In the end it was with sadness and excitement, mixed in equal measure, that I finally took that left turn up Stoke Hill. For three academic years Trinity College had been a place of great joy, fantastic challenges, brilliant friendships, spiritual formation, laughter, laughter, tears, laughter, Coffee, loads of chapel sessions, liturgy, laughter, tears, God, and hope.
If I am totally honest, the grief of leaving such a place, where I had developed real deep roots, was tough. I think even in the excitement of my curacy, which is brilliant, I am still grieving the loss of the familiar corridors, voices, sounds and smells. It is a loss which has taken quite a while to recognise and is quite confusing to place, especially while you’re in the magnificent after. It has felt, and that is mostly my own hang up, as though I needed to conceal or never verbally acknowledge any sense of sorrow for the place I was leaving behind in the place I was going into.
I had turned up to Trinity College a fresh-faced extroverted ordinand, eager to pour through the many texts, keen to prove myself right in my thinking. Life, and I think God through it, did not pull its punches. When the psalmist asks God to search him and know him, does he think that he is not known by God so that God would have to search him to know him? The petition, I think, is one that is requests God’s assistance in the journey of introspection from which confession, the real space of self awareness, is possible. The way everlasting is one through which mankind must be led. The leader is The Creator who knows the follower for He made them, the follower is the one who needs to be shown who they have been created to be.
For all my extroversion, especially with my fresh-faced approach to theology, I had thought some of the wicked ways within me which I knew of where all the wicked ways within me. A beer with the Doctrine lecturer helped me to understand that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and in fact didn’t know how much I don’t know – and still don’t. A lunch with the old Testament tutor helped me to begin to appreciate Hebrew as culture and a language and set the groundwork for what’s going to be life of discovery as I look into the things that made Jesus who he is and made what he did so amazing.
Conversations with the acting principal during the interregnum which turned my eyes towards the ‘deeper currents of prayer’ that where running beneath the life of the college connecting its past its present and its future. Deep currents which begun to impact my inner life, turning me towards more focused and contemplative prayer, a strange development for an extrovert. Observing a new principal apply her own unique approach to leadership, an approach which has inspired me to think through what I would do in her shoes. So many notes taken and hopefully will be applied as I develop into the different leadership roles I sense my calling will draw me into.
A note here on the character of the new principal, there is no way to sum it up other than she loves Jesus and it is evident in her life.
Gratitude to the other faculty members and staff who were present with smiles and hellos doing very turbulent years in my away from college life. Special thanks also to the many students who were very welcoming, very kind, very patient, very loving, very affirming and very honest with their own vulnerabilities. They gave me the space to grow and ask questions and respond to all the other inputs that were flooding in.
I was sent to study theology. It feels as though God used the space to help me study me. I’m still not known to myself but I thank God that I am known to him fully. Trinity College Bristol, you are and forever will be an important part of my life. I hope over the years in some way to represent you well, and to give back at the very least a tenth of what you have given me. But for now, with my heart simply following where my body has gone, I must turn left and ascend the hill away.