29 July 2011

Old portraits and new needs in Cambridge

Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College last night ... the IOCS summer school comes to an end today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

The portraits of two Irish bishops – Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh and Bishop John Garnett of Clogher – decorate the Old Library and the stairs leading up to it in Chapel Court in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

Last night [28 July], we had our closing dinner of the Summer School of the Institute for Orthodox Studies in the Old Library, dining beneath the portrait of Archbishop Bramhall and other Episcopal worthies associated with Sidney Sussex.

Archbishop Bramhall (1594 -1663), who received his BA, BD, MA and DD degrees while he was a member of Sidney Sussex, came to Ireland as Archdeacon of Meath in 1633, became Bishop of Derry in 1634 and became Archbishop of Armagh in 1661. As archbishop, he presided at the consecration in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, of two archbishops and ten bishops for the post-restoration Church of Ireland, and became Speaker of the Irish House of Lords.

Bishop Garnett (1709-1782) graduated BA at Cambridge in 1728, and MA in 1732. He was a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College and Lady Margaret preacher to the university before going to Ireland in 1751 as chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Dorset, and in 1752 became Bishop of Ferns. He became Bishop of Clogher in 1758. Bishop Garnett died in Dublin in 1782.

Professor David Frost, in that famous tie, speaking under the portrait of Archbishop John Bramhall in the Old Library in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The Principal of the IOCS, Professor David Frost, a Shakespearean scholar, a liturgist and a former Fellow of Saint John’s College, where we watched Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the previous night, stood beneath Bramhall’s portrait after dinner last night as he told a story about a number of Anglican, Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops who were known variously as “Your Eminence,” “Your Elegance,” “Your Excellence,” and “Your Effluence.”

But on a more serious note, he also launched an appeal for a new home for the IOCS, which has been housed for the past ten years at Wesley House on Jesus Lane, and has been using facilities offered by other colleges in the Cambridge Theological Federation.

But as it expands, the institute needs a place of its own and is now looking at two linked Victorian terrace houses in Portugal Place, beside Saint Clement’s Church, an early English church which is used by both a small Church of England parish and the much larger Greek Orthodox parish of Saint Athanasios. It is a vision that needs practical as well as financial support.

Later, it fell to me – as one of the longer-standing students at these summer schools – to thank the directors, staff and lecturers for all they have done for us in the past and in the present, and for all they hope to do in the future.

And then – in a less sober mood – many of us adjourned to the Eagle in Benet Street, not so much for the Liturgy after the Liturgy, Dinner after the Dinner, or Drinks after the Drinks, but to continue the conversation and our friendships, before returning to Sidney Sussex. The summer school enters its last day today [Friday].

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

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