The arrival in Oxford on Sunday evening for the start of #LifeTogetherOxford saw us all warmly welcomed to our host colleges. Myself and George CR; Judith and Margaret Theresa SLG and Jane ASSP. I was in The Queen’s College – fittingly so for me with its Northern links and long choral tradition. I certainly was impressed by the environment, and remarked when preaching at evensong that night how extraordinary it felt to be there and speak the Word amidst such apparent history and tradition. The aim of the week was to promote the notion of vocation – and specifically of that to the religious life.
We were there chiefly to pray, and so kept a monastic-style office each morning in St Mary’s (the University) Church. This regularity meant that we saw and shared daily with many of the same faces. There were upwards of twenty people there for Morning Prayer each day, which was pleasing, and we had the opportunity to eat breakfast together in the café afterwards. Here there was ample time to initiate conversations and get to know one another. And this set the tone for the daily pattern with us, because subsequently there were talks and meet-a-monk/nun slots to which people we had encountered previously came. So, crucially to good missionary work, there was sound opportunity for follow-up! The days were long but very pleasing on this account.
It was certainly a privilege for my part to experience the life of a university once again – and especially the life of Oxford colleges. The brothers and sisters agreed that the Oxbridge system is ideal to undertake vocation events within, because it allows for the building of relationships and gives individuals in the group continuity with the people they meet. It is possible to make links with chaplaincy teams and clergy which last beyond the designated ‘mission week.’ Indeed, we are already looking to return to the university and are exploring possibilities of a similar event in Cambridge. Watch this space! I was really glad to make the acquaintance of Katherine Price, chaplain of Queen’s College and ex-Mirfieldonian! Great exchange was undoubtedly made! I also hope to go back to Hertford College to preach.
Whilst I couldn’t dine at high table every night nor perhaps keep up with the seemingly insane examination pressure these students are placed under, it was a joyous experience to offer something of my unfolding vocation with men and women likewise discerning theirs in Oxford. Pray that it may yield a harvest to His glory: thirty, sixty – even a hundredfold!
Br Marc CR