I wonder if you are familiar with the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt‘? Well not for me it doesn’t!
I was incredibly fortunate attending university in Aberystwyth. Although I have never directly used the studies I completed there, a BSc (Econ) in Agricultural Economics, I have so many good memories of my time there, the scenery, the people I continue friendships with (including my husband), the wonderful church (people and building) at St. Mike’s, that just remembering the place brings me a warm glow of contentment.
Before I went to ‘Aber’ I was able to visit for my interview, and visit again over the summer before I started, which included familiarising myself with the local geography (aided and abetted by my Mum, who had arranged that we holiday in nearby Tregaron where I fell in love with the then rare Red Kites!)
It seemed perfectly natural for me to sort of repeat the exercise before I started ordination training as a mixed-mode student at Ripon College Cuddesdon. I didn’t even recognise until I started this reflection that I was repeating the format of the past!
Some of my trips to Cuddesdon in recent weeks were simply sight-seeing so that both my son and my Dad could visualise where I would be spending my time. Others, were academic, as I’ve met both my Dean of Studies and my Academic Tutor to try and settle some of the detail of my course programme. In the course of these, I have become familiar with the local roads, and alternative routes in and out of the village.
I have discovered that I am the only Mixed-Mode MA student in the place, as previous participants in this specific format of MA have all left to be ordained. Trust me to different! Thankfully in two weeks time I will meet the (few) other MA Brookes candidates, who will be residential students.
I have also taken the time to walk a little in the area. With the family we pottered round the Cuddesdon Mill area, and yesterday before the final stage of the induction process for all part-time students, I was able to walk from college, to Denton and back across the fields. The plan is that I occasionally take our mad mutt to college, and I’d rather suss out the fields, stiles, bridges and types of local farm stock before I’ve got her with me. And yes, now commonly visible in Oxfordshire, Red Kites will be an even bigger feature of college life for me – there were four hanging over the college grounds as I walked south.
Having done all these things, I am left with a sense of the surroundings (as well as the wildlife) being familiar, both within college and around the village. I drove home late yesterday evening, hugely at peace and content with my lot, despite the deluge of information we’ve been given in recent days. Although I anticipate the academic work to be the toughest I’ve ever attempted, actually that’s made so much easier to bear by the lack of uncertainty and the sense of contentment.
I suspect there are other reasons for my sense of peace, knowing as I do how many friends and family members have been holding me in prayer over recent days and months. To them my huge and grateful thanks, and a request: Please don’t stop now; the really hard work is about to begin! God’s peace is beyond all understanding, and I give thanks that at least for now, I have it in abundance.
With real work looming, some of which lies next me demanding to be read, comes the excitement of getting to know my fellow part-timers on the Oxford Ministry Course, and the residential students among whom I will be working, especially those who I have already ‘met’ via Twitter!
Here’s to both the familiarity and contentment continuing.