Christopher Waterhouse talks about his experience studying via distance at Trinity College and how the diversity of his classes now help him in ministry.
When Christopher moved from England to Australia in 2017, he landed in Sydney – a familiar city, given he had lived there previously to pursue a theatre career – but knew he wanted to study a Master of Divinity at Trinity College Theological School in Melbourne. Too many things were pointing him towards Trinity for him to ignore.
People he knew in Oxford in the United Kingdom had recommended Trinity, and Christopher found himself working at the St James Institute in Sydney on his arrival back to Australia, which was founded by Trinity’s Continuing Education coordinator. On top of that, one of the honorary assistant clergy at St James King Street in Sydney was part of the Trinity College faculty in Melbourne, and Christopher says he was yet another voice recommending Trinity College.
‘It was very clear that Trinity was the right institution for me,’ says Christopher. ‘It was a mix of recommendations, personal connections and knowing the reputation of the college. Plus, I really like that Trinity is part of the University of Divinity network and therefore there's active and engaged relationships across different denominations driven by excellence in academic theology.’
Living in Sydney meant Christopher enrolled in his studies online, however he still felt part of the Trinity College community.
Christopher says he made an effort to attend in-person events hosted by the Trinity College Theological School in Melbourne, such as the annual Sharwood lecture in church law and Barry Marshall lecture, as well as intensive units. He also notes that Trinity College was successfully using Zoom long before it soared in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christopher found that, even online, his classmates were engaged in video and discussion forum conversations and brought added depth to the course material.
‘I like that, in class, there are people of all ages and experiences learning from one another's experience, so you get a concept and there'll be someone who's had a whole bunch of different life experiences to you. And a story makes sense to them because of something that they're able to share, and you then think, "Goodness, I’d never thought about that from that perspective, because it's so completely different to my lived experience."’
For Christopher, who has now moved to Hobart, the lessons learned from these different lived experiences and opinions have been invaluable in his role as the city minister at St David’s Cathedral.
‘The diversity of the student population [at Trinity] is so beneficial because, in a sense, you're meeting people from many different backgrounds, which is precisely what ministry is like,’ he says. ‘When you get into ministry, you're not just dealing with a homogenous group of people who all look the same, think the same and have been formed in the same way, or are all the same age. You need to be able to understand and talk to people from all walks of life.’
In February 2021, Christopher was ordained deacon at the cathedral he now works at, an event that he describes as an extraordinary experience, as he received messages of support from the many communities he’s been a part of, from Trinity to Oxford to St James King Street in Sydney. ‘I had a lovely sense of not just being ordained for the church in Tasmania, but being ordained for the church.’