Last week, for the third year running, I attended the University Carol Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre of the City. It is a truly magical, though potentially hazardous, affair with the Cathedral lights dimmed and the packed congregation bearing candles. Luckily, in case of pyrotechnic disaster, I believe the Principal’s robes are fully insured.
After the service we all gathered to eat mince pies and drink mulled wine and, during the ensuing conversations, I was confronted by a retired member of staff I had known for many years with the questioning comment, ‘I didn’t know you were a church man’.
As he well knew I am not, or at least am no longer, a church man, but I also do not consider myself a hypocrite. Firstly, I recognise that whatever my own convictions many of our staff and students have deeply held religious beliefs and that, as Principal, I represent them all.
Secondly, I was brought up a Christian and, as a child, enjoyed all the festivals associated with that faith. Christmas was foremost amongst them as a time for joyous celebration and consideration for others less fortunate. The singing of carols is, for me, as it is for so many people, the enduring manifestation of that spirit.
In the words of our Chaplain, Fiona Douglas, the University is a place of many faiths and none where the beliefs of all are valued and respected. That is the spirit in which I celebrate this time of the year.
And the mince pies were pretty good too!