ‘home.’” Samuel emphasises just how much having a place mattered to him: “The sort of formation that these programs strive for benefit heavily from the stability, responsibility, and intimacy that comes with shared place.”
Three Streams of Inhabit
Inhabit is comprised of three streams – study, formation, and witness. The study stream is rather straight forward: students enrol in one of thirteen pathways for the MA in Theology. Their cohort develops common study rhythms, and, in time, students participate in teaching and research assistantships. Within the formation stream, students participate in a wide range of Christian spiritual disciplines: morning and evening prayer and contemplation and two spiritual pilgrimages as well as weekly society meetings. Finally, the witness stream focuses on students serving NTC and the greater Manchester community for 2-4 hours per week. Students partner with local churches and the chaplaincy team for tasks without and within the NTC community.
Of these three streams, Samuel has found himself within the study stream in these early days of the semester. Cheung says, “I am a part of the Prayer and Personhood class led by Dr. Jacob Lett. Diving into the deeply complicated mysteries of prayer and personhood through a wide range of readings spurred me to ask questions I never would have thought of before and reminded me of the wonder that prayer is and the miracle people are.”
Samuel also shared how the study stream is trickling into practical works on campus. “Inhabit has taken responsibility for leading and facilitating morning prayer on campus. Each weekday morning, someone from the community leads a 15 minute prayer. This has ranged from silent contemplative practices to passionately singing worship music. As we begin rhythms of study, formation, and witness, we hope to work toward an integration of all three such that our study forms us to witness and our witness and study forms others.”
Inhabit has taken responsibility for leading and facilitating morning prayer on campus. Each weekday morning, someone from the community leads a 15 minute prayer… As we begin rhythms of study, formation, and witness, we hope to work toward an integration of all three [streams] such that our study forms us to witness and our witness and study forms others.