Tag Archives: Girton College

Girton College Chapel: End of Year Thanksgiving

Just some of the choir, fellows, and musicians who make all these beautiful things happen! Photo by Jeremy West

Welcome to the Girton College Chapel Page for this final service of term. Whereas our other services have followed the pattern of Evensong, today’s service has its own form, hi-lighting all we have to be thankful for in this past Academic Year. Today’s service will also include, as it does each year, the announcement of the winners of the Tom Mansfield Prize for contribution to the college’s musical life. Today’s service, themed around thankfulness will also bring to a conclusion our series of reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

We begin this service, themed around thankfulness and blessing with a prayer and a poem:

Opening Prayer

We thank you Lord that we can gather together in prayer, that even though we are outwardly and visibly scattered in many places, even though our eyes cannot meet nor our voices join, nevertheless we are gathered in your love and your Spirit makes us one. May we who are praying through this page be lifted by the prayers of others as we lift one another up to you in thanksgiving

Through Jesus Christ Our Lord


Now I will read you a sonnet which gives thanks for our community, for the webs and threads of interconnection that run between us all however physically distant we may be:


Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,

Just to have made it through another year

With everyone still breathing. But we share

So much beyond the outer roads we travel;

Our interweavings on a deeper level,

The modes of life embodied souls can share,

The unguessed blessings of our being here,

Threads of connection no one can unravel.


So I give thanks for our deep coinherence,

Inwoven in the web of Gods own grace,

Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.

I thank Him for the truth behind appearance

I thank Him for his light in every face

I thank Him for us all, with every breath.


And now, for our first anthem from the choir, we have a real treat. Gareth Wilson has been able to put together a virtual choir video of the Anthem Lead Me Lord by SS Wesley, and it is a joy, and a technical miracle, to see, as well as hear, our choir singing it.


After such beautiful music it is appropriate that we come to the awarding of the Tom Mansfield memorial prize. Tom was a brilliant young man, a first year student whom I got to know in my own first term here as chaplain. He arrived from Harrogate bringing with him an enthusiasm for music of every kind and soon had a little Girton brass group going as well as playing  jazz trombone in other venues. And then, tragically his life was cut short by a traffic accident. Many of us travelled up to Harrogate for his unforgettable, and musically rich memorial service and the JCR instituted a prize in his honour for students who like him, had enthused others to make music in college. So here is a message from Riva Kapoor, the JCR President introducing the prize and announcing the first of this year’s joint winners:

Congratulations to Rachel! Here is Rachael’s reply:

And here is the announcement of our second joint-winner:

Congratulations to James! Here is James’ reply:

A little glimpse of Girton stillness, photo by Liliana Janik

We come now to the first of our two readings from the letter to the Colossians, read for us today by Sandra Fulton, the Senior Tutor

Colossians 1:15-20

  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Our second Anthem is the Missa Laudate Pueri by Ingegneri, from the choir’s acclaimed CD:

Our second reading from Colossians is read for us by The Mistress:

Colossians 3:12-17 

 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with

Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another,

forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts

sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

beauty unfolding everywhere Photo by Liliana Janik

My sermon and sonnet today pick up the theme of thanksgiving and also reflect on the final words of The Lord’s Prayer:

Address by the Chaplain’ Thine is the Kingdom’ 

Text of the Sonnet:

Thine is the kingdom...

The kingdom and the power and the glory,

The very things we all want for ourselves!

We want to be the hero of the story

And leave the others on their dusty shelves.

How subtly we seek to keep the kingdom,

How brutally we hold on to the power,

Our glory always means another’s thralldom,

But still we strut and fret our little hour.


What might it mean to let it go forever,

To die to all that desperate desire,

To give the glory wholly to another,

Throw all we hold into that holy fire?

A wrenching loss and then a sudden freedom

In given glories and a hidden kingdom.


Our third Anthem is In Spiritu Humiliatis by Croce

‘Sing the waning darkness into light’ Photo Martin Bond

Now we come to our prayers which will include the special prayer thanksgiving for music and musicians which I first prayed on our behalf at Tom Mansfield’s memorial service:

Let us pray:

We thank you Lord for this academic year. We thank you for all that we enjoyed with one another in the two terms we were together, but we also thank you for all the love that has been shown and shared in the term of our Covid exile. For the many messages of mutual support, the Zoom supervisions, the virtual events and celebrations. May we who have passed together through these historic times, be bound more closely together in the future through our shared experience, suffering and resilience

V: Lord in Your Mercy

R: Hear Our Prayer

We thank you for all who have served us throughout the year in this college, for all the college staff, the cleaners, gardeners, kitchen staff, porters, and administrators. for the Mistress and fellows, the college officers, the nurses, tutors and councillors, and all through whose care, seen and unseen we have been brought to this day and to this celebration.

