All posts by Ashley Wilson

New Chair of Governing Body

 

The Governing Body of St Chad’s College is delighted to announce the appointment of Mark Woodruff as its next Chair.

Mark brings a great deal of governance experience and a long commitment to social justice and inclusion.  He is currently a Programme Director of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.  Mark is also a musician and, as a priest, a writer in the field of ecumenism.

Mark knows St Chad’s well.  He was a student here in the late seventies and has been actively engaged as an alumnus in recent years.

Mark succeeds Jonathan Blackie, who is near the end of his term as Governing Body Chair.  The College is extremely grateful for Jonathan’s wise and kind leadership over the last eight years.

 

 

Sermon by Dr Masson at the installation of The Revd David Rushton as College Chaplain

Licensing of David Rushton as our New Chad’s Chaplain

11th October, 2017

Sermon by Margaret Masson, Principal

Readings: Job 28: 12 – 28; Ephesians 3: 14 – 21

David, you are well and truly installed – Chad’s/C of E doesn’t do these things by halves!

Thank you, Bishop David for being with us to do the licensing.

David, hope you also feel well and truly welcome – great joy to celebrate with you as you begin your ministry amongst us.

Already, you feel very much a part of our community – we’re very happy to have you.  A warm welcome also to your parents, friends, members of our college community – everyone here this evening

I’d also like to thank Ashley – not only for putting this service together,  but for all you have given  us during your eight years )plus one acting) as chaplain. Thank you!

Already, this is quite a long service; so I plan to speak fairly briefly; but I do want to take this chance to reflect on what we’re doing here tonight.

Why are we installing a chaplain?  In these times when religion is often such a contested, problematic space, why does it matter to us to have a chaplain?  What are we hoping for from David’s ministry amongst us?

Whole books have been devoted to role of chaplaincy, but tonight, I want to suggest three things that I think, hope, pray that this chaplain will bring to this community.

  1. Job 28 – a reading suggested by David – is all about Wisdom. It’s a wonderful passage.

It aims to awaken our imaginations (it’s pure poetry) to the beauty and importance of wisdom:

  • “it cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire, its price is above pearls, it cannot be compared with the topaz of Ethiopia…”

It’s very very precious

Wisdom is also portrayed here as very elusive…where do you find it? Often hidden, concealed, not obvious: wisdom is not just common sense

In these verses, wisdom demands a certain humility as we seek it out:  an awareness of our own human limitedness, our fundamental dependence on God – who is characterised here as the source of all wisdom.

 

I hope here at St Chad’s, Wisdom – however we conceive it – is part of what all of us are here to learn.

It’s part of what a chaplain is here to nurture, even provoke us towards.

 

So, David, we look to you to help us in our search for Wisdom (no pressure), and to do this, you will need to listen to us, to be catalyst for reflection, to bring us perspective when we most need it, to be a person of integrity, someone who will do your best to speak truth to us – even when we may not want to hear it!  As individuals, as a college, we hope that amidst all the busyness, the sometimes conflicting, confusing experiences of our lives, that you will challenge us to search for, even help us to find, wisdom.

 

  1. Our second reading this evening is about an even more fundamental human longing – Love – and again, it’s a wonderful, poetic, lyrical text which is tumbling over itself as it strains to express the sheer riches and abundance of the Love that is ours in God. It talks about being rooted and grounded in love, having the power to comprehend the breadth, the length, the height, the depth of God’s love, of knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, of being filled with all the fullness of God… In these short verses, there are so many images of abundance, overflowing; these are words alive with the sense of the power and possibility of that love.

This is not the kind of cotton wool candyfloss love that bears fruit in entitlement or narcissism or the brittle fragility of self-delusion that shrinks from difficulty or challenge. It’s the kind of love that sees us – and helps us to see ourselves – as we are, warts and all, and loves us – unconditionally, overwhelmingly, anyway.

 

One of the things that I think characterises the Chad’s community – when it is being its best self – is the way in which it gives each of us a sense of being valued, being loved in this kind of honest, unflinching, uncompromising, wonderful and usually costly way.

Non vestra sed vos – not for what you have, not for how intelligent or beautiful or rich you happen to be – but for you yourself, just as you are.

