One of those moments
Arriving in the midst of a heavy downpour, wet and trying to figure out where we needed to go, I was left wondering – was this really a good idea after all?
Months before, and after much discernment, a decision was made to pursue my long held dream of doctoral studies. But never in my wildest thoughts had it occurred to me that my family and I would land in England. Yet there we stood, just outside Waterloo Station, luggage in tow, in the rain, in the very heart of London. This was our first morning and the beginning of my time at King’s College London.
King’s was founded by George IV in 1829 as a university college in the Church of England. When the University of London was established in 1836, King’s was one of its founding colleges. The two campuses where I worked are located on the Thames, across the river from one another. They are walking distance to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Parliament. The school is in the very heartbeat of the theatre district, where the ancient meets the modern.
Weeks after that soggy arrival, I had just finished a meeting with my tutor and supervisor. Needing to head to the other campus, I began the walk across Waterloo Bridge. Each time I made that walk, crossing the Thames, I would stop about midway to just look. And every time I was astonished with the sights, sounds and feel of this ancient yet urban and vibrant place.
As I passed by the chapel, a small poster with the words “N.T. Wright” stopped me in my tracks. That night in the college chapel, N.T. Wright would be speaking about his newly published work, Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
It was almost four p.m. The doors were to open at six. This was one of those moments. You know the kind: a Dorothy in Oz, Alice in Wonderland kind of thing where you think you’ve landed in something quite unlike the normal course of things. The decision to stay for this was no decision at all.
The college chapel is reached by an impressive double staircase from the main entrance and is designed on the lines of an ancient basilica. As you enter, you are at once drawn to a time and place different from our own and yet very much ours. There is a magnificent ethos about the place.
Refreshments in hand, I settled into a spot among the diverse crowd of students, faculty and others filling the chapel. Professor Wright lectured about Paul’s world and worldview, his stories and theology, and the writing of the book, which makes a case for narrative and theological coherence in Paul’s writing and thought.
Then, in what seemed like no time at all, there was music playing in the background and conversations happening in every space of the chapel as people waited for an opportunity to talk with Wright.
As I sat there taking in the closing moments of this serendipitous event, I recalled the rain and confusion of our first day and I couldn’t help but think that this really was a very, very good idea after all.
– John Berard continues his doctoral studies and is a member of saint benedict’s table