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Festschrift honour for Rob Ellis 

Rob was presented with a set of essays entitled Being Attentive when he retired as Principal of Regent’s Park College, Oxford.

The book reflects Rob’s interest in Practical Theology, seeking to explore the way that what we believe (theology) and what we do (practice) come together

Being Attentive 1Regent’s Park College held a special dinner in early October to mark the retirement of Rob Ellis as Principal and to celebrate his contribution to College life both as tutor and for the last 14 years as Principal. The Revd Lynn Green spoke of the significant ways that Rob had contributed to wider Baptist life and Professor Jane Shaw and Dr Michael Lloyd spoke of Rob’s contribution to the wider University. They all spoke of the wisdom and insight Rob would gently bring to a variety of conversations.

As part of the dinner Rob was also presented with a copy of a new book, Being Attentive: Essays in Practical Theology in Honour of Robert Ellis (edited by Anthony Clarke). One way that academics have sometimes chosen to celebrate the contribution of a distinguished colleague is with such a book, and in this case a variety of friends and colleagues have joined together to contribute chapters.

For three decades Rob has been involved in the forming of Baptist ministers, both at Bristol and at Regent’s, and during that time has taught a number of different areas, including Christian Doctrine, and areas with a focus more on ministerial practice, particularly preaching, leadership and mission. 

Rob has had a significant involvement in the developing of practical theology among Baptists, which seeks to explore the way that what we believe (theology) and what we do (practice) come together and mutually shape each other. 

Two areas in which Rob has particularly worked are film and theology and sport and theology. Being Attentive, as a book, is written from this same approach where each author is seeking to make a connection between aspects of theology and practice. So there are chapters that explore issues such as leadership, communion, church meetings, preaching, liturgy, art, education, liberation.

Anthony, a senior tutor at Regent's, said, ‘Each of the chapters seeks to offer new insight into a particular area and so are valuable for the specific discussions they offer. And as a whole the book seeks to model an approach to doing theology as well; what unites the book is not a particular theme – which are very varied – but a particular approach that encourages us to keep working at the way that theology and practice must come together and shape each other. 

‘The title reflects something of Rob’s own concern as tutor and pastor – to be attentive, to the context, to culture, to Scripture and to God – and encourages us to do the same.’

Rob said receiving the book was ‘very humbling’ – and described the title as ‘a great one’. 

‘Some of my time in College meant engaging in ministerial formation: I have always believed that a key role for pastors is in keeping the congregation attentive to God. Practical Theology, the discipline of reflecting on experience and Scripture in tandem, involves attentiveness to the world around us as well as the riches of Christian tradition. 

'The essays in this book reflect the fruitfulness and range of this admirably - covering leadership, ministerial identity and practices, education and its decolonisation, as well as interactions with the arts and wider culture. I know how much hard work goes into such collections and how the deadlines never come at convenient times for the writers. I was very touched, and extremely grateful, to receive this honour.’

He added, 'In fact, my farewell event was quite overwhelming. I have been very fortunate to have worked among such a supportive community of colleagues and with such wonderful students. And now I have this lasting tribute, a continued source of conversation and stimulation as I go on trying to be attentive myself in the next phase of my life and ministry.’

Being Attentive: Explorations in Practical Theology in Honour of Robert Ellis, edited by Anthony Clarke, was published in September 2021. Contributors include Myra Blyth, Chris Ellis, Paul Fiddes, Steve Finamore, Wale Hudson-Roberts, Martyn Percy and Anthony Reddie


Baptist Times, 17/11/2021
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