 

David, part of your role as chaplain is to nurture this love – and I know you will – as you are present with us – in the dining room, the kitchens, our common rooms, the bar, the sports field, here in chapel…reminding us not just in your words, but in your presence with us, of this sometimes troubling but ultimately redeeming truth: we are loved, infinitely precious. And so is everyone else in this college, this University, this City – this planet.

 

  1. Which leads me on to the third thing I’d like to say this evening.

As well as searching for Wisdom, as well as grasping that we are loved, David, we’d also like you to help us be a generous community of inclusion, place of radical hospitality.

A chaplain is for everyone – and I know David believes this very deeply –

not just for those who come to chapel – not just for students of this college, but

for each and every member – Porter or Principal, for the newest fresher and the oldest alumnus, for each staff member, tutor, SCR member, for each and every student whatever their faith or belief.

This is not just my vision; it’s not just the vision of this chaplain or this college, but it’s deeply in the DNA of the Anglican faith which inspired the founding of St Chad’s College.  It’s what inspires our commitment to social justice, the way we value community.

 

And a key part of this vision is that it does not stop with us:

David is Chaplain and Outreach officer – we were reminded again at the Engaged and Inspired lecture in the Cathedral on Thursday that this College was founded so that people who could not afford it on their own would not miss out on being able to fulfil their vocation. In those days, it was vocation to the priesthood; today, it is about the vocation to study the whole range of academic subjects.

 

So our challenge is: how do we as Chad’s today live out this commitment to inclusion, to justice?  This is for each of us to work out personally, as well as for us as a College to respond to in each new generation.

David, we want you to encourage us in this, whether it’s in how we treat each other day by day, or through our volunteering, our admissions work, our Widening participation with schools, our Research, our choir outreach, our prayers, or in countless other ways.

 

David, we’re so happy to have you with us as our chaplain.  As you minister amongst us in the years that we hope are to come,  help us to share whatever wisdom, whatever love, whatever sense of possibility and hospitality we learn here – not just amongst ourselves, but also far beyond this place and long after this time.

 

In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit Amen.

Chad’s students round up their time in South Africa

From Issy Davies:

It’s always intimidating walking along the corridors in front of the classrooms. The way I deal with it is by alternatively flicking through my textbook and staring at the floor, vaguely smiling at nobody in particular from time to time. Kids see us as responsible adults and, reasonably, this impression goes hand in hand with age and it’s assumed we’re mid 30s, even though we feel closer to their age – and we are God damn it. Anyway, all this creates a clumsy in-between feeling where you don’t know what you are and consequently bemuse everyone with awkwardness.keiskammahoek1

I practically fall into the Grade 9 class and remember just in time to be bright and commanding. “Good morning class” yell I, over the din of screeching chairs and gossiping. About three people respond which I deal with by placing my textbook down on someone’s desk and flicking through and shuffling papers and eventually address a child to ask where we got up to last lesson and maybe they’ll stare back at me, gaping, so I make open-book gestures with my hand and appeal to the rest of the front row until someone begrudgingly draws their book out from their bag and I stab my finger at the page and mumble “ah yes, we got up to here” by which time, hopefully, the rest of the class has noticed my presence and slid into their seats. “How are you” I shout over the din and depending on how many people respond I may shout it again but this generally quietens them down a bit. “Right class, please open your Geography books to the last work we did. Open your books. Make sure you have a pen ready.” Here someone, usually a boy, will be staring at me with his mouth open and his book insolently in his bag. I approach him and repeat the instruction, this could take time depending on the general classroom mood. Turning to the board I ask “what’s the date today” and they tell me, even though I know the date. This is because I once forgot to do this and found the class almost insulted that they hadn’t been consulted. Then I’ll wave some chalk around and deliver the topic as dictated by the textbook – I really have no idea which topics are on the syllabus, I’m just working through the chapters – and scrawl it on tiptoe on the board. Whenever I do this the script ends up bending upwards, every time. The rest of the lesson consists of 50 minutes of diagram drawing, note taking, quizzes, questions about where I’m from, whether I will take them to England with me, signs held up reading “I love Issy” or my favourite, “I smurf Issy”, and boys scrabbling for their neglected books and pens as I advance menacingly towards the back of the room.keiskammahoek2