V: Lord in Your Mercy

R: Hear Our Prayer


A Thanksgiving for Tom Mansfield and a prayer for Musicians:

Father we thank you for the gift of music and for the gifts you give to those who play that music for us.

Today especially Father we thank you for Tom as a musician,

we thank you for his talents, and for his joy in making music, for the pleasure he gave and received when playing.

And Father we thank you for music itself, for its power to express the heights of our joys and the depths of our sorrows.

We thank you especially for those moments when hearing and making music seems to bring us to the brink of heaven,

when we hear behind the music the echo of your call,

we get a glimpse of your glory, and our hearts yearn for more than they can imagine.

We thank you that the promise at the core of our music is true

that one day in heaven we shall ourselves be made your music.

Father we pray that Tom is finding now with you the true meaning of every note he played and taking his part in the music of heaven.

Finally Father we pray for all the musicians of Girton,

for the choir and organists, for the Girton Music society, the Gir-ten, and all the informal musical gatherings and combinations that enrich our college life.

Father be with them when they take up their instruments to play,

May they play boldly and clearly, may they sound a note that tells their sorrow,

but may they also hear, as they play, that promise hidden in music,

that there is a joy with you beyond this world and that one day we will share that joy together..

We ask it in the name of Jesus Christ Amen

We gather these prayers together in the words of the prayer on which we have been reflecting throughout this term:

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever Amen.

my rising and my rest, peaceful seat in the fellows garden Photo by Jeremy West

Now, as our service comes to a close, and I come to bid you farewell and give you my final blessing, I reflect that this is the last End Of Year Thanksgiving Service in my time with you as chaplain, and I give thanks for the honour of serving this chapel and college over the last 18 years. I thank God for all the Girtonians who have worshipped here over those years and whom I have come to know and love and I speak this blessing for all of them as well as for of you who are gathered around this page:

A Blessing from the Chaplain:

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

Finally, to lead us out and let us go in peace, the choir will sing the Nunc Dimities in Gareth Wilson’s wonderful setting:

The NuncDimmitis from The Girton Service(Wilson), sung by Girton choir



Luke 2.29

LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace :
according to thy word.

For mine eyes have seen :
thy salvation;

Which thou hast prepared :
before the face of all people;

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles :
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.

In any other year we would process from the chapel into Woodlands Court and enjoy some celebratory sparkling wine together, but perhaps you will join me now in lifting a glass and toasting the college and one another, wherever you may be

To The college!



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Girton College Chapel May 10th: Thy Kingdom Come

Bluebells in Girton Grounds Photo Jeremy West

Welcome back to Girton College Chapel for the third of our virtual Sunday Evensongs, we have all been greatly encouraged that so many of you have come to these pages and found them fruitful. This week we continue our reflection on The Lord’s Prayer and I share with you a sermon and a sonnet on its second petition, a double prayer: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Once more we will have a chance to listen to our choir and let their music lift our hearts and souls in worship.(You can find the choir’s CDs Here) Today we will hear the responses and Lord’s prayer settings composed by Rhiannon Randle, one of the foremost young composers and a former member of our college and choir.

Now, to begin our worship, we hear the opening responses, composed by Rhiannon Randle and sung by Girton Choir. As with all the audio you can listen by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title.

The Queen Elizabeth Doors outside chapel Photo by Liliana Janik

Introductory Responses


V:O Lord, open thou our lips.
R:And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
V:O God, make speed to save us.
R:O Lord, make haste to help us.

V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
R: .As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V: Praise ye the Lord.
R:The Lord’s Name be praised.


Since our theme today is the coming of the Kingdom, our psalm sings of the King and the compassion of his Kingdom. do read this psalm aloud, perhaps alternating verse with other members of your household.

Psalm 145.Exaltabo te, Deus

I will magnify thee, O God, my King : and I will praise thy

Name for ever and ever.

Every day will I give thanks unto thee : and praise thy Name

for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and marvellous, worthy to be praised :

there is no end of his greatness.

One generation shall praise thy works unto another : and declare

thy power.

As for me, I will be talking of thy worship : thy glory, thy

praise, and wondrous works;

So that men shall speak of the might of thy marvellous acts :

and I will also tell of thy greatness.

