Selina Stone is Tutor and Lecturer in Political Theology at St Mellitus College. Below, she answers a few questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born and raised in Birmingham in a great place called Handsworth, which makes me a Brummie through and through! While our area made the headlines for all of the wrong reasons, it was a great place to grow up with a great sense of community developed with families from many different backgrounds. My friendship group at school was something like the United Nations! I am a product of the sacrifices and determination of Jamaican migrants who arrived here in the 60s to work and provide better opportunities for us, their children and grandchildren. Born into a Christian home, my parents took our formation very seriously. We were always encouraged to develop a relationship with God that was real and personal, to grow in character and to serve God and others. They always encouraged us to ask questions about sermons, our faith and God, which I now recognise was the start of my theological journey.
However, I did arrive late to formal theological study. My undergraduate degree was in French and Spanish studies which involved not only language but also studying the history, culture, politics and global relations of these two countries. It was through studying some of the more brutal aspects of these political histories and then living abroad and attending churches, that I began to ponder questions about faith and public life, particularly what I now know is often referred to as ‘liberation theology’. I have an abiding interest in the church as a global body as well as the social and political realities of our globalised world.
What were you doing before you started at St Mellitus College?
I moved to London in 2013 to complete my MA at King’s College London in Theology, Politics and Faith-based Organisations. I was very fortunate to be there at the same time as Dr Anna Rowlands, who inspired me as an excellent lecturer and committed researcher. At the same time as completing my MA I took part in the Buxton Leadership Programme at the Centre of Theology and Community, which would be the beginning of four brilliant years at this charity. The year-long programme combined community organising with a placement in parliament and after that first year I decided to devote my energy to community organising full time. This involved running local campaigns, training leaders and developing congregations so that they could engage with issues of justice affecting local people. It was a privilege to be part of this work with everyday people who wanted to take a stand for what mattered to them. My time at CTC allowed me to experience the power of faith and the church in public life, which I had previously been uncertain about.
What do you most wish to share with your students?
I have really enjoyed getting to know the students at St Mellitus College and feel very honoured to have this role in their lives. I think the main thing I want to share with the students is a sense that God is both much more present and much more wonderful (full of wonder) than we ever imagined or were ever told. I think the journey of theological study and indeed faith in general, is being drawn into this knowledge that God is very present but also hard to get a grip on. God is present holding together all things and revealing himself to us and to others in various ways. However, he is also beyond us in his thoughts and his ways, so we should expect to be surprised every now and then (in ways that delight and disturb us) by the truths we discover by the help of the Holy Spirit. I think that in this process we lose many idols and false ideas of who God is, which can be unnerving – but in the end we find that the true living God is always waiting to meet us.
And what do you do when you are not at St Mellitus College?
I am doing a PhD part time at the University of Birmingham so am often found in a library reading and writing on my study day. My research is exploring Pentecostalism and social and political engagement. I am considering the ways in which discipleship and citizenship work hand in hand and how scripture can be seen as a tool of liberation for the oppressed.
On my days off I will usually be catching up with friends or family. I particularly enjoy live music, particularly jazz, neo-soul and acoustic styles so I will often be out at a gig with my sister or friends at the weekend. I also enjoy comedy shows, as laughter is definitely medicine to my soul. I am quite a foodie so I enjoy eating out but also cooking at home.