Tag Archives: Durham

Lumiere

Lumiere, Durham’s v. own festival of light starts tonight and goes on for four days. Looks like with the Festival of Culture bid they are going all out with this, even more so than last years excellent display. If you’re about enjoy….should be spectacular.

The blurb, for once I think, can be believed when it says:
LUMIERE is a four-day festival that will brighten the historic city of Durham, bringing a sprinkle of winter magic to the North East. More than 50 artists will create a breathtaking series of installations, illuminations and performances using light. Lumiere will turn the city into a winter wonderland, transforming its stunning buildings, streets and riverbanks, with a nocturnal winter festival that will amaze residents and visitors alike.

Prepare to be dazzled…”

Why I’m Here

Occassionally, very occassionally I get a glimpse of why my research might matter. No, I don’t mean in terms of it being a significant piece of work….I am not an academic and am more than realistic about why my limitations mean that my academic work may not get a wide hearing. In fact, from that point of view, my blog is more important….it is read by a few people each day and the odd reader who may be jogged to think occassionally by my ramblings. Additionally, I know that my blog is v. occassionally read by the sort of people who can put stuff into practice and have some kind of influence to get people to think about change. However, I’m truly rambling again and the “Why I’m Here” title this morning relates to the research not the blog.

The research I’m doing into the experience of single parents in evangelical churches matters I believe because it is about an important subject and it is about a subject that relates to mission and internal beliefs and understandings.

To reiterate the stats for readers who aren’t familiar…..according to Social Trends, (government stats), approx 20% of all families with children under 18 are lone parent families. This figure has remained fairly static for the last 20 years. If, as other data suggests, single parent hood is a transitional state for most people and the average time of being a lone parent is about 3 years that means that there are an awful lot of lone parents, (and this does not include those who are to some extent “lone” but not included in the statistics due to absences caused by military service, imprisonment, or working abroad). Lone parents matter as a constituency.

However, lone parents are not a homogeneous group. Some people become lone parents through becoming widow(ers), some through divorce or seperation, a small minority through pregnancy outside a relationship and a few in other ways. Within that whilst most with main caring responsibilities, and so categorised as the “lone parent” are female some are male. Whilst we think of “lone parents” as those with primary caring responsibilities “weekend dads” are also lone parents.

This means if we want to (re)connect with / reach out to / evangelise to/ come alongside people where they’re at – choose which ever suits your theological position – we need to be realistic about single parents and the place they have in our churches and society.

We cannot pretend they don’t exist as a sector in society and that they might have specific pastoral needs, both practical and emotional. We cannot pretend that childcare provision within churches is simply a gender issue relating to which one of a couple gets the opportunity to attend an event. Equally we cannot pretend that our churches have not moved with the times.

One of the saddest things for me doing the research has been the number of “professionals” I have spoken to who upon hearing the title of my research have said, “oh, you’re not going to be finding many good stories there then are you” or similar. The truth is there are lots of positive things going on….but people hear the word “evangelical” and mentally, I think, replace it with “fundamentalist” and also they fail to recognise that their “positive” ministries might actually be the norm within the full spectrum of churches. That is not to say churches don’t make mistakes…they do, particularly where they don’t have experience of things, but most churches are full, I believe, of good people trying to do their best.

Where my research and mouthiness I believe might be useful is in helping people think through issues and logical consequences. Yesterday I did some field work and, during the service, heard about the work of a pregnancy advice centre. Ignoring the immotive language used at points and bits that made me want to scream, “but it’s all far more complicated than that”, I thought about the consequences of keeping the child. The likelyhood is that if the woman had accessed this type of service she would have a high likelyhood of becoming at some point, if she kept the baby, a lone parent. Not necessarily immeadiately, but quite possibly at some point in the future. I realised that if churches are serious about their mission to reduce abortion that their response to single parenthood, and not just immeadiately after the baby is born is important.

