The end of June is a bit of a weird time. Exams and deadlines for most people are over, but a lot of students are still around, enjoying their freedom and making the most of all that Bath has to offer. What I find hard is not knowing if you are seeing someone for the last time (for a while) or if you might bump into them again in Sainsbury’s tomorrow.
Goodbyes are hard but they are also an opportunity to take stock, to celebrate all that has happened and to really notice the blessing that other people have been to us. Last night was our final ‘Monday Night Meal’ of the year. This is a weekly meal and discussion that I offer in my home in Oldfield Park. My family and I have got to know the students who come to this really well and this year the end is sadder than most because most people are graduating. We are going to miss them terribly.
I can’t remember exactly how this came up, but last night we were pooling our knowledge of Latin words and the only Latin that came to my mind were the words to this chant from Taize:
Ubi Caritas et amor
Ubi Caritas Deus ibi est.
Where there is love and charity, God is there.
I hope that as you reflect on the last year, you will be able to spot moments when you sensed that God might have been there, whether in a gathering of people or a beautiful spot or listening to music or perhaps just a mysterious sense of comfort, consolation or courage. It might have been in a traditionally ‘religious’ context or not; God is much bigger than we can conceive.
As you walk around Bath now, or when you return for graduation or later on, wanting to share Bath with a partner, or friend or kids or grandkids, I hope that familiar sights will bring back all kinds of amazing memories along with a sense that God has been with you.
No doubt some places will remind you of hard times or bring back painful memories, too. I hope that with time and with God’s healing the difficulty of these will ease and perhaps visiting will remind you of that.
In the final lines of ‘Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop’ WB Yeats writes:
‘For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.’
(In this case ‘rent’ doesn’t refer to the outrageous prices that students have to pay for their accommodation but means ‘torn apart’.) Love is costly and you have invested so much in your time in Bath; hours of study, building and restoring relationships, physical challenges and emotional growth. May what you have invested here, return to you as a blessing for life, remembering the ways that God has been with you, even when it has been unbearably hard. We will always want to see you and to hear where your next steps take you. Thank you for blessing us by being here.