St Michael: The power of story and ritual

An address given at Marlborough College Chapel
Feast of St Michael and All Angels

Every year, on 29th September, the Church throughout the world celebrates the festival of St Michael and All Angels. As some of you may know, Marlborough College Chapel is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. I may be wrong, but the only reason I could find why was that it was consecrated on 29th September in the year 1886.

Michael

Now, celebrate may a big word for what is happening nowadays, but traditionally it was an important day in the year. Together with Christmas, Midsummer and Lady Day, it is one of the four so-called ‘quarter’ days, which mark the turning of the seasons. Of course, this day marking the end of the summer and the beginning of the autumn and the shortening of the days.

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‘You are the light of the world’

A reflection on what it means to be a light to the world

Weston HallDoing a bit of last-minute research in advance of Shell Chapel later today, I discovered that the British Museum was one of the first buildings in the UK to be lit electrically. Candles and oil lamps would have been too dangerous and their smoke would have damaged the artefacts. This means that before the lights were installed in the late nineteenth century, often the building had to close early because it would get too dark to see anything.

It sounds like a pretty obvious point to make, but not matter how many or how beautiful artefacts or pieces of art a museum has, without adequate lighting it will be very hard to see and appreciate them. A further Google search taught me that there are innumerous businesses selling dedicated museum lighting nowadays, something one could probably have guessed, but had never occurred to me.

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A ‘not so new’ beginning

To be rooted is perhaps the most important
and least recognised need of the human soul.

Simone Weil in ‘The Need for Roots’

rootsThe start of the academic year means a new beginning in many ways: new faces, new subjects, new responsibilities, and hence an opportunity to find new habits and routines. This being my second full year at Marlborough College, however, the beginning of the year has also meant a certain continuity: familiar faces, catching up with friends and colleagues, and of course in many cases continuing where we left off academically.

The first few weeks, months, or even years in some cases, are difficult in any place, whether it’s a new place of work, study, or residence. It can be daunting to get to know new people and find yourself in unfamiliar places. Yet, it is also an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself: what and who really matter to you; what you value in friendships in particular, and in life in general. When I moved to Berlin in 2010, I was surprised how many of my ‘old’ habits came back rather quickly – including finding a Church community to which to belong.  Continue reading “A ‘not so new’ beginning”

For everything there is a season

For everything there is a season
A Reflection for May Day

seasonsThe first day of May, May Day, has been traditionally been marked as a day to celebrate the return of spring. Despite the chill, it was a glorious morning this year. At Marlborough College we were treated by the Chamber Choir singing the May Madrigals in Court from the Bradleian Arches. It was an opportunity to pause for just a few moments, listening to wonderfully sung music and feeling the warmth of the sun on our backs.

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We and those around us

Some thoughts about living in community

‘The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.’
Edith Stein (1891–1942)

For any community to thrive, whether it’s a town, a school, a business or even a nation, its members need to be able to live together and form meaningful relationships. It also requires an economy of giving and receiving, in which people take on particular roles and show a willingness to contribute to the flourishing of all. This, in turn, will only happen, if relationships are defined by trust, loyalty, and mutual fulfilment.

Community

To establish relationships of this nature, we need a sense of self-awareness, and I would like to suggest that, maybe paradoxically, we will obtain the truest perspective of ourselves if we are rooted in a flourishing community. For most of us, our first community in which we discover who we are consists of our family, and in later life school, university, workplace and neighbourhood provide a framework in which we find our own particular place. Continue reading “We and those around us”

What marks we shall leave upon the snow

A reflection on Charlotte Mew’s Poem ‘The Call’

From our low seat beside the fire
Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow
Or raked the ashes, stopping so
We scarcely saw the sun or rain
Above, or looked much higher
Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire.
Tonight we heard a call,
A rattle on the window pane,
A voice on the sharp air,
And felt a breath stirring our hair,
A flame within us: Something swift and tall
Swept in and out and that was all.
Was it a bright or a dark angel? Who can know?
It left no mark upon the snow,
But suddenly it snapped the chain
Unbarred, flung wide the door
Which will not shut again;
And so we cannot sit here any more.
We must arise and go:
The world is cold without
And dark and hedged about
With mystery and enmity and doubt,
But we must go
Though yet we do not know
Who called, or what marks we shall leave upon the snow.

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)

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Unlikely Contrasts

A reflection at the beginning of Lent

These last few days have been a time of unlikely contrasts. Personally, as the start of the season of Lent was not only marked by a celebration of the Eucharist, but also by a iPGCE residential organised by Buckingham University, filled with lectures about marking, lesson planning and essay writing.

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I have been surprised by the lack of acknowledgement and conversations about the horrid shootings in Florida earlier this week, despite being together with over 300 teachers and educational specialists. Does it show that this kind of news tragically has become too ‘normal’, or does it show that we are so focused on our own targets, that we lose interest in what is happening around us? And if the latter, does it imply we are losing compassion for those who are further away than the immediate?

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