I realised that our pastoral response to unwanted pregnancy, divorce and a range of other issues is directly linked to our care of and attitudes to single parents. Now, I knew this on one level before…but I actually saw what this meant yesterday. It means that when we are teaching people how to deal with these situations we need to give them knowledge and information on singleparenthood aswell.

I am not certain but I suspect that singleparenthood and the issues arising (and how these might relate to practice within the church), is not on many timetables within our clergy training establishments. I am ready and hoping for people to come back and prove me wrong on that one…I make my assumption only on the lack of theological reading material available on the subject.

I have an unrealistic passion for mission, I know it is unrealistic because sometimes I suffer huge foot in mouth over it and people have to point out things like resources and time management. Anyway, I am passionate about mission….not the knock somebody over with the head sort but the type which says God loves you and faith has something to offer. I also think the church, (in the widest sense), can have something to offer, although it may struggle to know what that is until it deals with the disconnect it often seems to have between 1950’s thinking and 2000+ lifestyle. This means I have a passion for connecting people outside the church with the trinity and with local worshipping communities. I think if mission is to be effective it needs to be real about where we are. Part of that means that when we are thinking about mission and strategy in the late modern period we need to think about the practicalities involved in being a single parent and how our faith relates to single parents. We need to think about the value of the story of Hagar and Ishmael rather than focusing simply on Abraham and Issac. We need mission courses to include an element on a variety of groups in contemporary society and what good practice is being used to “reach” or “include” them.

God has given me a passion to get mouthy on this, but in an informed way and that….I think…..might just be why I’m here. I have to remember I didn’t come for the prestige of the uni or the beauty of the city. I didn’t come because I wanted to largely escape from teaching or wanted to change denomination. I didn’t come to fall in love…these are all by products. I came because I have a passion; I came because I believe in the role of single parents within the church; I came because I believe there is some excellent practice going on in churches; I came because I believe on the need for proper research to be done and for carefully thought out recommendations to be made; I came because I want to one day….somehow make a difference and I want to have intelligently thought out how I might do that.

Immigrant Perspectives

Josh is one of the students newly arrived in the city. He has been blogging about his experiences of the UK, amongst other things. The entry I’ve linked to relates to healthcare and his wifes confuddled reaction to being told how the NHS works, obviously linking into the healthcare debate within the US.

Ben, another student, who has been here for a while now has been commenting about the wonders of getting your council tax exemption sorted if you are a student. Have to say I am not impressed that apparently the spouses of international students are exempt, when to my knowledge the spouses of English ones are not.

Both of these guys also post some theology type stuff, Bens blog being particularly worth a work. He has some excellent New Testament and Patristics stuff. He also has an excellent section on his blog about applying for and doing a PhD.

One of the reasons it’s useful reading these blogs is because it gives a useful understanding of the cultural differences which my neighbours are grappling with. One thing I have learnt is that things that may appear everyday and “normal” in the UK are not for everybody and there are greater cultural differences between here and North America than you might think.

My latest discovery is that in Canada people still use fax machines loads and that many shops have them available for you to go in and send stuff from.

Wasted preperation and greater rewards

I found myself yesterday in the position of preparing the talk for Methsoc. Normally we have an interesting speaker, but yesterday due to a bit of a falling apart on all fronts it turned into a DIY job. As the secretary who had volunteered to do the talk had a huge deadline for Monday I volunteered to take over. So it was that I spent about three hours yesterday preparing a talk, activity and discussion time on why we take ourselves away on retreat/ pilgrimage/ Christian conference/ Christian festival. The central ideas were to think about where we went, why we went and how we benefitted. I was then ready to use Greenbelt as my example to critically examine the nature and benefits of these events; giving the history, a bit about my own experiences of Greenbelt and then a critical examination of it in light of Turner and Turner’s theory on pilgrimage. Alot of the preperation involved going back to an MA essay I’d written about whether Protestants go on pilgrimage when they go to Greenbelt, Keswick or Spring Harvest and similar events. The blog posts I did back in 2006 on this are about “what is the nature of pilgrimage?” and “Does the Greenbelt fit the model?”.

