Monday, 15 July 2013

A sunny summer’s Sunday in
Cambridge and Saffron Walden

Trinity Street … quiet on Sunday evening after the tourists have left Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

It was another warm summer’s day in Cambridge yesterday [Sunday 14 July] as the 14th International Summer School of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies got under way in Sidney Sussex College with registration, Vespers in the college chapel and dinner in the Hall.

I began the day at the Sung Eucharist in Saint Bene’t’s Church, where they were celebrating the Patronal Festival of Saint Benedict, which falls on 11 July, but which was transferred so the parish could have a full celebration, including a picnic.

Saint Bene’t’s in the summer sunshine this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

During previous summer schools, I have gone to the Early Eucharist on weekday mornings, but this was my first time in Saint Bene’t’s for the Sunday Eucharist. The celebrant and preacher was the Vicar of Saint Bene’t’s, the Revd Anna Matthews, who spoke about the Rule of Saint Benedict and the values of Benedictine stability. The setting was A New People’s Mass by Dom Gregory Murray (1905-1992), Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey.

Quite by accident I found myself in a pew beside the Revd Colin Chapman, a former Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology, in Beirut, until 2003, and who now lives in semi-retirement near Cambridge. He has worked throughout the Middle East, and also taught at Trinity College, Bristol and Crowther Hall, Selly Oak, Birmingham. His books include Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenge of Islam (revised most recently in 2012), Islamic Terrorism’: Is There a Christian Response? (2005), Whose holy City? Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2004); and Whose Promised Land? (2003).

In the md-1990s, Colin taught on an early course in Christian-Muslim dialogue I was part of in the Church of Ireland Theological College.

To celebrate Saint Benedict, we were all offered a glass of prosecco afterwards. Later, there was special Parish Picnic by the river near the Mill. However, I had arranged to have lunch with an old college friend and his family who now live in Saffron Walden.

Paul collected me at Saint Bene’t’s and as we drove out through Great Chesterford and Little Chesterford, and past Audley End, the neat and bounteous fields of East Anglia spread out on all sides under the summer sunshine like sparkling quilts of green and gold.

But the afternoon in Saffron Walden was all too short. I was back in Sidney Sussex by 4 and in time for registration in the Mong Hall, where most of the summer school lectures are going to take place.

It’s time for Pimm’s ... a summer treat in Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

After Vespers in the Chapel, served by Father Alexander Teft, and dinner in the Hall, we adjourned to Cloister Court for a Pimm’s reception in the lingering heat of the evening sun.

I later had a quiet stroll through the streets of Cambridge on my own. Earlier in the day, Cambridge was as crowded with tourists as it has ever been, but now the streets seem deserted, with a few couples strolling had-in-hand and cyclists on the cobbled street visibly happy with the freedom.

From my room in Blundell Court I then watched the sun set behind the pinnacles and towers of Saint John’s, with purple and pink streaks in the fading light. It’s down to work in earnest this morning.

King’s Parade … quiet on Sunday evening after the tourists have left Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)


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