Happy days! The graduation at Newcastle University on 21 April was an unforgettable experience…. students from faculties various graduating with their degrees, wearing many differently coloured hoods to mark the discipline they belonged to – teachers, scientists and so forth. I was very surprised when I noted the number of us graduating as Masters of Theology. Our hood is sombre, compared to many of the others… black, and lined in ‘pearl’ (really, an off-white. It’s the same, we were told, as those worn by MA graduates at Cambridge. All the graduates also wore their trenchers, or mortar boards.
We were seated in rows. All the M.Th graduates were together and most appeared to be young women.
I was told that for those teachers wishing to teach in Roman Catholic schools, it was necessary to have a theological qualification, so many seem to have decided on a senior theological qualification. When it was our turn to be handed our degree by the Chancellor of the University, each row was called up in turn…. out the front, up the stairs onto the stage, wait until name called, walk past the row of Ph.Ds (acknowledge them), take the degree, shake the chancellor’s hand, turn and smile at the camera, depart. Finally, it was all over. Later, Janet. took my photo out in the garden near the dining area. I must have been in a bit of a daze, for I bear a distinct resemblance to a slightly intoxicated owl.
I’ve had only one other graduation and that was from the United Faculty of Theology, St Andrew’s College at the University of Sydney, in 1969, which qualified me to be ordained the following year as a minister of the Presbyterian Church. In those days, only about twelve of us graduated… a very low key affair. Any other awards I’ve received have been ‘in absentia’ and came to me in time through the mail.
Now that I am free of the study scene, and with an M.Th under my belt, I should be free to be more in contact, unlike the days of old. I feel so much stronger now that I am relieved of the burden of study and reflection on matters deep and theological – although I am tied into conducting quite a few services around the traps, as far down as St Ives.
Now for some more relaxed news … The other day I mowed the lawn here at “Puddleby Corner” but didn’t start early enough. It. was a hottish day for autumn, so by the time I finished I was a 5ft 6in. ball of glistening white lard, staggering about, hanging onto the self-propelled lawnmower, which went wherever its noisy little heart desired. Later, in the cool of the evening, I did the edges with that horrible trimmer thing – yes – the very one that earned me the unfortunate title of “the man of a thousand lashes”. It took ages for the ten thousand lashes up my leg made by the whipper-snipper to fade, after taking about half a second to acquire. That should have taught me to wear long trews, given my unfortunate propensity for ganging about my duties clumsily and with scant attention to what may happen. There’s a mile of difference between mowing lawns and gardening, and doing a bit of solid study. I have a feeling that by nature and build, I’m more suited to the latter. That way we are all safer.