As it turned out my three hours of prep were not needed. There was a general lack of peopleness at Methsoc last night so we adjorned to the pub early. The bar was fairly empty when we arrived, but we soon found ourselves surrounded by a sea of Catholics. It appeared we were sitting in the middle of the Cathsoc pubquiz and soon found ourselves invited to join in.

This was an interesting eccumenical exercise, particularly during the religion round. We were very greatful that Methsoc does not contain just Methodists….the Anglo-Catholics Anglicans in our group came in rather useful. As it happens we turned out to have a good smattering of knowledge within the team and came a credible second, only losing out to the winners by half a point. (Actually it was a good job it wasn’t the other way round or the point we gained by being able to give the original first line that Wesley wrote to “Hark the Herald” would have become a bit like a controversial penalty in a footie match). Anyway upshot was a rather tense moment when the winning team decided which prize they would take…the bottle of Southern Comfort or the remote control car. There would have been great merryment but a number of awkward issues had Methsoc ended up with the bottle of SC. As it was the crisis was averted when the winning team chose the bottle and we ended up taking up ownership of a Methsoc toy.

Reflecting on why I wasn’t miffed at having effectively wasted 3 hours in preperation yesterday I came up with the following which I learnt from the experience:
1) Even if nobody else got anything out of the talk I did. Through having to prepare it I practised some skills, I reflected prayerfully on why we take time out…the purpose and the benefits. This did me good, I think. I also specifically reflected upon Greenbelt and what the purpose of taking time out every August is aswell as what the festival means to me and how God has used it in my life over the years. I also reflected seriously upon the history of the festival and how it has evolved and changed over the years aswell as what is so special about the communion service.

2) I am a wuss who is actually scared of doing “God stuff” publicly and whilst I know that sometimes it is something God is calling me to do it scares me silly. Sitting in a room with my fellow Methsoc peeps doing a talk, when I feel myself often to be intellectually inferior to these young people, was scary. So in some ways I was glad I didn’t come under their scrutiny in the end. However, as I did not know until literally the appointed hour that I wouldn’t be doing the talk I had to go through the process of preparing to face my fears. I got to go through part of the process of facing my fears by doing the bit I saw I could do reasonably well…the preperation. The fear I was feeling was useful to reflect upon, I had a real moment or two of if I feel this about doing a talk to my friends should I have gone on note?

3) In the end I think the group benefitted more and learnt more than they would have done through my talk. As the quiz developed we saw where people’s different areas of knowledge and expertise were. We developed some serious teamwork skills of listening to other people aswell. It was also a practical exercise in eccumenicalism and particularly in the religion round appreciating other traditions and how little we know of them. I reflected upon the way that we share one faith but sometimes know sooooo little about how other members of that faith express it or about the sites and saints which are important to them.

4) It made me think a little about the Methodist attitude to alcohol. At the beginning of the night one of the Catholics I know had given me the , “but Methodists don’t drink do they” line to which I had given the reply “it’s not banned, they just believe in taking a responsible attitude to alcohol”. Later in the evening as I sat with my pot of tea, (I love the Duncow because I can have a really good pot of tea if I want to stop drinking alcohol), I thought about this. There would be some who might raise their eyebrows at Methsoc sitting doing a pubquiz, but we were all drinking sensibly. The key about a quiz is it actually makes you drink at a moderate speed and if you take it seriously not get sloshed….you need to be able to talk at a reasonably low volume and think quickly. Additionally when it seemed that there was a danger we might win the bottle of Southern Comfort I reflected, when I’d stopped laughing at the irony, about why this would have been problematic. That is probably a blog post in it’s own right and so I’ll stop now. Suffice to say that a good night was had by all and lots learnt. Sometimes it’s brilliant when a plan doesn’t come together.

