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Pilgrim, priest and ponderer. European living in North East England. Retired parish priest, theological educator, cathedral precentor and dean.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A New Cohort of Chadsians: Welcome!

First of all, I want to welcome you all tonight. Welcome to the UK if you are from overseas. Welcome to North East England if you are from another part of the country. Welcome to Durham, this precious little city with its wonderful cathedral that is loved by people across the world. 

And welcome to Durham University, so much a part of this ancient place, shaped by a long history of scholarship and learning in the city yet a hugely successful and forward-looking institution. You have done well to get into Durham: its standing among world universities has never been higher. You are among the privileged few and you will have had to beat off a lot of competition. So you're allowed to feel proud of yourselves. You have arrived. You are here, on the threshold of what may be the most important and formative time of your life. You are now Durham people.

And most of all, welcome to St Chad's. I'm proud to be the Rector of this college, and I want to say to you tonight that you could not have chosen a better Durham College. Chads is famous for its achievements academically, in sport, music, the arts, and for creating a wonderfully warm and generous community of students and staff. I hope you've already begun to feel that as you've been welcomed in the last few days. 

Perhaps you are wondering who our college is named after. St Chad was one of the Christian saints of seventh century England. He began his career up here in the North East where he was educated by the great St Aidan on Holy Island. He soon travelled across the country with the gospel he had given his life to, bearing witness to his faith in words and actions. He founded Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire, so if you are from the Midlands, then you'll feel especially at home at St Chads.

Not everyone in this college comes from a Christian background. We pride ourselves in being an inclusive college for people of every faith or of no faith. Whatever your beliefs, they will be honoured and respected. But it's good to debate and learn from one another. That's one of the primary values of this college: listening, reflecting, intellectual curiosity, being open to new insights. So is the awareness that life is about more than simply achievement or success - though I am sure you'll enjoy lots of that. I mean the softer values of being human: integrity, awareness, sensitivity, kindness, and a real passion for social justice in our community and in our world. All these things would have mattered to St Chad, I think. As our college motto puts it, it's not what we have but what we are that matters. Non vestra sed vos.

The Rector is the titular head of St Chad's (we are the only Durham College to have one, so there's a unique selling point already!). It's the Principal Dr Masson and her colleagues who lead the life of the College, and the Council that sets its direction. I'm simply an honorary senior member. But as a friend and champion of the college, I'm here to wish you all well from my heart as you set out on this great adventure. 

So let me end by assuring you that you will be in the best possible hands during your time at St Chads. Seize the day. Make the most of the opportunities you will have here. I hope you flourish here and enjoy every minute of your time in Durham. It will change your life - be sure of it. And when you leave (and how soon that time will come, believe me!), you will be ready as tomorrow's leaders to make a difference in a world that so much needs the gifts and expertise and skills you will bring. 

God bless you. 

The Rector's Address at St Chad's College Matriculation Ceremony, 2 October 2016

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