Diary

05 June 2015

ISTOCK

Faint whiff of nostalgia

SIXTY-FIVE years ago, I was a first-year student at King's College, London. Today, my granddaughter Lydia is also in her first year in the old place, and even reading the same subject, English. Recently we spent a day together.

She showed me round the vastly expanded campus, and I simply soaked up memories. Much, of course, has changed (and, if the press reports are reliable, a lot more may follow), but the heart of the old college on the banks of the Thames is still there.

Lydia took me first to the chapel, and I sat there, recalling people and events. Eric Abbott was Dean in my time - his annual memorial lecture was taking place in Westminster Abbey that very week.

As I sat there, I recalled a sermon by Professor R. V. G Tasker on "Inspired Mistranslations". One was "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." We cherish the words and the vision, but, he suggested, the Psalmist might simply have meant "put on the gorgeous vestments of the temple to praise God".

 

Splendour restored

THE chapel, now restored to its original Georgian splendour, is still the beating heart of a college with a long Christian tradition. The chaplaincy appears to be alive and well, and in tune with the life of modern students. There were no Pimm's and strawberry receptions in my day.

I noticed that they are about to have a college baptism and confirmation service, and a "Valedictory Evensong" - we used to call it End of Term, but never mind - to "give thanks for the past year".

We also visited some of the lecture rooms, the students' union bar - a splendid addition, with glorious views of the Thames - and ended up in "Tutu's". This is the student arts centre, a venue for bands and gigs, drama, and dance. As we opened the door, I wondered about its being named after one of the most distinguished Christians of my lifetime (and, of course, an alumnus of the college).

I needn't have worried. As we entered, two young men were busy setting up an array of enormous drum-kits. I could easily imagine Archbishop Tutu advancing towards them, uttering that delighted chuckle, grabbing a pair of drumsticks, and beating out a mighty roll, culminating in a great shout of "Hallelujah, praise the Lord!".

 

Spoonful of Sugar

WHY does modern technology always make simple things complicated? I realise this is an octogenarian cry from the shores of Yesterday, but I suspect there are a few million like me who feel rather lonely and lost in this mysterious cyberworld.

My old, beloved PC finally passed its sell-by (Windows was no longer "supporting" it), and, in truth, it was a bit like its owner: creaking, slow to warm up, and prone to falling suddenly asleep. I bought a new one, which is, I admit, faster, especially on the internet and with emails. It also looks rather good.

The problem arises with what I have always found simple tasks - such as typing this Diary. Faced with the mundane, it gets secretive and bossy. "Do you want to create an app?" it asks me. Actually, all I want to do is save what I've written, and to me the question is meaningless. What is an app? And why should I want to create one?

Formerly simple processes like numbering pages and providing a word-count have become journeys into the unknown. Several people have helped me, but what I really need is a personal onboard Helper, who knows all about the intricacies of computing but also understands my frailties. Oh dear, I feel a sermon illustration coming on.

My first Amstrad PC 26 years ago had floppy disks (remember them?) and a users' booklet that really did start from the beginning. "Switch on the computer," it said. "You will find the button at the bottom right-hand side of the screen."

Come back, Alan Sugar, and bang a few Microsoft heads together.

 

Volunteer armies

I PREACHED at the farewell service of my friend and erstwhile colleague Bob Edy two weeks ago. He came, his head still warm from the bishop's hands, to be my NSM at the lovely village of Ducklington, near Witney, in 1993.

Six years later, he became the non-stipendiary incumbent of the parish, and has served it, in all, for 22 years. Until he took early retirement from teaching, he was deputy head of Henry Box comprehensive school in Witney, and now leaves to be part-time chaplain at the school in Cirencester where he was once a pupil.

Since 1986, Ducklington parish has been served entirely by part-time ministers, and since 1999 on a house-for-duty basis. I don't think it's a coincidence that in those three decades the Sunday congregation has grown from about 15 to more than 100. There were 200 at Bob's farewell.

Our Area Bishop (Reading) kindly provides an annual lunch for his retired clergy. It's always a convivial occasion, but also a reminder that, in rural areas at least, the Church would be putting up "Services Suspended" notices if it were not for two voluntary clerical armies.

The first is the grey army of the active retired. The second is the equally significant army of those who used to be defined by the fact that they weren't paid (non-stipendiary), but are now honoured as "self-supporting".

 

I vision, you vision

"VISIONING the Embodiment" - that was the slogan on the screen, in the middle of an introduction to what seemed to be a perfectly convincing (and hitherto lucid) process for changing a church's "culture" where mission is concerned.

I sat and mused on the strange phrase, decided it must have had a transatlantic origin, and finally managed to translate it into English: "Imagining what might happen".


Canon David Winter is a retired cleric in the diocese of Oxford, and a former head of religious broadcasting at the BBC.

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