Panel Games

Later today I’m going to be on a panel with some other guys from the department, informally sharing a bit of our journeys and hopefully sharing some “good advice” with some new post-grads. The questions won’t necessarily be your usual though, the person putting the panel together has come up with some which really made me think. The questions we’ve been asked to think about in advance are these:
– What have been some of the most stressful parts of the process, and how have you dealt with them?
– How do you strike a balance between work and the rest of your life?
– What has made you most excited in your studies?
– How do you see theological work relating to the wider world?
– How do you see your own work as part of your calling?
– How has your own faith been part of your work?
– What advice would you give beginning students? What might you do differently if you could start again?

Brief answers I’ve come up with thinking through these are:
•Most stressful bits have been the lack of funding and having to balance more hours at work than I wanted last year with the course, the not knowing if I was going for an upgrade or not and the length of time it took to refine my question and fieldwork proposal into something workable which would pass the ethics committee. Dealt with by finding out everybody who could help me and getting advice and help. Talking stuff through with trusted friends also useful. Being totally honest with supervisors was vital.
•I fail miserably to strike a balance between work and life. It just sort of comes together and sometimes gets close to falling apart. I have made sure I have a network of friends to keep me focused and hold me accountable when they see it totally getting out of balance. Being part of a faith community, networking over coffee with friends also studying, and having an internet community outside Durham has kept me sane. Blogging and Facebook have been important for me in this as it has given me a forum to shout “help” when it all seems to be getting totally out of balance. However, they have also been problems for me as I tend to procrastinate too much.
•Most exciting things have been the getting stuck into the American studies on family and seeing that there are “proper academics” starting to address some similar things and getting to meet one of my “heroes” at the BSA Religion study group conference last year.
•I see my theological world relating to the wider world because my topic is rooted in the wider world. Whilst I want to produce a good high quality academic study I do practical theology which does not see a huge distinction between the academic and the wider world.
•I see my work as being part of my calling because it is giving me knowledge which I might oneday be able to use in a practical way, somehow. It’s about looking at and trying to identify what is good and bad practice and about what gives single parents a good and a bad experience of church. I see myself as an interpreter with a passion for effective and appropriate mission in 21st century Britain rather than an academic and I think this ties into that.
•My own faith has been part of the work in terms of giving me the motivation to undertake this research. I am v. much of the view that there are certain silences in theology and sociology of religion which will only be addressed when people of faith stand up and ask why a lot of research is not touching on their lives and experiences. I have had to learn to hold onto my faith but also to distance myself from it in my research, becoming more objective. This is no bad thing as it helps us engage with the faith of the other aswell as critique our own faith more effectively.
•My advice to others is (i) find good friends in the department to network with and sometimes moan with over coffee…having people going through it too is really important, (ii) if you having problems go and see your supervisor sooner rather than later, (iii) work out why you are doing this and where you want to go, (iv) it’s ok to give yourself a break and (v) take advantage of all the opportunities being here might offer you.
•If I could start again I would have settled for the M Litt from the beginning, not even thinking about the possibility of the upgrade. I would not panic like I did about Durham and have reduced the culture shock. I would not focus on my differences with people but rather just get to know them. I would have smiled more. Oh and I would have been more focused on my research question from the beginning.

As you can probably pick up here I am currently back in one of my “I love Durham” and “I love my research phases”. For those who know what I’ve been feeling in recent times in terms of my research just to reassure you I’ve finally refound my motivation!!!!!!

Whilst not intended as a meme as it was just preparing for the post-grad lunch I would invite other students, particularly post-grads reading this to take up the challenge and answer the same questions. Particularly tagging: JTL and Knitting, Sex and God.

Flicking the Wick

Last night I could be heard saying to people, “sorry could you just flick your wick up first” as they wandered along a fairly dimly lit wooded riverside path. No, things haven’t got that financially tight, rather this was all in the name of ecumenicalism. It was the annual candlelight procession to the cathedral organised by DUECC and the uni chaplains and somebody had given in to my requests to play with fire and given me a magic wand to light the candles with.

