Interview with the Director of Learning and Teaching

 

Continuing our series of interviews with various members of the SBC community, this week I have interviewed our Acting Director of Learning and Teaching and Adjunct Systematic Theology Lecturer, Cathy Thomson, discussing her role at the college and her interests (both in terms of theological research and personal leisure)

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Cathy – I’m hoping that through this little conversation we can become a little more familiar with you and with the community that keeps the college running on a day to day basis!

Let’s start with some basic questions:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Cathy – where you’re from, your background, interests etc.

I am a Scot, born in Glasgow where I lived up until 1988 when I migrated to Adelaide with my husband Ian (a maths teacher) and our two sons Mark and Greig.  I was trained and worked as an English teacher in Scotland, but before we left there I was beginning to sense that God was calling me into ordained ministry.  I tested that call here in Adelaide, and was accepted for training as a priest, at (guess where?) St Barnabas College then in the foothills at Belair.  (As you can see things have pretty much come full circle!)

The Rev’d Dr Cathy Thomson, Director of Learning and Teaching and Lecturer in Systematic Theology

I was ordained to the priesthood in 1995 and was sent to my first appointment as Chaplain at Trinity College, Gawler South Campus, and as assistant curate at the St Francis experimental congregation which met in the school chapel. I have had the great privilege of being a parish priest in three wonderful parishes: Mallala and Two Wells, St Aidan’s Payneham and Christ Church, St Lucia (in the Brisbane Diocese).  I have had the opportunity to be firstly, Director of Formation and secondly Academic Dean at St Francis College Brisbane, the latter, a role very similar to my current position at St Barnabas.

I love Systematic Theology, and am passionate about teaching it.  (In one way or another I have been involved in theological education in at least a part-time role pretty much all the way through my years as a priest in the Anglican Church)

 

Let’s focus on your role here at the college, for a moment.

What are your roles at SBC and how long have you been in it?

I took up the role of Acting Director of Learning and Teaching at SBC in January of this year, following a family decision to move back to Adelaide. My main responsibility is to facilitate and oversee the teaching and learning that take place at the College.  This means creating timetables, organising staffing, and supporting staff through personal contact and professional development.  I also offer to the students advice about their enrolments, and assist with their orientation to the college, and help them address any issues or difficulties they encounter in their studies.  I am part of the Executive Team which helps develop vision, and forge the strategic directions of the college at any given time.  It is also my responsibility to oversee the development of a strong research culture within the college that firmly situates St Barnabas in the theological and public discourses of present-day Australia.

I love teaching and writing theology.  The admin bits aren’t my first love in themselves, but they do give me opportunities to work with staff and students which I enjoy greatly.  Outside of work my interests are reading, choral singing, gardening and cooking.

 

Let’s change tack briefly and focus upon to your own theological education and your current academic interests.

Where did you study?  

I studied a Bachelor of Arts (English and History) and Diploma of Education at The University of Stirling, UK., and A Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Theology (Hons) and a PhD in Theology, all at The Flinders University here in Adelaide.  I also have a Diploma of Ministry which was studied through the Adelaide College of Divinity

What was your PhD in?

Wait for it: My PhD focussed on the soteriological writing of Karl Barth and assessed its amenability to a postmodern reading. In other words, I read what Barth had to say about salvation, and noted where in that writing I could see elements that suggested a later, post-modern approach. (Barth was before his time in many ways)

What are your current research/academic interests?

I am interested in writing theology that takes into account contemporary issues in the political, philosophical, psychological and linguistic fields.  I am currently working on a project entitled “The sustainability of the W/word in a postmodern age”.

“The Sustainability of the W/word in a postmodern age” – tell me more about this project, Cathy.

My current research project is founded on Karl Barth’s understanding that the idea “Word of God” can mean three things: the written word of God, the preached/proclaimed word of God, or the Incarnate Word of God. Each of these concepts is vulnerable to deconstruction within a postmodern intellectual milieu. The written word of God is undermined by the postmodern idea of the defaced sign. The proclaimed word of God may be deconstructed in terms of postmodern views of authority (especially clerical authority); and the idea of Christ as Incarnate Word of God is vulnerable to modernist demythologisation, and the notion of the fragmented self. I will examine this range of deconstructive pressures on the concept “Word of God”, and uncover reconstructive possibilities. In this way, I will argue the sustainability of the concept w/Word of God for the Christian Church in a post-modern age.

That certainly sounds complex. It seems that a lot of your research has been/is focused around Barth and his theological method – you even stated that he “was before his time in many ways”.

Why the fascination with Barth in particular?

I was drawn to Barth because it has been suggested that he was the first postmodern theologian, and I am interested in how postmodernism impacts on theological discourse. Barth’s work exemplifies elements that are consistent with postmodern approaches to discourse – his use of unresolved dialectic for example.

I see. It seems like your interest in Barth, as I understood it, is actually more of an interest in Post-modern thought particularly as it interacts with theological discourse, which so happens to be exemplified in Barth.

Is this an apt characterisation?

 “In a nutshell, Anthony.”

 

Let’s focus back on your role here at the College, for a moment, as we wrap up this interview:

What is most challenging about your role here?

It was parking, until I accepted very gratefully the space that was found for me! Now it’s simply fitting everything into the time. There are never enough hours in the day, but every hour is enjoyable.

What do you like best about the College?

The people in it!  The staff team is friendly and hugely supportive, and the students are great.  Theological students are the best in the world, because their study emerges from a deep sense of call from God, because they have chosen it, and because they bring a wealth of life experience and enthusiasm to it.

 

Thank you for your time, Cathy, it’s been an absolute pleasure to interview you!

 

If you have any questions regarding enrolment, or studying at St Barnabas College, don’t hesitate to contact Cathy, or pop in and say hello during working hours! She’ll be more than happy to answer any queries you may have.

Interview by Anthony Bondarenko