22nd March 19
Unlike some, I tend to think of Sunday as the first day of the week. That is probably the result of of 42 years as a Parish Priest in the Church of England. The account of the Resurrection of Jesus starts with the words “…..very early, on the first day of the week….” For Jews the sabbath day is Saturday so Sunday truly is the first day of the week for them. Christians took advantage of what happened and made Sunday the first day of the week because of the resurrection.
I am in the College Chapel by 09:30 to get things ready for the weekly Sunday service that we have instituted since the start of last term. We have a service of Holy Communion now every Sunday in the Chapel at 10:00. With the Headmaster’s permission and encouragement this service is open to anyone who wants to come, even if they are not connected directly with the College in other ways. We call it “Guesthouse” as the Chapel was once the Guesthouse of the Priory of St Martin, and we like to be able to house guests for a Sunday service each week.
Numbers are not great, yet, but a faithful group of 10 -15 come pretty regularly. We sit in the choir stalls, follow the pattern of the Anglican Common Worship Holy Communion Service, and gather round the altar for the Consecration, passing Bread and Wine to each other at the moment of communion. We sing three hymns, accompanied normally by the Headmaster on the piano, or unaccompanied if he can’t be with us.
We had a large gathering at Guesthouse on Christmas Day and we are looking forward to Easter Day when one of the College’s students, and her younger brother are going to be Confirmed. I have been preparing them for that event for several weeks. The retired Bishop of Durham, Michael Turnbull, who is a friend of mine, is kindly coming to co duct the Confirmation that day.
I am back in school for 18:00 for Choral Evensong in Chapel. This only happens once a year, and is one of the Whole School Sunday services. It is sung well, with some fine solos from choir members, and thoughtful prayers and readings. In the hectic world in which we are all living Evensong is proving popular in Cathedrals and churches throughout the land. A bit of peace and sanity does us all good.
I am only part-time in this job, so I don’t come in every day, but Tuesday is the morning when I take Morning Chapel. This week I talk about St Paul, in a series I have set myself on “People in the Bible whose names begin with a P”. All in all I have done well over 100 Morning Chapel talks since I joined the College in 2013. Half the battle of Morning Chapel talks is deciding what to talk about. Hence some strange and sometimes offbeat subjects get aired.
This evening I am leading a Lent Course in my home town of Deal for a combined Methodist and Anglican Group. We are doing an “In depth study of Jesus”. Thirty people turn up and I am frantically revising my old notes from University days.
I get to school by 07:45 to set up for the weekly Thursday Communion Service at 08.00. A small group of us gather to break bread together and to pray for the school. We only have 20-minutes available as students taking part in the Thursday Morning Assembly need to do some last minute rehearsing most weeks at 08:20.
Then it is over to the Junior School for a half hour weekly session with one of the year groups. I visit one year group each week. That includes the Early Years children. I read stories from the Bible, or devise fiendish quizzes for the class, or speak about my life and my faith, and generally get to know the children and, perhaps more importantly, to be seen by them as an ordinary part of school life. They tend to call me Mr Chaplain.
At lunch time we have a Staff Prayer Group that meets in my small office in the Chapel. We get sandwiches and drinks from the Refectory and spend time bringing to mind those people and issues in the school that we think are in need of prayer. Then we pray for those people and those issues. We are a small group, five or six most weeks, but we think it is important to hold the school’s life in the loving care of our heavenly Father. If anyone ever wants to join us, or to give us a person or issue to pray for, we are only too ready to receive them.
An extra event takes place today, at 18:30, as we have a service in Chapel to mark the season of preparation for Easter. We are calling it “Turning towards Jerusalem: a Lenten Devotion in words and music”. I have been spending time with Mr Young choosing readings, both Biblical and non Biblical, and music, to suit the Theme. The service is open for anyone, parents, friends, Governors, and members of the school.
The only Saturdays which involve me in coming into school are Open Morning Saturdays, so my next appearance will be for Guesthouse on Sunday. This week we will have a friend of mine, another retired priest, to join us and to preach the sermon for us.
I got roped in to all this when Gerry Holden, the former Headmaster, asked me, as a retired priest in the area, if I could help with the Remembrance Sunday service of 2013. I did so. He then asked for help at Christmas that year, and then Easter a few months later. In the end we decided that I might as well join the College on a part time basis in a more regular way.
I enjoy the contact with the College that I am privileged to have, and I enjoy “keeping my hand in”, so to speak, with what I have done all my life.
Vicars don’t really ever retire; they simply change the surroundings in which they operate. Dover College and it’s students and staff make great surroundings, and I thank them all for allowing me to be a small part of their lives.