Uniting academy and church, study and service in Stourport Peter Skerrat is a church minister at Christ Church Wyre Forest in Stourport. He is studying with Union in our West Birmingham Learning Community. Read more about his journey into ministry and what life is like in his Learning Community. For a couple of years, my wife and I had been receiving prayer letters from Christ Church Wyre Forest (CCWF), Stourport, asking specifically of God that he provide a few new families to join a small and slowly-aging church. Both of us were already eager to find a small church or plant to serve in, having received so much at our big student church. After exploring various options, it was clear that God intended for us to be in Stourport; a teaching job nearby (at a school linked to the Christian holiday camps we help with) as well as a move nearer family made it a straightforward choice. So nearly three years ago, we moved from the North East to a teaching job in the West Midlands. Stourport is a small town in Worcestershire (c.20,000 population), predominantly white and, from my own experience, a balanced mix of working- and middle-class people. CCWF now has roughly 30 adult members and a handful of young children, is blessed with a strong relationship with the local primary school where we meet, and is striving to make and mature disciples of Jesus, despite our limited resources and numbers. I enjoyed two years of teaching nearby before joining the church leadership team as Assistant Minister last September. Pastoral ministry had been on the cards for a while, especially after a church apprenticeship for two years, but both of us wanted to experience more of the “wear and tear” of Christian life in the working world before pushing the ministry door further. So when the opportunity came to work alongside Leo Davison, our minister, I jumped at the chance: I knew there was much to learn from him, having benefited from his ministry over the past two years. However, there still remained the question of formal theological study, which is where Union School of Theology came in! The Learning Community is a treasure-trove of experience and ideas: where else could I study formally alongside people who are already church planting or leading churches?! I had heard of UST's Graduate Diploma programme (GDip) before, but in January 2017, the prospects of taking it up were dim: a weekly round trip from Stourport to our nearest Learning Community in Liverpool seemed the most practical (and unappealing) journey. To my relief, I was later informed that a West Midlands Learning Community was being set up, if I would be interested. I was. And I haven’t looked back since. I am very glad I made the choice to stay local, rooted in my own church, learning under my own minister, keeping community connections and not uprooting the family unnecessarily for residential study. The lectures have obviously been high quality, with the Old Testament lectures being particularly stretching and striking - who knew that engaging head on with critical scholarship would make you delight more in the Bible, or that the food laws have something to teach us about the mission of God to the nations?! Above all, I have relished my weekly trip to meet with fellow students, all of us at various ages and stages of life but all eager to encourage one another in our ministries back at home. Being at different stages, in different places, involved in different ministries and contexts has made the Learning Community a treasure-trove of experience and ideas: where else could I study formally alongside people who are already church planting or leading churches?! Surely that is exactly what Union provides, uniting academy and church, study and service as it does. Find out more about programmes offered at Union School of Theology.