I had four lessons that day and when I emerged, post traumatically stressed, from the last I found the school absolutely devoid of teachers. I shuffled some papers around in the eerie staff room, dodged some miscellaneous low flying objects in the playground and paced it across no mans land to our house, where we were that afternoon hosting a braii. Every member of staff, from the hostels to the bin men, had perched themselves on furniture in the slim shade of our small house. A fire had been made and the R700 lamb we’d bought was sizzling over the coals. Kieran, Sinead and Phoebe had been rubbing braii spice onto chop after chop all day and we still had the biggest sausage you’ve ever seen to sling onto the grill. The hostel had conjured up an enormous amount of chicken and the teachers had brought some pork too, the only irregularity was the lack of anything that hadn’t once been alive.keiskammahoek3

The meat was delicious and despite having about four tonnes of it was polished off by those congregated. In fact, there was remarkably little left over – by this I mean absolutely nothing apart from washing up – a mystery that was explained by the amount of tuppaware bulging from pockets and by the discovery of a teacher draining the wine box into a 2 litre Sprite bottle. Quite remarkable. We thought we’d throw a little Englishness into the mix and so Phoebe did an acapella rendition of Jerusalem – only joking – we just provided Pimms which we shamelessly hogged and consequently ‘came out of our shells’. So much so that we woke up on the grass as the sun set, parched and bleary eyed, and stepped cautiously into the house which looked like a bomb had gone off, meat sliding off the walls etc. As we lounged in squalor, Luxolo and some girls visited us from the hostel and we ended up with the car pumping music at full volume while Phoebe and I flailed and the girls tried to teach us to dance. Luxolo stayed for a few hours and we all chatted and snoozed. Braving the fridge later, I deduced that approximately zero food was left apart from a squashed half loaf of bread so we settled in amongst the mess and watched Toy Story.keiskammahoek4

This morning we were honoured in assembly and given red St Matthews ties and made a few speeches and waved and hugged and had photos taken and said good bye to the teachers. Packed the house up, said goodbye to Luxolo, and headed off down the treacherous Keiskammahoek road, for the last time ever. So here ends the St Chad’s volunteer trip for 2016, it has been a riot and a huge learning experience, actually, and I hope the trip continues in future years.  At the beginning I wasn’t so sure what we could really achieve, whether we could ‘give anything back’. But not only have we been learning and experiencing crazy things but we’ve been able to provide answers to lots of people’s questions. I think its fair to say that the help we’ve given – through teaching and even just interacting – has created a small impact that has made it worth it, completely.

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Chad’s students arrive at St Matthew’s Keiskammahoek

From Issy Davies:

People milled about on the street and propped themselves up on the ground by the road as we passed in convoy with Tim. Feeling immediately conspicuous under their stares I cast around looking for signs of St Matthews school, where we were to work for the next 5 weeks. Keiskammahoek appears to be a street of shabby houses. Glance closer and you’ll see three or four of these run down places are home to small shops, glance closer and you won’t see much else – the town is little more to you or I than a tank of watery petrol and a nasty puncture. With no warning the road became dust and we bounced into the low hills which are home to about 10,000 people. In between apologising profusely to our little Fiat as we crested another hill and jolted straight into another pothole, I realised that if I were to send us careering off a dusty precipice it wouldn’t be a bad view to enjoy in one’s last few seconds. Better than an Economist strewn, rapidly advancing London pavement. The rolling pastures are gorged by a stream and low trees, frequented by roaming cattle, and hyperactive children. The slopes feature scattered concrete homes arbitrarily painted pink, orange, yellow, turquoise, or white and swirling with goats, cows, stray dogs, babies, and the odd person. The dust from our tyres adds a warm haze to it all. The houses begin to draw closer to the road and every other one looks gutted. The trees get bigger and more imposing – a sign of an old colonial area – and blue pinafored girls linger everywhere. We’d arrived at St Matthews. Down we trundled to our house in the teachers’ village and leapt out of the car to unbend ourselves. Our house is bloody marvellous. All due to The Calibar foundation and Sifunda Kunye, which is a charity focused on investing in historic African education centres and St Matthews has the good fortune of being a former missionary school, harkening back to 1853, which means our house was freshly renovated and fully stocked with everything a girl could dream of. Sifunda Kunye are also the outfit behind the computer labs not only at St Matthews but at Good Shepherd, the primary school we worked at in Grahamstown. Anyway, the rest of the complex was not in such good repair. Huge teaching blocks had been abandoned and pillaged. One grand building, with Victorian style high ceilings and Art Deco window frames for Christ’s sake, was roofless and the doors were blocked up with hundreds of textbooks, of all things. Horses, pigs, and cows kept the grass a neat level however and the main part of the school was razor-wire barbed-wire high-fenced in and looked pretty spotless. Back at la casa we moved in just as the sun was setting, tired, excited, and absolutely clueless as to how our first day at a new school would shape up.

