Friday, 23 June 2017

Farewell to St Chad's: the Rector's Last Supper

This is my last Rector's Feast after eight years in this office. It's a time for farewells and above all, for saying thank you.
 
What I want to say comes from the heart. You've made me so welcome here in this wonderful college community. As Rector, I've wanted to be a good friend and champion of St Chad's in the University, the city, the church and beyond. It's been a huge privilege. But more than that, it's been enormous fun. As I often say, in this honorary role you get all the nice bits to do while the Principal, governors and staff bear the burden and the heart of the day. They deserve our recognition.

Jenny and I have loved being part of the College for almost the whole of our time in Durham, first as Visitor, then as Rector and, to my surprise when Joe Cassidy thrust a college hood over my head on his last College Day, as a Fellow. I'm so grateful that the green St Chad's hood means that I can continue to enjoy this precious relationship with St Chad's after today when I become superannuated.

Being a friend means sharing dark times as well as light. All of us who knew and loved Father Joe still miss his loss very keenly. It was Joe who invited me to become the College's first Rector. He gave everything he had to this college that he loved. He was to all of us an inspiration, a truly transformative leader who took the long view and worked incredibly hard to make it a reality. We could not have wished for a better successor in Dr Margaret Masson who prized the aims and values for which St Chad's has stood in recent times, but who has put her own imprint on them as we move into the future. I loved working with Joe and I've loved working with Margaret. I've loved working with their colleagues, both staff and governors, people of exceptional ability and calibre.

And I've loved getting to know students too. Sadly, not enough of you, and not as deeply as I'd have wanted, though I was always heartened to get many a cheery wave when we passed one another in the Bailey. This college has always emphasised the importance of being a good community that prizes friendship. I've always felt that I was among friends in this college, and that means more than I can say. Your excellence not only academically but also in the arts, sport, volunteering and promoting social justice in the wider community has been truly inspiring. Durham University is rightly proud of you. We all are.

I'd like to wish Dean Andrew Tremlett well as he follows me in this role. It's good to know that as my successor at Durham Cathedral, he now has his feet well installed under the table with so many exciting developments to celebrate, not least the completion of the cloister project Open Treasure which I hope you will visit when the treasures of St Cuthbert are installed in their final resting place next month. I hope Andrew enjoys being Rector of St Chad's as much as I have.

So I shall follow the fortunes of the College from across the hills, in the Tyne Valley where we now live. It goes without saying that we shall miss our regular trips to Durham. However, we shall be back from time to time, knowing that behind the green front door on the Bailey, there is warmth and friendship and the stimulus of good conversation and a generosity of spirit that has no equal in Durham. Thank you for all of it.

Finally, let me anticipate and congratulate you on the dazzling results I'm sure St Chad's will have achieved** in final exams this year. Indeed, congratulations on all the success you have enjoyed as members of this college. If you are coming back in October, or your work is keeping you here, have a very good summer. And if this summer is a time for farewells, well, you and I have that much in common. There's no denying that it's poignant to say goodbye. So go with my very best wishes and prayers for the future, wherever it will take you. You and I know that we shall always prize the fact that we belong to the St Chad's family.
 
This isn't the parting of friends, but an opportunity to discover how friendship enters a new dimension; not adieu but au revoir. Thank you again. God bless you. God bless St Chad's.

**Abundantly fulfilled when the results were published the following week, the best ever for St Chad's.

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