The Revd Dr Raewynne Whiteley, Warden
I remember the time when I first consciously saw a mustard seed. It was tiny and round and black, bigger than a poppy seed but smaller than a clove, and it was one of a collection of spices I built up when I became interested in Pakistani cooking.
It comes from a weedy looking yellow-flowered plant, which usually grows to about 1.2m, and occasionally double that. And almost every part of it is edible: the young leaves, stems, buds and flowers as well as the seeds.
Jesus put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’ (Matthew 13:31-32*).
This parable has always intrigued me with its vision of improbable bounty. In a culture in which the media bombards us with stories of scarcity and where many of us live with it day-to-day, we can hardly imagine something as tiny as a mustard seed being enough to produce not just a normal plant, but a huge tree. But that’s what Jesus says the kingdom of God is like: a place where the tiniest hope can flourish into something much greater than could ever be imagined.
Here at Wollaston we are experiencing our own little corner of the flourishing kingdom of God. This is our first year as a college of the University of Divinity. Last year, our students studied through Trinity College in Melbourne, and we were able to offer four subjects on campus. This semester alone we are offering six subjects here, and our student body has doubled!
Our students now include lay people interested in delving deeper into theology, clergy wanting to do further study and continuing education, those using theological study to help them discern their call, and students in formation for diaconal and priestly ministry. Some students are studying here on campus; others join us online from rural areas and even other states, and we look forward to welcoming students studying higher degrees by research.
But the University of Divinity courses are only part of our work here at Wollaston. We continue to offer our successful Wollaston Certificate in Theology and Wollaston Certificate in Anglican Leadership, along with our regular quiet days. Preachers’ Day Out is returning next week (9 March) with a workshop on ‘Preaching Easter’; LPM training is coming up on 20 May. And you can find Wollaston faculty out and about preaching and speaking at parishes and events across the Diocese.
We’re not quite a tree yet, but the mustard plant is growing and flourishing. Do join us!