This is one of my favourite bits of quirky Durham life as it is truly beautiful. Everybody meets on a bridge, gets their candles lit and then wanders up by candlelight to the cathedral. They then get to wander round admiring the cathedral by candlelight, listening to some music from one of the college choirs before a short service – if they wish to go. Refreshments are then served over in the historic debating chamber, across Palace Green. Being the type of event it is restrictions are also relaxed on photography and so you can get some beautiful interior shots of the cathedral….if I can work out how to get them uploaded a few of the ones I took last night might arrive on here.

The only thing that mars the occassion slightly is the non-involvement of the CU. There is a huge hint of sadness, in my mind atleast, that due to the insistence of UCCF that CU’s uphold their doctrinal basis as put forward in their statement of faith they won’t work fully with the Catholics. The upshot of this is that whilst individual members of the CU may join in with these activities the CU is not part of DUECC.

EDEV – A Reflection

Back in mid February when the weather was cold and I was still in culture shock from the move I started a programme at church called EDEV (Extending Discipleship Exploring Vocation). Having tried to use Google as my friend I have found out that there is relatively little information about EDEV on line that I could link you to. The best I can find are the following: this article (page two) of the WSC Newsheet, this rather incomplete official looking website (pot luck as to whether the internal links will give you any info or not) and this rather interesting article found on the main Methodist website. What you might have noticed from these articles is this is apparently not a course and trying to pin down what exactly it is seems to be like nailing a jellyfish to the wall of a bouncy castle.

At the end of the month the “programme” comes to the end with a celebration service. Now it is nearing it’s end I thought I would share abit of a reflection on my experience of it. It is part of a package that has quite literally changed my view of God and shifted my world a degree or two. As I begin this you have to remember that when I started, whilst I would personally not choose to use either term in relation to myself or my faith, I was a post or recovering evangelical. I had hung on in with church by the fingertips at times over the last few years and was to be honest, spiritually, like a teenager worn out by the frustration in many ways. I began EDEV around the same time I did a much shorter membership course largely to find out more about Methodism basically….oh and try to make some sense of what on earth I was doing with my life. So I guess that the end result has to be taken in terms of EDEV has been just one strand within the thread of the last year that has been my move into Methodism.

Upon arriving we were given our “Ground Rules” for the sessions. These were like a breath of fresh air for me…they were a set of guidelines that stated through their content, although nowhere specifically, this is a safe space. I was not used to having this explicitly set out in Christian settings, yes confidentiality and respect were often mentioned but this actually had other stuff in there. It was the first indication I had that this might not be just another packaged course.

As the weeks went on I discovered that EDEV was more about facilitating and equipping you with tools and information to do your own exploring and journeying with God. There was an emphasis on reflection and discernment and thinking stuff through with God using the bible. For me a session we did looking at approaches to theological reflection was unbelievably useful. That was the session where I first encountered the Methodist Quadrilateral and the idea that you use scripture, reason, tradition and experience, with experience having an emphasis on the importance of our own experience of God’s grace working in our own lives. I have to say I think that if I had to identify any moment in the last year when God had released grace or healing into my life that would be it. Suddenly my experience was something that was not to be seen as something uncomfortable and a cause of dissonance and the root of my dis-ease with church. Rather it was something which could be reflected upon, with the other parts of the quadrilateral. Suddenly I found I didn’t have to view my experience as oppositional to scripture and tradition, and have reason as the referee in the middle trying to keep me sane when I found I couldn’t square the circle. Rather I could reflect using all four elements and it was ok to believe that God has made me who I am totally and that my experiences of him might just be as legitimate as other peoples. This section also validated the decision to do the research and gave me a new confidence that I might not be insane, rather I really might have been taken on this mad journey by God. A key part of the reflection also involved looking at our gifts and skills (and being honest about what they were). It actually gave us ways to do this rather than just saying “identify them”.

