Students and faculty gathered at Bossey, September 2020. Photo: Odair Pedroso Mateus/WCC

Students and faculty gathered at Bossey, September 2020. Photo: Odair Pedroso Mateus/WCC

Rev. Fr Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi is dean of the Ecumenical Institute, the graduate school which opened its academic year this week. Below, Iwuamadi reflects on the arrival of new students at the Ecumenical Institute during this remarkable time.

What was going through your heart when you welcomed Bossey students for the start of their academic year?

Dr Iwuamadi: That the Bossey academic year has started is a source of joy for all in the ecumenical family. We hoped and despaired at the same time as countries locked down and international travel was restricted. How could we expect that enough of the diverse nations from which we draw students would open up in good time and enough students would obtain authorization to study in and travel to Switzerland? Despite that, we remained so hopeful that when we envisioned scenarios, against all odds our first scenario was to plan as if a regular 2020-21 academic year would be feasible, but with contingency plans. Our hope was rewarded, and we could not be happier!

It is with profound joy that we welcome the beginning of a new academic year during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the spring, the faculty met several times, to deliberate on distance learning, blended learning and other options as contingency scenarios to our preference of a regular academic year. The situation was so unpromising that we cancelled the English course that was scheduled for mid-June. However, when the Swiss authorities were swift in granting entry authorizations to our students, we reconfigured the programme to a one-month English course that started in August.

Similarly, we thought we would only get between 15 and 20 students for the regular academic year. Once again, we were surprised by how swiftly students got authorization to study in and travel to Switzerland. We are beside ourselves with joy for having nearly 30 students arrive at Bossey Institute. Their presence is itself a sign of hope and a sign that we should not lose hope in these uncertain times of COVID-19 and its consequences.

Could you tell us a bit about the student body this year? What brings you joy about this particular group?


Dr Iwuamadi: One of the greatest surprises of this academic year is the composition of the student body. It does not reflect the circumstances created by the pandemic. The number of students falls within the range of what we would have in a normal year. There have been years when we struggled to meet our targets in terms of regional and gender balances.  This academic year we have admitted 34 students. Out of that number 28 have arrived Bossey and one is expected in the coming days. Of them, 14 are women and 15 are men. The remaining five are still waiting for their entry visas to be approved. They come from China, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Zimbabwe. That we could have a regionally and gender balanced intake is the greatest joy.

In these unique times, what can the ecumenical family pray for you and the students?


Dr Iwuamadi: While we remain thankful to God for the successful beginning of the academic year, we remain apprehensive and uncertain about how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect our community. We seek the prayer support of the ecumenical family for the following:

  • Good health for all in the community
  • Safety for our students
  • That we transcend the immediate constraints created by the pandemic to discover deeper meaning in life and faith
  • That the conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic will not rob students of the fullest Bossey Institute experience.

Finally, many students are so grateful for the beautiful Bossey setting and the delicious food! Would you like to offer your reflections on that as well?


Dr Iwuamadi: The distinguishing characteristics of theological education at Bossey Institute is that students experience “lived ecumenism.” Students engage in theoretical academic study and at the same time, they live, pray, eat and play together. We are happy that Bossey continues to offer an atmosphere that nurtures ´unity-in-diversity´ through such shared life in community. The beautiful landscape around Bossey is a source of serenity and inner peace. The delicious food that our kitchen provides is good for and inspires ecumenism.

Study at the Ecumenical Institute

Learning English, Bossey students “can connect with each other” (WCC press release of 7 September 2020)

Applications open for studies at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey, in 2021-2022 (WCC press release of 17 June 2020)