27th September 2021

Last week was the University’s Welcome Week, with the usual heady buzz of excitement and anticipation, as well as a degree of Covid-related apprehension. But there was real joy in finally being in the same space with our students old and new, and delight in encountering our colleagues in full-length mode again; the abiding memory of this particular week, more even than usual, will be of people smiling, even if you could sometimes only see their expression in the eyes crinkling above a mask.

Yet Welcome Week is also hectic and tiring, especially in current circumstances, and there was the usual predictable rushing around to get things done, and encountering colleagues with the traditional workplace greeting of ‘ – How are you? – Oh, you know, busy, busy!’ It made me think of Martha, a woman for whom I have considerable sympathy (to put it flippantly, nowhere in Luke’s gospel is it recorded that Jesus and his followers turned down the food she was presumably busy preparing!) But as Mary knew, sometimes the best way to make a person feel welcome is to give them time and attention.  And to quote the astronomer Galileo (from a postcard that has a prominent place in my office): ‘The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the universe to do’. Bearing in mind Keith’s recent sermon about the way the Spirit can move through even our most casual encounters, let’s hope that anyone who enters our space feels like that bunch of grapes. And genuinely welcome.

Debbie Pinfold