Not really what we meant by a shirt with a dog collar!

One of my facebook acquaintances, a student, soon to grace the corridors at St John's, attracted my attention to this rather beautiful poem in the Church Times:

Lord, you seized me and I could not resist you.
I ran for a long time but you followed me.
I took by-paths but you knew them.
You overtook me.
I struggled.
You won.
Here I am, Lord, out of breath, no fight left in me,
and I've said "yes" almost willingly.
When I stood trembling like one defeated before his captor,
Your look of love fell on me...
Marked by the fire of your love, I cannot forget you.
Now I know that you are there, close to me, and I work in peace,
beneath your loving gaze.
I no longer make the effort to pray.
I just lift my eyes to you and I meet yours.
And we understand one another.
All is light, all is peace.

Michel Quoist (1921 - 97)

It's beautiful, isn't it? However, on a lighter note, I quote

"Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. [Acts 26:24]"

I wonder if any of the new students will be wondering about this happening to them. I doubt it, although all that reflection that we're encouraged to do, does express itself in some strange ways of thinking. We have philosophised about the arrangement of the salt and pepper pots on our lunch tables at college as we send up the state of our thinking and I know I have received a hastily assembled but much appreciated birthday card last November with 'Happy Birthday' written in Greek, which made me chuckle.

We're a strange bunch and you can see that many of us are trying not to take ourselves too seriously and this is often expressed in how we dress. There are now an increasing number of T-shirts being worn by ordinands whose graphics are designed for light relief, from the body of a Flintstone or the Incredible Hulk, so that your own face becomes a part of the picture, as you sit with your head in Christology or Systematics, which can make for quite a funny contrast, to the Cookie Monster and Darth Vader, Superman and Kermit, our clothes are getting weirder and weirder.

My year group has a kind of cool and young element to it with some of the youngest ordinands in St John's history. We are quite a lively bunch, according to the lecturers, who have to help us to get our heads around Canon Law and Hooker's Lawes, recapitulation and Homoosiousness (if there's such a word) whilst reminding us not to log onto facebook whilst they are in full flow (that's an exaggeration, I think).

We will welcome a new cohort at the end of the month, many of whom are making the move and taking up residence in various student houses or flats on campus, as I write. I have been thinking about how really we can not quite call them Freshers. We become 'Returners', I do not think we have an official word for the new students.(?) (Open to suggestions!)

According to dictionary definitions, a 'Fresher' is a first-year undergraduate and we are such a mixture of people of all different ages and experiences, many of us have been through university once and have no desire to repeat Freshers' Week experiences that we may have had first time around (don't ask!).

As regards Freshers making friends TheSite.org  recommends the following:

  • Wear a T-shirt with the answers [to all the usual questions about who you are and what you have studied already] and say, "fancy a pint?" instead.
  • Say: "I'm from Mars, I already have a PhD in Cybernetics and just came down to Earth for the party".
  • Dress obscurely; those lime green hot pants are sure to pass comment. Especially if you're a guy.
  • Get yourself a famous mate/lover and get them to drop you off. Make sure they are credible; everyone will want to know you.
  • Organise the party to end all parties at your halls, for which the entrance password is your name, everyone will have a great time, and know you were responsible for it.
The dressing obscurely thing, many of us are already exercising. It is probably some last ditched attempt at freedom before we don dog collars, a limited palette of shirts and clerical vestments (aka cassock and surplis), which quite frankly I feel like some kind of walking pair of curtains in.

The famous mate/lover (em, lovers are frowned upon at theological college!) for which everyone will want to know you, is invested in questions about whom the Bishop might be of your sending diocese or whether you are a product of something interesting like the Moravians, the Pentecostals or some other denomination different to Anglicanism and therefore highly exotic.

The student pub is The White Lion so 'Fancy a pint' is not a problem, the Church of England is positively encouraging us to get together in pubs these days so that our 'expression' might be 'Fresh', even if our breath is beery.

Parties happen and I have heard about a few that were more raucous, which, of course, I have not attended ;-) but student advice about safe sex and alcohol limits is probably not necessary.

So there we go, we should all survive!

New students will get a week with the place to themselves before we return for a full first week from our placement churches. By then, they'll already be used to bolting their food before lectures and racing up the stairs for prayers at one minute to eight to arrive somewhat less than serenely. They'll have been shown the dreaded box into which we post our assignments, knowing once we have made the drop, there's no retrieving the thing for one last proof-read and they'll have organised internet connections and added new friends to their facebook profiles, some of them might have even started to covet those really rather tacky themed T-shirts everyone seems to be wearing these days!

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