What a week. A week ago we were anxiously awaiting the reformation of our community here with the arrival of the new students, hoping that they would bring as much desire to be a part of things as we have. We have not been disappointed.
In and amongst Martin’s evocation of Benedict’s ministry of holding one’s tongue, and the introduction of the elected common room officers and the ‘crown appointments’ (offices chosen by the House); we have also seen and introduced them to
the ministry of handing things on and the ‘mugs appointments’ (offices seemingly spontaneously created by virtue of someone being daft enough to do them).
Yesterday almost 30 Westcotians cycled, drove, walked and piggybacked but not quite punted to Grantchester, to the tea rooms, pubs, beer festival. It’s almost unheard of for an Indian summer to arrive at the end of September so much that it’s 28+ degrees in the shade on the 1st of October, but it was a gentle afternoon walk, no lecture to arrive at so time and scenic routes could be taken. And acquaintances made, deepened and friendships begun to be made. And renewed – many of us have been apart over the summer and the closeness of relationships we developed last year have stood the test of the time apart but have been longing to be back together and share experiences.
Last night a good bunch also congregated in the bar for A Life of Brian to kick off the film club. Already it’s visible that there’s a lovely social crowd, and a real buzz in the common room, a vibe that’s been there every day this week in the coffee slots and in the bar. A vibe that just makes you smile.
Today a willing volunteer or two from the first years found the bbqs and marshalled lunch, with everyone bringing loads to share, including homemade louisianan burgers with blue cheese and home baked bread. The late summer heat drove most inside or into the shade to eat, but still the presence hung around the court – and even volunteers for clearing up and washing up (mugs appointment for next year in the ministry of handing on in progress there then…)
I spent a few minutes eating my lunch on my own, looking around, feeling the warmth, physical and social, realising that despite our anxieties originally, that this is going to be an amazing year. It’s going to be so hard, no matter how exciting the next step, and how ready we’ll be to take it by then, to leave this behind. As if last year didn’t have good memories already, it’s going to be so sad to leave this community and what we have and are creating here. It does give us a glimpse of the kingdom I think, at moments of fellowship like this and I almost get a lump in my throat at how blessed we are going to be sharing this year together.
Yesterday morning we hugged Mike and Peter farewell en route to Salford for the term. So glad they were here for the first week, but a horrid foretaste of the goodbyes that are to come. They will miss so much here this term, but it’s only a temporary goodbye. Martin at lunch time said it was amazing how great a welcome we’d created for the new year, and to have a care for him when he has to wave us all off year after year. I’m glad I’m not the only one who will be a teary mess by the time the reality of June kicks in.
I’m almost concerned my chocolate cake isn’t going to get much of a look-in this year, with a load of bakers, cafe-running volunteers, barmen, chefs, sous-chefs etc. But that’s ok, because where we served last year, we can gain a lot from being able to receive the ministry of these amazing brothers and sisters who have already called Westcott their home. And that is a gift for us to give as well as receive.
Clearly exemplified, not just so much by the ones who have asked to cook and bar and sound system and bake and dance and play football, but by the others, who’ve come and eaten and drunk – I’ve taken over £40 already from the piggy bun – and typified by Chris, who said to me yesterday “I can’t cook…. but I can peel potatoes and anything else you tell me to”. We are so very lucky. So very lucky. God calls us together to bless us and equip us to go out into the world and share that blessing with others. The ministry of handing things on is not just for us to them, not just for them taking the initiative to recognise that they need to remember about the beer festival in order to take next year’s first years to it, but for all of us to spill that love out into the world. My incumbent (who announced me to the parish today) said to me “I had a fantastic curacy, before I retire I’d like to hand that on to someone else”. Paying forward the blessings you have received is a sure way of using your gifts to the glory of God. What a year this is going to be…