Read Canon Mike's reflection for Tuesday, September 15th, 2020.
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Liverpool Cathedral · Education - a reflection by Canon Mike Kirkby
The strange times continue – now into our new academic year and its first semester, the strangeness certainly continues. At this time of year, I often think back to my first day at uni (yes, I can still remember that far back!); the excitement, the trepidation, the realisation – when my mum, dad and the dog drove away from the college car park in Durham, leaving me on my own. The first communal dinner together with complete strangers in the college dining hall, to meet a friend who stayed with me throughout my time there and also the terror of then, having sat at the end of the table, finding that the tradition was to then serve everybody else for their meal. The anticipation of meeting new friends, joining many different societies including the Christian unions for both college and university and feeling my faith develop in so many different ways. The endless cups of coffee with friends and the far too often overused phrase of ‘I really must go and do some work’…..only to sit around and indulge in yet another cup! Finding the chapel choir and university choral society – a stepping stone from music at school to a lifetime of singing and choral music. Learning to row….and then in the next three years spending far too much of my time on the river or in the chapel choir, rather than in the library working! Friendships formed quickly – some life long, some too long….and that was just the first term! It was an exhilarating time – even all those decades ago.
When we consider our new students starting here in Liverpool now, the landscape will be very different – not least the measures in place at least to try and maintain social distancing and to keep everyone safe. The pavements are littered with signs which remind me more of the rules in school corridors (as you can see above) – of keeping to the left, of one-way systems, of not loitering, of keeping your distance, of masks to be worn….of patience and respect. In many ways, the freedoms that I enjoyed in my first uni will be very different here and now. But I suspect there will still be enjoyment, and the work will have to start up after the very different, mostly virtual welcome week….teaching which for many of us lecturers is still through an online world; one which actually started with my postgrads two weeks ago now.
In our Cathedral shop there are some lovely little prayer cards – one of which is called ‘A Student’s Prayer’. I have it on my desk, for the occasions when I can give it to students whom I meet in the cathedral from time to time. Its words are perhaps written for more ‘normal’ times, but in essence they very much apply now for students in this current situation – with that mix of excitement and, for some, extreme trepidation. It reads….
This is it, Lord: I’m off to university. I’ve worked for this. Essays, revision, exams…
And now, with everything I own packed into a bag, I’m leaving home. I’m nervous, Lord, and excited.
My world is growing larger, my life more challenging. I’m leaving behind what I know and understand and stepping into the unknown.
New people await me, new experiences, but something remains, always: you.
Walk with me, Lord. Amen
It is indeed a step into the unknown, especially now. But it is all an education though, it is all learning – the academic and the experiential; but the latter in a very different way to usual. But God is still there to be with us and to uphold us, especially when the going gets tough. The learning from the courses and the experiences is continuous though – much like our faith, much like our daily lives as Christians…..learning from God’s holy word and from seeing God’s work in action in the world around us – in the good and brilliant, and also in the stressful, anxious and sorrowful. Whatever is happening within our lives, on our planet, God is there in the mix of it all….we saw that in brilliant examples of reaching out and caring for each other in the heart of the lockdown period; we will see it again, as we approach yet another challenging time.
Last Sunday was the 14th Sunday after Trinity; but it was also Education Sunday. A Sunday chosen in the church calendar (across many different denominations and traditions) as a special day of prayer for all involved across the whole spectrum of education. In recent times it has been chosen as the second Sunday in September, to coincide with the start of the academic year. The theme for this year is entitled “A learning people in a time of change”….and how true that is for the current times.
But Christ calls us to continually learn, in times that are always changing; the beauty of holy scripture is how dynamic it is, in being wonderfully applicable in times of change…as it has done over thousands of years, through the mighty upheavals of the past times across the world, as well as in this country. And still it endures. That should teach us all something in itself; that the love of God is constant, and is there through all the changing faces of our world and society; how we become the eyes and hands of Jesus through God’s love, in the power of the spirit is what we must continually learn – day in and day out, to love those around us in such changing and challenging times; to adapt accordingly and show the world, that God’s love is there no matter what, for all people and for all time. That is an education for us all, a lesson for us all, which we should never tire of learning.
With my love and prayers for you all, as always; stay safe…
Canon Mike 😊
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of our prayer blog, Prayer for Liverpool: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.