How a chance encounter set this theology student on a new path

For Molly Swee, sitting down for an unscheduled ‘cuppa’ with the Dean of Trinity College’s Theological School led to master’s coursework and an enriched life.

I work as an essential worker with the Victorian Government and have long been a churchgoer and bible group leader. After searching for a good theological college for many years, I came upon the Trinity College Theological School by chance one day as I cut through Melbourne University to catch a train.

I quickly discovered that Trinity is something of a hidden gem in the corner of Parkville; a sacred place where rose bushes dot the perimeter, fragrant flowers bloom and ivy twists around trellises. When I walked through the college gates, I felt a sense of awe arise in my heart.

Not knowing it was a theological college, I went in to enquire.

I was given the warmest welcome by the Dean, Bob Derrenbacker, who invited me to sit down for a cuppa. The conversation lasted an hour. I could say Trinity College ‘had me at hello’ – my heart was captivated, and I enrolled in a Master of Theology shortly after.

Since then, Trinity’s Theological School has given me lots of opportunities to learn, grow and discover my destiny in God. It’s a cosy place where everybody knows everybody and where students encourage each other. The lecturers are like elders in a parish who tend to their students like flocks under a shepherd’s loving care. It is more than a theological college: it is a place where students from different parishes come together to learn together in love, and honour and respect each other.

Often, I tremble with joy as I walk into the red brick Trinity chapel for morning service, followed by a classroom lecture. I have always felt that it is a place where the skin between heaven and earth is very thin – it’s almost an interdimensional gateway to heaven where one comes very close to the divine. To borrow the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: ‘It is a place where Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries…’

The afternoon formation classes are a highlight of my day at Trinity. Here we put our artists’ smocks on and practice what the lecturers have prepared us for. Students robe up in albs, cassocks, and/or cottas to get real life hands-on experience serving and learning the priestcraft. Everyone enjoys the formation class as we know that, after class, is sweet fellowship at the kitchenette: a well-deserved spread of cheese, quince and fruit and sweet foamy blood of the vine – quintessential Anglican hospitality which reminds me of Psalm 133:2–4:

‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord has bestowed the blessing of life forevermore…’

My studies at Trinity College’s Theological School have brought much richness to my life. The experience has given me a deeper knowledge of the bible and ripens my relationship with the Holy Trinity of God for whom it is named.

It’s a place I’m thankful to have stumbled upon.

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