It’s been a little longer since my last post than I’d originally planned. Despite exams being over life has been rather busy, with much going on in preparation for the end of term (which is, of course, also the end of the academic year), the impending summer trips, and the start of next academic year. And so we reach today, the last day of the academic year, the day we say good-bye to so many friends as they move on to pastures new, the day we confirm that we who arrived last September have survived our first year, the day this community of ours that has been built up over the past year dissolves and we begin the process of building a new community made up of some familiar folk and some new.
It’s a strange day. It will be an emotional evening as we formally send our leavers off (both students and staff) to pastures new through both worship and feasting – I know that for many of them it is time to move on, to step onwards on their journeys. And as they go so those of us remain move on too. Our one remaining member of academic staff is preparing to take over as Principal and put together a new staff team with 2 new academic staff joining over the summer. We who are remaining have spent most of this year being First Years, but gradually, over the past month or so, we have become Continuing Students, and once we are past the summer and have welcomed the New Students and have started our final Life & Service course, most of us will quickly become Leavers ourselves. That’s a scary thought, despite knowing how far I’ve come in the past 9 months!
Looking back over that 9 months I have to say that it has, in the main, been a wonderful year. I’ve made some great friends, both amongst the Methodists here (Continuing and Leaving) and amongst the other denominations, I’ve learnt a huge amount regarding theology, pastoral care and about myself, I’ve enjoyed settling in and becoming a Cambridge resident and calling this city home, and I love having been able to experience family life in a different way than before. And looking forward I’m really excited about the coming summer and next year as well. I have a flying trip back to the West Country this Friday to see U2 finally play the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival (I have waited a long time to hear U2, my favourite band, play my village!), and then heading up to London for a cousin’s wedding on Saturday, before traveling to South Africa in mid-July to mid-August, then a family holiday for a week-and-a-half in Somerset, before a week with the Royal Navy Chaplaincy at Gosport (including another quick trip to Somerset in order to this time literally fly: in a helicopter with the Fleet Air Arm based at RNAS Yeovilton). After that it will be time to start welcoming next year’s new arrivals and building a new community in this now familiar place. There will also be more work for me to do, including a formal attachment in my now beloved Fens (while the Mendip Hills are my home, the Fens remind me so much of the many drives my friends and I took across the Levels to Taunton and Bridgwater), a dissertation in Doctrine, continuing my Hebrew reading, and being prepared to be sent out to put into practice what I and my fellow students have been sent here to train for.
But, for now, today is about saying goodbye, about sending out into the world those who go before us. Not just students and staff but their families as well, who have played their own important parts in the making up this frequently changing community that we call Wesley House. It’s about marking the middle-ground, the threshold, the point of change where Student Ministers become Probationers, where the Principal becomes a Circuit Minister once again, where Independent Students become Student Ministers, where Overseas Students return to be Home Students, where the families of students become “Ministers’ families”. And it also about remembering that in the midst of all this there is one absolute constant: God, who made us, who called us, who loves us, who is our beginning and our end.
Whether you are starting out, part-way there, coming to an end, or moving from one thing to another, travel well,