Welcome to this brief service of Thanksgiving for Graduation, the last of our series of services for this Academic Year. Usually we would be gathered at College, with all the excitement of robing for the ceremony and bringing parents and supporters to show them round. Then, before we processed to the Senate house for the graduation itself, we would gather in chapel for this service, in which we would celebrate each other’s achievements, and thank God for the blessing of our time together at Girton. Following a beautiful ‘first fruits ceremony’ from the Old Testament, I would bring a basket to the altar as a thanksgiving for all you have shcieved, enjoyed, and received during your time at Girton. This year we shall do our best to give you a flavour of that before, we hope, you will return to college, when circumstances allow for a more in person celebration. There are all kinds of videos, celebrations and encounters, live and recorded on the college’s main ‘Graduation’ website but here is a little annexe, as it were, in virtual chapel, in which we can mark the day with grateful praise.
So to begin with we will hear our choir sing a hymn we often have on this occasion and I am including the words here so that you can sing along together with whoever you are with as you keep this day ‘virtually’ wherever you are:
Joy of heaven to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesu, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
Let us all thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and Praise.
Now let us here an excerpt from Courtesy byMicheal O’Siadhail read by the Chaplain
Reading: Courtesy – Micheal O’Siadhail
I bring my basketful to serve
Our table. Everything mine is yours.
Everything. Without reserve.
Poems to which I still revert.
Gauguin. Matisse. Renoir’s pear-shaped women.
Music I’ve heard. Blessed Schubert.
Ecstasies I’ll never understand –
Mandelstam’s instants of splendour, the world
A plain apple in his hand.
Lost faces. Those whose heirs
I was. My print-out of their genes,
Seed and breed of forbears.
Whatever I’ve become – courtesy
Of lovers, friends or friends of friends.
All those traces in me.
The living and dead. My sum
Of being. A host open and woundable.
Here I am! …..
It is hard to hear the words ‘Here I am’ when we are so physically distanced, but we have all worked together and used every means available to bridge the temporary gap, and here is the fruit of just such loving and patient ingenuity, in a video presentation of choir singing together in the virtual realm, the beautiful them by charles Wood O Thou the Central Orb
Girton choir sings O Thou the Central Orb by Charles Wood:
I want to bring us now to the heart of our act of thanksgiving. The Mistress will read for us a part of the beautiful passage in Deuteronomy 26, verses 1-11 in which the people of Israel are instructed to offer back to God a basket with the first fruits of their harvest in the land of promise. I will reflect little on that reading and then, as I have done each year, I will take a basket of our own Girtonian first fruits, the symbols of our life, our labour and our companionship in college and offer it back to God at the Altar in our chapel. To film this little sequence I made my own first visit back to chapel in many months and it was a deeply moving experience. I wish you could all have been there too, and I remembered and prayed for you there. so I hope in this film you will let me be your proxy and join me in heart and mind as I make your offering:
Now let us pray for the college and for one another:
Heavenly Father we thank you for bringing us to this day, together in worship and thanksgiving, even if physically apart. We thank you for all that brought us to this moment.
We thank you for the friends family and supporters who encouraged us to come to Girton and sustained us in our time here
We thank you for the tutors and directors of studies, the lecturers and supervisors through whose labour our minds have been filled and nurtured
We thank you for the care of college nurses, pastoral staff, and all who have aided, befriended and mentored us here
We thank you for all the college staff, the porters, kitchen staff, groundsmen and gardeners, who have kept and made this place beautiful and welcoming for us.
We thank you for the friends we have made and pray that we can keep and develop those friendships beyond Cambridge
And finally we thank you for the achievement of these degrees, our own and others, and pray that you will take all we have and are and use us to love and serve your world, making us especially available to those who have not shared the privilege of this place and this education
V: Lord in your Mercy
R: Hear our prayer
Finally I am conscious that we are all, at the end of this year, departing from the known into the unknown and it seems fitting to go with the sound of the choir still ringing in our ears and singing a prayer for the journey on all of our behalf: ‘Lead me Lord, lead me in thy righteousness, make thy way plain before my face’:
Lead Me Lord by SS Wesley:
Finally we will close with a blessing:
The peace of God, which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our lord, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you and those whom you hold in your hearts, this day and always, Amen