Matthew, “I’m delighted to be joined by Phil, the 2018 London School of Theology Student Body President, and Lydia who is our current Student Body President.
Phil and Lydia both won Sermon of the Year, are current Theology students and have had quite an interesting journey up until this point.
Phil, how did you hear about Sermon of the Year?”
Phil, “My Youth Leader received a leaflet about it during Soul Survivor; he handed it to me and encouraged me to think about it. I initially did nothing with the leaflet, it just sat on my desk right until the deadline when I thought may I should do something with it, give it a go and we’ll see what happens!”
Lydia, “I also had a leaflet, I think it came loose in an insert in a magazine. It was over the Christmas holidays and my Mum flapped it in my face saying, ‘you should think about doing that!’. But similarly, it sat on my desk for quite a number of weeks before I entered in 2018.”
Matthew, “You’re both also procrastinators then! Had you preached before?”
Phil, “I started preaching when I was 14, which meant I’d preached a few times before entering. I’m quite privileged to have started preaching at a young age. While I was quite used to it, Sermon of the Year was certainly a challenge.”
Matthew, “How about yourself, Lydia?”
Lydia, “I did my first talk when I was 18 and then another when I was 20, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I started preaching regularly. Leading up to Sermon of the Year I had been preaching regularly for about 5 years.”
Matthew, “Winning Sermon of the Year grants a year’s tuition at London School of Theology. It must have taken some thought to accept the prize; what was that decision-making process like for you?”
Lydia, “Yes… I buried my head in the sand a bit! The idea of becoming a student again having graduated six years before hand was quite daunting. I considered online study as London School of Theology has so many online courses available.
I actually came and looked around the accommodation and saw the site, and it was clear that God was calling me to come here full time, live onsite and immerse myself in the life at LST! It took me quite a while to come around to that way of thinking though and was a big step of faith.”
Matthew, “Phil, your plans were already sorted before winning Sermon of the Year?”
I wanted to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford university. I also had a place at University College London. I didn’t really want anything to delay this or get in the way! I thought even after I won I would just leave it, but I took some time to think what I wanted to do next. I decided to take the opportunity to study Theology, read the Bible and pray; and while I hadn’t ever looked at London School of Theology as a place to study, I had peace about it.
Matthew, “And look what happened! You’ve been our Student Body President; what year are you in now?”
Phil, “I’m now in second year, finishing the Diploma which I will graduate with. I only expected to stay one year, but I really loved it here; I really love the people, I love the course and the opportunity to immerse yourself in God. Oxford aren’t known for deferring places, but I called them, and they were happy to defer my place. I was completely shocked! This enabled me to study here for two years.”
Matthew, “How was your time as Student Body President?”
Phil, “It was a real challenge. It’s an amazing privilege because you get to make a difference on behalf of the student body in an institution that is doing God’s work, and also a place that you really care about. To see the difference you make over the year is phenomenal. It’s quite a balance! I’ve learned a lot from it.”
Matthew, “Lydia, those words must be ringing in your ears! You’re our current Student Body President; how is it going?”
Lydia, “It’s going okay, the first month in the role is during exam season and that’s been a bit of a baptism of fire! I fully anticipate it being a busy year coming up in terms of carrying on doing a second year and being Student Body President, but I’m hoping my primary school teacher balancing skills come back in full force!”
Matthew, “Juggling a few hundred balls at once by the sounds of it! Those administrative skills will come in handy.”
Lydia, “I’m just pleased to know that previous student body presidents have done it, they survived, have graduated on time. That gives me great hope!”
Matthew, “Does Phil give you wise words of wisdom?”
Lydia, “Yes, definitely!”
Matthew, “Your journeys have been very interested; entering Sermon of the Year, studying at London School of Theology and working on the Committee.
What would you say to someone thinking about entering Sermon of the Year who, like you, might be staring at a leaflet sat on their desk?”
Lydia, “I would say it’s worth giving it a go! It really could be life changing, it’s definitely changed my life. It’s a worthwhile experience; even just crafting a sermon to be judged.”
Phil, “Why not go for it! Even if it goes nowhere, to write a sermon is a useful experience and it leads you closer to God. Preaching a sermon in the final is a phenomenal experience and if you win, there’s a great opportunity to study at London School of Theology! You have nothing to lose, but there is so much potential to gain.”
Matthew, “Phil, you mentioned the final. What’s it like preaching to judges and a live audience?”
Phil, “Lydia and I had a very difference experience of this, I had an AS exam on the day of the final! London School of Theology came to my house in Derby and filmed my sermon, which was then delivered by video. I was actually in the exam during the final, and I get a text message on my phone after the exam saying I’d won the final!”
Matthew, ”What a nice way to exit an exam! Did the exam go well?”
Phil, “It was the worst AS exam I took!”
Matthew, “Oh! A pretty good consolation prize though.”
Phil, “It was a very odd day and a very odd way of doing it, which is quite different to your experience Lydia?”
My experience involved the added dimension that the One Show were filming it! I didn’t actually realise this was going to be the case when I entered, it may have put me off being on national television. I realised after I submitted it that this might be the case, but I thought I’ll cross that bridge if I get to it… and then got to the bridge!
It was quite a long day, including the filming and interviewing with Carrie Grant. It was very exciting and very nerve wracking. The final itself was just incredible, listening to everyone else’s sermons, their stories and how the grew and what they had learned. It was also key to have four women finalists; four very different walks of life; four very different and points of view. Hearing the judge’s feedback was really fantastic, you felt slightly like you were on the X-Factor… in church, but on the X-Factor.
Matthew, “Things that feel polar opposite really! Church and the X-Factor.”
Lydia, “I half expected the judges to buzz me out!”
Matthew, “Lydia, you’re now student body president, so we’ve got you for a little while longer at London School of Theology!”
Lydia, “Yes! My plans are a bit up in the air. Possibly after second year I will look at post-graduate options as I already have an undergraduate degree. Post graduate research interests me, maybe while auditing a few third-year modules to pick up a few key things. Beyond this year I don’t really know! I feel quite peaceful that so far God has ordained getting me here to this point. I feel like if he wants me to stay he will cover that and provide.”
Matthew, “What would either of you say to anyone who is thinking of coming to London School of Theology?”
If you love God and are passionate about him, I honestly don’t think there are many decisions you could make that are better than coming to London School of Theology. This is a place you can grow in your understanding of the word of God, and spend time with people who love God, which is an incredible experience.
Matthew, “What might you say to current students thinking of joining the Student Committee?”
Phil, “In terms of being on the Student Committee, it’s an extraordinary way to be involved in what God is doing, because you’re investing in a community that is seeking to peruse God and wants to get to know God more. I think there are few privileges like that. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s well worth doing if you want to make a difference and if you want to be part of what God’s doing.”
Lydia, “Phil said it very well! On the first day we arrived at LST, we were told ‘if you leave here with first class degree, but you don’t love Jesus more than when you came in, then you’ve failed’. I think for me that’s the thing about LST, it’s not just about coming here to get a degree, it’s about being in community life and it’s about your spiritual formation.
It’s an immense privilege to see the community change and grow and it really prepares you for what might be coming up in the future. You don’t know what skills you’re going to develop that will come in handy one year down the line or ten years down the line.”
Matthew, “Thank you both very much for your time! Best of luck at Oxford Phil, and best of luck with whatever the future holds Lydia.”