Moving on we delved deeper into the bible, looking at how God spoke to people within the scriptures. This got me back to some stories I had too often ignored. The more I looked the more I saw that not only did most of these people say, “me God, no God, can’t do that God” they were all rather human and messed up people. They had infirmities, they had pasts and they all had labels. This was important because it bought me to a point where I came before God with my list of “excuses” as to why I wasn’t a good enough Christian to do x,y or z within any church community. As I looked at my excuses within the light of scripture I found that if the reasons I were giving were legitimate nothing would ever have happened for Gods people. Being a queer, mouthy, single mum who has a habit of making mistakes actually meant I was exactly the type of person God sometimes uses. Eeek….that was another turning point, I couldn’t use the labels or not being good enough as an excuse anymore.

The course took a bit of a turning point after that. We moved on to look at Methodism and what its principles and history were. I love this stuff, aswell as finding it really interesting I also think it is something that we need to learn more. The “low church” denominations came out of the last big period of social change, (the industrial revolution), and as such I think they have alot to teach those of us living in late modernity about how to look at the society around you and find new ways of doing God in a rapidly changing, unstable time. They also have loads to teach about taking risks.

After a summer break we have been learning more about different ministries that people are involved in. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some truly inspirational people talking about their work.

We’ve also been encouraged to find / do placements to go and find out a bit more about what God might be calling us to. I did a holiday club with our local families and youth worker and went off to spend a couple of days with Never Conforming looking at the work she is involved in. These were really valuable for me in seeing what I do / don’t feel myself likely to do in the future.

The other important element of the course has been having an accompanist or mentor to chat things through regularly with. We have been encouraged to voice the mad things going through our heads to be challenged, supported, encouraged and directed to think again. This was vital for me as it gave me the first chance to voice one specific mad thing going my head…and scarily be told I might not be mad.

The upshot of all this is being challenged to a more grown up faith and involvement with the church, as I have mentioned in other posts. It has seen me going through the process of “going on note” to start learning how to be a local preacher.

Basically it has given me confidence through its emphasis on the way God works differently with differently people, but there are tools we can all use to work out whether God is really involved in something and whether it is the right direction for us to be taking. It has also given me confidence in sharing “mad” stuff with other people to get their thoughts, questions and challenges. It has also given me a new passion for my faith through hearing other peoples stories and sharing bits of their journeys.

So I’d say a couple of things to finish:
(i) if you are a post/ recovering evangelical trying to keep faith in institutional church but wanting space to explore your place within that think about doing EDEV. It doesn’t have right and wrong answers….it gives you tools to help with discernment and discipleship.
(ii) If you are still an evangelical or were never one in the first place and are ever given the chance to do EDEV go for it aswell. Whilst it can be engaged in whatever your spiritual experience, length of time as a Christian it is something which has fresh and relevant material for mature Christians and actually will push you to realistically think about how God might be wanting to move you forward, sideways or whatever.

12 months on

Tuesday sees exactly a year since the move, but seeing as that’s the day I get back from Greenbelt I figured I’d do a bit of a reflexive entry today.

I’ve often referred to the whole move thing as being like a roller coaster ride, with all the ups and downs but I am beginning to see that this is not an apt metaphor. Roller coaster rides are temporary experiences which, unless you become one of these bizarre people who go around the world seeking a bigger thrill from them, don’t change your life. The move did change my life in ways which has altered it for ever and may well have repucussions for years to come.

I moved with a plan of sorts, but the plan really didn’t work out as expected. I glibly referred to it all as “the adventure”, but I am not sure “adventure” is the right term to use. Adventure again has the feeling of being something you can return from.

So what have I gained from the last year:
A number of new friends who I value greatly.

