Steven George recently completed his final year in Biblical and Pastoral Studies at Newbold. As he reflects on his time at the College, most of which was online, he admits it was “quite challenging but fulfilling” at the same time. “I came to Newbold in September 2019, so I spent about four or five months on campus before the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown,” said Steven. “The remainder of my course was online. That was definitely a challenge trying to navigate through everything.”
Steven took every opportunity to return to the campus to spend time with other students despite the setback. “We did everything online, even after coming back in 2021 and 2022,” explained Steven. “I came back to the campus to use the library, but mostly for the social life, attending different events like the Week of Spiritual Emphasis and The Experience. We tasted what social life was like on-campus at the beginning of our course, so we wanted to stay connected.”
One of the things Steven appreciates most about the Biblical and Pastoral Studies course is the pastoral placement. “I’ve always been keen on doing ministry, so the placement programme was a perfect opportunity to do that,” said Steven. “I was able to do two placements because of the lockdown. I did the first one with Pastor Jerry Smith in Norwich. It was entirely online, but it was fascinating attending board meetings, business meetings, and doing pastoral visits. I did my second placement with Dr Michael Hamilton in Cambridge, half online and half in-person. It was perfect because he had just moved into a new district, so I learned how to deal with issues relating to moving to a new church as a pastor. I gleaned as much as I could from Dr Hamilton. He came to Newbold to teach a module in pastoral leadership online. As soon we completed the module, I emailed him to thank him and asked, ‘Can I do my placement with you?’ He said yes, so that was great.”
Steven confesses he did not plan to become a pastor but admits, “I felt a kind of nudging from God,” which some would describe as ‘the call’ to ministry. However, his response was, “No way! Not me! I wouldn’t do that job.” Understandably, at the time, the 17-year-old was at school, trying to decide what to do with his life. “I remember speaking to an elder at my church,” Steven recalled. “He told me the Bible story of Gideon, who asked God for a sign, and told me to do the same. I prayed about it and told God, ‘If you want me to go into ministry, I’ll go into it full-time. No questions asked,’ and being the impulsive person I am, I said, ‘I’ll give you everything right from the get-go, but I need a sign! I want a random person to call out my name, to say something to confirm that I should go into the ministry.”
A couple of months later, Steven received the most unexpected response to his prayer. “My friend Kapiya came to me and said, ‘You’d never guess what happened last Thursday. We met a homeless guy who gave us a piece of paper with your name on it.’ I said, ‘No way! That’s impossible.’ At the time, we were part of a homeless ministries group. Kapiya and another friend, Michael, were helping some homeless people the previous week. They tried to help a Romanian man who couldn’t speak English. He refused food and water, but he allowed them to pray for him. Just when they were about to move on, he suddenly tapped Kapiya’s leg to get his attention and gave him the piece of paper, which turned out to be a work experience application form that I had filled in at school two years earlier in 2016. I remember losing it and being told off by the teacher. When Michael gave it to me, I thought, ‘Okay, God,’ when I saw my handwriting, ‘I’m nobody special, but you’ve given me the sign I asked for. Let’s go!’”
Reflecting on the experience, Steven said, “I wasn’t sure why God showed me that particular sign, but having completed my third-year degree studies, I realised that I needed it because I had a lot of doubts during the first and second years of the course. Whenever those doubts appeared, I looked at that work experience application form, which I have in a picture frame. It reminds me that God called me, so I must persevere and keep moving forward.”
Steven recalls a phrase he heard whilst on a mission trip in Brazil: ‘The mission saves me.’ “That’s been my motto during my three years at Newbold. Being involved in God’s mission and ministry is as much about serving others as it is about being saved. If I didn’t come to Newbold straight out of school, I probably would have turned my back on God and left the Church. So, this mission has saved me in a real sense, and it’s so encouraging to know that God is interested in us.