Christian astronomer (and Chad’s alumna and PG student) shortlisted for one-way Mars trip

Hannah Earnshaw
Hannah Earnshaw

An astrophysics PhD student, currently on a 100-person shortlist to make a one-way trip to Mars, will speak at God and the Big Bang this week (Thu 14 July).

The day-long conference for sixth formers at St Augustine’s CE High School, Kilburn, London, explores the relationship between science and faith.

Hannah Earnshaw, 24, said: “As a Christian and an astronomer, science for me is about discovering and learning about God’s vast creation, so I am looking forward to communicating how science and faith is not only compatible but intertwined.

Read more HERE

St Chad’s Students in South Africa

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Kids (and Chad’s volunteers) in the Sifunda Kunye computer lab at Good Shepherd primary school, Grahamstown

Issy Davies writes: South Africa isn’t everything you’d imagine it to be. It is home to epic landscapes, diverse culture, and absurd experiences but although there is a tangible racial divide, I haven’t been hearing gun shots in the night or been mugged yet, despite what my friends and family had predicted. In fact, walking the streets of Grahamstown is a tumble of colour and greetings. The Good Shepherd school where we worked in the first week is well equipped with a computer lab and although these kids live hard lives in the township I found myself completely eclipsed by their long division skills which completely put me to shame. The uber relaxed atmosphere of this primary school didn’t prepare us for the tense first day we had at Ntsika and Nombulelo secondary schools in the township…

Read more (with more photos) HERE

New Principal takes office

FullSizeRenderToday, A little bit of Chad’s history is made as I officially step into the role of Principal of St Chad’s College – the first woman Principal in the college’s 112 year history. I am delighted to be serving this wonderful college in this new role, and honoured to be following my friend, Joe Cassidy, who did so much to develop and shape St Chad’s over the past two decades.

Margaret

Appointment of New Principal

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Jonathan Blackie (Chair of Governors of St Chad’s College) has today announced that Dr Margaret Masson has been appointed to the post of Principal, with effect from 1st March.

Dr Masson is currently Vice-Principal and Senior Tutor of the College and has been Acting Principal since the death of The Revd Canon Dr Joe Cassidy last March.

Margaret will now lead the College through a significant phase of change. St Chad’s College will need to react and adapt as Durham University revises, develops and implements its own strategy.

A Scot brought up in Zambia who lectured in English in the USA for a number of years, Margaret was a Board member and then Vice Chair of Trustees of Traidcraft, the fair trade organisation, between 1995 and 2012; she served as member of the Leech Research Management Committee from 2001 – 2014.  She is on the Board of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, serves as a Bishops’ Reviewer for Ministerial Training for the Church of England, and co-organises the Neville’s Cross EcoFest. She speaks and writes mainly in the area of Literature and Theology.

Margaret said:  “I am delighted to be appointed to this role.  I look forward to building on the brilliant legacy of the late Joe Cassidy and leading the College into what promises to be an exciting new period of opportunity.”

Jonathan Blackie, Chair of Governors for St Chad’s College, said he was delighted to welcome Margaret as the new Principal of the College. “Margaret brings exceptional skills to the position, she understands the collegiate nature of the university, and her appointment has been widely welcomed by both staff and students”