Care, Cambridge, the Church and I - Will Lyon Tupman

Care, Cambridge, the Church and I - Will Lyon Tupman

  • From clockwise: Girton College library, Will outside King’s College, Girton College gardens
    From clockwise: Girton College library, Will outside King’s College, Girton College gardens

Will Lyon Tupman (Girton 2014) looks back on his journey from growing up in care, to studying at Cambridge, to returning once again to the city, to train for ordination with the Church of England.  

I helped to run the very same open days I had once attended during my time at Girton, as a former care leaver.

Will Lyon Tupman

At thirteen years old, I was orphaned and had not been to school. It was almost impossible at that time to even imagine that, eleven years later, I would be a Cambridge graduate embarking on my journey towards ordination in the Church of England. How did this happen, and how crucial is Cambridge in my story?

Almost my whole life changed after the death of my parents; I started school and moved into foster care, where I lived for six years as my life gradually stabilised again. While I had initially thought even considering applying to Cambridge to be completely unrealistic, my foster carers encouraged me and sent me on an open day organised for people in foster care by the Cambridge Admissions Office. The team there frequently kept in touch with me throughout the application process, supporting and advising along the way, while my school and foster carers helped to prepare me for interviews and exams.

Studies and Formals

I was amazed when I was made an offer to study Theology and Religious Studies at Girton. I specialised mainly in Biblical papers, but I also studied numerous other papers including Christian doctrine, philosophy, ethics, and even New Testament Greek. In the spirit of St Anselm's “faith seeking understanding,” this aided my understanding of the Christian faith – and my faith was also an aid to my studies. Having a greater understanding of my faith, through academic study, is helpful both for me and others around me, as I use my understanding and theology to help guide others in their Christian journey.

I loved my three years at Cambridge. Through Girton and the wider University, I made a great network of friends. College life suited me perfectly – I especially enjoyed the countless Formals I attended. I was very generously supported financially by my College and its benefactors, by means of awarding me a bursary each year – boosted further for me, as I had been in foster care. I am very grateful for this, and for how Cambridge is continually working to ensure that the University is open and affordable to all.

Photojournalism, choir tours and Varsity

With over seven hundred societies and clubs at Cambridge, it was easy to get involved with the extra-curricular life of Cambridge – both in College and the wider University. Photography and writing are two of my favourite hobbies, so I spent two years as a photojournalist for The Cambridge Student. In addition to attending a number of churches and working with the Christian Union, I was a Chapel Warden and Choral Scholar at Girton. During my time in Choir we had three fantastic tours – to Portugal, Toronto, and Hong Kong and Macau; I feel especially lucky to have had these experiences.

Evenings with Girton's poetry society were a real highlight – even if I was probably better at enjoying the poetry of others than writing my own. I am also a keen runner, and enjoyed representing both my College and the University competitively (especially at Varsity). In my third year I co-captained Girton's team to win the College League in both men's and women's categories – the first time Girton has won both competitions in the same year. I also helped to run the very same open days I had once attended during my time at Girton, as a former care leaver.

  • Girton College sign

Life in London

After three fantastic years at Girton, I graduated with my BA and then spent two very exciting years in London. My time at Cambridge had perfectly prepared me to study my Master's in Biblical Studies at King's College London, a year which I also thoroughly enjoyed. After completing my Master's, I spent a year working as a Pastoral Assistant at St Michael's Church in Croydon, a placement which has given me many invaluable experiences – both in the Church, and in the wider community. I have worked as a hospital chaplain, a refugee volunteer, and a College Chaplain at Croydon College – a diverse school, where I also founded a Chess Club.

Returning to Cambridge

What does the future hold for me? It was during my time at Cambridge that I began meeting with representatives of the Church of England to see whether ordained ministry may be for me. This initially began with a conversation with my College Chaplain, the Rev'd Dr Malcolm Guite who encouraged me to pursue this further. I have continued this journey of exploration since then.

Following the Bishop's formal recommendation for me to train for ordination, I will be returning to Cambridge to spend two years of study, training, formation and placements at Westcott House, an Anglican theological college and a member of the Cambridge Theological Federation. Words can hardly describe how excited I am about this, and my whole future – something which Cambridge has been instrumental in helping to guarantee.

Nothing is impossible; everything is possible. Realise your potential; achieve your goals.

Will Lyon Tupman studied Theology and Religious Studies and attended Girton College.

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This article has been written by Will Lyon Tupman and the opinions expressed are those of the author.