Almost unbelievably the end of term is very nearly here. Looking back I realise that I have learnt again that college life can often be a bit intense and a tad relentless. I would like to review the whole term, but that would be far too much. How about a look at a week.
Last Saturday I gave a tour of the Chapel to some college guests and supporters. Three tours were arranged simultaneously – one on art, one on music and mine on religion. It’s quite interesting to explain the liturgy of a place which was built just before the Reformation changed everything in ways that were unimagined. Also interesting to share with people my recent experience of showing the Chapel to the Venerable Master Xuecheng. I took him close to the famous Ruben’s painting and pointed out that the king at the front was offering incense to the Christ child. Incense – an immediate point of inter-faith connection with Buddhism and many other religions from the East. ‘From the East’ – that was a nice point to make too. Later there were literally hundreds of people with us for Evensong. After that it was drinks before a ‘Formal Dress’ dinner (we don’t say ‘Black Tie’ here) at which I sat next to the broadcaster who first put the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Minnesota Public Radio in the 1970s, and thereby opened the USA up to the sound of King’s.
Sunday found me preaching on Advent and time at the Eucharist (‘getting busy is not like catching the flu’) enjoying a great lunch with some Trialogue friends (see the last blog for clarification of ‘trialogue’) and then presiding over our Advent Procession. It’s the hottest liturgical ticket in town. Those in the know say they much prefer it to Christmas Eve. After that I hosted a reception for about 300 people, giving them sausage rolls and mulled cider. I proposed three cheers for the choir and the roof was more than raised.
Monday involved rather a lot of administration and doing a spot of problem solving. Evensong was sung by King’s Voices (KV = our second choir) together with the Crypt Choir of King’s School Canterbury (which happily includes a former Durham girl chorister). It was a great service with, again, hundreds of people present. After that I gave a reception for KV. A smaller party this, for about 30. Very pleasant though, and my first chance to have a conversation with most of them – and learn what extraordinarily pleasant and interesting people they are. Good at eating and drinking too. And after that I slipped into a packed Hall to hear the second half of a concert given by ‘The King’s Men’ – our choral scholars when they are off duty. I have to say that they were really very good and that their efforts were greeted with rapturous applause. Some of it was filmed and will shown on Songs of Praise in a week or so.
Then came Tuesday, if I remember rightly, and one of our fortnightly chapel team meetings. Happily we added the word ‘done’ to a good number of actions on our ‘actions table’. Action tables are one of my favourite admin tools – far more important than minutes of meetings, in my view. I also swing into gear as ‘Director of Studies’ and, with some success (I boast), navigate the University’s academic admin system to learn how my students have been getting on this term. I email them all to arrange end of term meetings on Friday. There goes the day off, but I am looking forward to it. Cambridge is based on a huge commitment to one-to-one support, and it’s a wonderful privilege to be one of the ones giving it. No Evensong today as we had transferred St Andrew by two days and so had a full and glorious eucharist – with incense.
And then Wednesday. One of the things I am doing at the moment is raising awareness of the College’s recording label. This is a new venture and is doing rather well. By that I mean that two of our recent CDs are in the top 20 of the UK’s official classic chart. I like to tell people that. I manage to get a bit of writing done. We are planning to put out a small piece about the history of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols before Christmas. It should have been done by now but – well – other things have demanded my attention. So I find the inside of an hour to write my bit. A colleague will then add to it and we should have an article by tomorrow morning. I also finalise the ‘bidding’ that I have written for our Easter TV service which we film in December (yes we do) when the BBC will also film ‘Carols from King’s’ – for which my new bidding was written a whole week ago.
Thursday brings the ‘Annual Congregation’ when the Fellows of the College gather for a big pow-wow about everything that really matters – like last year’s accounts and various other subjects so sensitive that I should not even name them. So about 80 of us sit begowned in a room where about 35 would be comfortable for almost four hours. Intellectually this meeting is the equivalent of using a nuclear bomb to open a pistachio, but it is necessary – and educating. A good lunch followed and after that I was in a meeting developing plans for our ‘Easter at King’s’ festival, which is a relatively new but wonderfully impressive part of life here.
Friday – goodness, that’s tomorrow! – and after half a day of half-hour slots with some super-bright young theologians I will tidy up the emails and other admin and see what’s left of the day off.
Saturday will begin with an 8.15am eucharist as it is ‘Founder’s Day’, that is, Henry VI’s birthday. It’s followed by a jolly breakfast. There will be also be a big Evensong later to round off the term – incorporating a ceremony of roses and lilies. King’s Voices will be singing, and the No 1 choir is giving a concert at the Barbican. Then there’s the Founder’s Feast, but I am skipping that in favour of the last ever concert to be given by the Hilliard Ensemble with saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Yes, ‘The Final Officium Concert’ is happening in Chapel – just as their first one did.
So maybe I wasn’t so far off when I suggested life can be a little relentless here. Good fun, though.