Final Year During A Pandemic
By Ben Davis
My name is Ben Davis, I am 30 years old and a final year student at the Irish Baptist College—two facts that I must admit feel somewhat surreal. I am also married to Sara, a music teacher, and we live in Antrim where we are members of Antrim Baptist Church. When not writing essays or preparing sermons, I enjoy going for extended walks, meeting with friends for coffee, podcast listening (a legitimate hobby), and attempting to read old books written in ancient languages. Before coming to College, I studied Microbiology at Queen’s and then worked as postman for 6 years. During that time the Lord impressed upon me a deep hunger for Scripture and a compelling desire to teach it. In his providence, he has granted me the opportunity of investing in three years of concentrated theological education. My goal: to dig a well from which to draw over a lifetime of ministry. By God’s grace and the investment of the College’s tutors, I happily continue to dig.
As a final year student, I’ve become accustomed to certain staples of College life: from stimulating lectures to rich fellowship, from sermon workshop to daily devotions, from evangelism teams to essay deadlines—not to mention the annual table tennis tournament! This year things are unfortunately not quite so predictable. Year group bubbles, limited library use, no evangelism teams, online lectures, and Zoom prayer meetings mark just some of the changes brought by COVID-19. Frustrating? Absolutely. And yet there has been much for which to give thanks. In the first term, we enjoyed no less than ten weeks of face-to-face teaching.
For me personally, the experience has reinforced two realities easily forgotten. The first being this: quality theological education should be received with gratitude—it is a gift. Maybe it’s because I’m in my final year of College with only a few teaching weeks remaining, or maybe it’s because a pandemic has a way of exposing just how much you take for granted, but this year, more than any other, I have felt the sheer privilege of daily soaking up teaching that is full of biblical, theological, and pastoral insight. As my time at College draws to a close, it does so on a profound note of thankfulness. Secondly, if theological education aims at ministry preparation—as it should—then it must endeavour not to lose sight of the context in which all such ministry transpires: on the far side of Eden, in a groaning creation still awaiting its final redemption (Rom. 8:18–23). For someone all too comfortable with his head stuck in books, the limitations imposed on College life by COVID have clarified my outlook and sharpened my focus. To paraphrase Martin Luther: all ministry and therefore all theological study should be done under the cross. For there weakness has become strength and death the gateway to life.