A new way of encountering God in worship and a whole host of other things connected with that…….for me discovering Methodism has been the biggest blessing of the year. I don’t want to suggest that there is any difference in the value of denominations, I don’t believe there is, we are all simply Christians. However, as somebody who had spent so long in my previous church using up energy being frustrated because I found my self experiencing a cognative dissonance, (linked to Wiki if you need a definition) the change of church has been truly liberating for me. Basically what I have found in Methodism is a spiritual home where it is ok and appropriate to take the bible totally seriously and have a love for it and to have a passion for Christ and his ressurection power given in grace but also to say how do I apply it in light of my own experience and the experiences of those around me? For the first time I feel that I can truly be myself and truly be God’s without contradiction. The freedom which I have experienced in that is immense and something I can’t really explain. This also brings with it responsibilities though. Whilst I was kicking against something, not fitting in, I was like a teenager who is given a certain amount of freedom because “that’s the stage they are going through”. Once beyond that you have to take seriously your responsibility to contribute to the community you are part of, as an adult. God has really challenged me over the last few months about being more mature, as a Christian, and what that means in terms of using the skills and gifts he has given me. I think that part of this has occurred because suddenly I am in a place which appears to know exactly what to do with people like me, and has all sorts of programmes in place to make us grow up!!!

I have also gained a greater sense of the importance of being a parent. I know with Third Party growing up that may seem daft, but over the last year I have come to understand that “being mum” is part of my calling – just as much as teaching is.

I have discovered that there is nothing romantic about “living in faith”. It is scary and horrible. I came with some plans, and a feeling that God would provide. The plans didn’t quite work out. The latest situation is that plans have gone awry again, one career development loan application has been unexpectedly rejected and so prayer for the one I am going to put into the other provider would be appreciated. Otherwise anybody in a position to do so and willing to give me a loan to be repaid over 3 years when I finish my course please let me know. Over this year God has provided, in a number of ways but the uncertainty has been awful, the thought of another 12 months of that is scary.

I have faced new challenges as a teacher. Doing supply is hard work, and it is the most challenging experience I think I have faced as a teacher. I got through it, and in the end the results were mixed but it is hard. This year I face a new challenge again as I take up teaching an evening class one night a week…professional development really occurs by just doing it.

I no longer feel I have to “prove” myself academically. I am doing this research because I want to find out the information and work out how to apply the findings in some practical way. Yes I want to get the qualification doing that, but the letters on the qualification don’t matter for me. I am not meant to be an academic, as one friend put it the other day I am “an interpreter”. My role is to be able to understand what academics are talking about and try to explain it, work it out in everyday life with those who don’t live in labs or studies. This means that sometimes I will sometimes lack the precision that higher level academia demands but I hope that it gives me other skills of connecting with people.

Strange then that I came to become an academic and learn educationally but that I have actually learnt more from my engagement outside the university than within. That said now I have gotten over the culture shock I experienced for much of my first year here I absolutely love the place and the people. It’s not been an easy year and I haven’t known where God was in all this for parts of it but turns out it has been a year of great blessing when I look back on it.

Morris in the Market Place

Morris 6Morris 2

Yesterday I wandered into town and was frustrated that the busy market place was being congested by Morris Men and those who stopped to watch them. Today, on the way home from church, there were no market stalls or Saturday shoppers to be negotiated and so Third Party and I stopped to “enjoy” a spot of Morris.

It is one of the things I have to admit loving about England you can innocently wander through town, going about your business, and find yourself encountering some strange type of entertainment. What I am starting to love about Durham is the growing sense they don’t understand they are a city and so should live by the rules of concrete. They seem to be under the illusion they are actually a festival field, or at the very least a village where you can get a drink in the local pub and watch entertainment in a beer garden or on the village green. Yet they are not….there is no continental style seating outside the pubs in the market place just a huge horse statue and the Gala is a traditional theatre. The picturesque grime adds to all this somehow. They are talking about redeveloping the marketplace and moving the statue but in my view that will spoil the character of the city. Durham, as with many places in Britain, is beautifully eccentric. It is, in truth, somewhere it is difficult not to fall in love with as Ferijen posted the other day.

p.s. for anybody interested in these things Durham City Vision is the site which details the changes they propose making to the city.