The memorial of thine abundant kindness shall be shewed :

and men shall sing of thy righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful : long-suffering, and of

great goodness.

The Lord is loving unto every man : and his mercy is over all

his works.

All thy works praise thee, O Lord : and thy saints give thanks

unto thee.

They shew the glory of thy kingdom : and talk of thy power;

That thy power, thy glory, and mightiness of thy kingdom :

might be known unto men.

Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom : and thy dominion

endureth throughout all ages.

The Lord upholdeth all such as fall : and lifteth up all those

that are down.

The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord : and thou givest

them their meat in due season.

Thou openest thine hand : and fillest all things living with


The Lord is righteous in all his ways : and holy in all his


The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him : yea, all

such as call upon him faithfully.

He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him : he also will

hear their cry, and will help them.

The Lord preserveth all them that love him : but scattereth

abroad all the ungodly.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord : and let all flesh

give thanks unto his holy Name for ever and ever.

Glory Be to the Father, and the theSon and to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen

A shy deer comes to Girton, an image of the soul Photo Jeremy West

The Old Testament Reading is taken from the book of Deuteronomy 

Deuteronomy 24:14-19 Read by Fiona Cooke Chair of the Chapel Committee

You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns.

  You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.

Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.

You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.

   Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings.


In place of the Magnificat we hear the choir sing Sancta Maria by De Brito:

Our choir in full flight. Image by Adrenalin Photography

Our New Testament reading, one of the parables of the kingdom, is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel

Matthew 20:1-16 read by choir member Catriona James

  ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.

After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place;

and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.

And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?”

They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.”

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.

And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,

saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”

But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?

Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

In place of the Nunc Dimities we will hear the Ecce Venit Desideratus by Ingegneri from the choir’s wonderful new CD:

Final Responses set by Rhiannon Randle sung by Girton Choir

V:The Lord be with you.
R:And with thy spirit.
V:Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

V:O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
R:And grant us thy salvation.
V:O Lord, save the Queen.

R:And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
V:Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
R:And make thy chosen people joyful.
V:O Lord, save thy people.
R:And bless thine inheritance.
V:Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R:Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
V:O God, make clean our hearts within us.
R:And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

Sermon: Thy Kingdom Come: a reflection and a sonnet from the chaplain

The text of the poem:

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth

Can we imagine what we’re asking for?

When all we know and all we think we’re worth

As vanity might vanish, disappear,

Fading before the splendours you reveal:

The beggars crowned with glory, all the meek

Exalted even as the mighty fall,

And everywhere the triumph of the weak.


And we, who have been first, will be the last

And queue for mercy like the refugees

Whom only moments earlier we passed

By on the other side. For now the seas

That separated are no more. The Sun

Is risen like justice, and his will is done.

Our anthem this evening is Unus Ex Duobus by Palestrina:

When an ordinary staircase becomes Jacob’s Ladder! Image by Adrenalin Photography

Now here, as always is the blessing which concludes our service:

A Blessing from the Chaplain:

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

A glimpse into the fellows garden. Photo Liliana Janik


Filed under Girton

Join us at Girton for Evensong!

Girton Choir and Brass in the chapel

Dear Readers and Subscribers,

I hope you are all managing ok through this lockdown, and indeed that the pages of this blog are helping you in one way or another. One consequence of isolation is that my students and I cannot meet together for worship in our college chapel this term, nor can our fabulous choir gather to sing there. Therefore, like many Christian communities, we are finding other ways to worship and to celebrate our traditions. So for each Sunday I am curating a page from which anyone can pray and enjoy Choral Evensong, our usual evening service. There will be responses, canticles, and an anthem sung by our choir, drawn from their various excellent recordings, lovely images of the college and chapel, and each week, a new reflection from me on our termly theme, which is The Lord’s Prayer. Each reflection will conclude with a sonnet.

Now since this blog is the one piece of web technology I actually understand, and can operate from home without assistance, it seemed best that this Sunday page should appear as a blog post here, with a link sent to everyone in the college. Happily this means that I can now invite all the readers and subscribers of this blog, to join us, if they wish, for our Sunday Worship. This can be done at your own time and pace, the page should appear first thing on Sunday morning BST. I hope you all enjoy it!

As ever




Filed under Girton

Parable and Paradox: He who has ears to hear…

Christ the Saviour St. Catherine's monastery Mount Sinai

Christ the Saviour St. Catherine’s monastery Mount Sinai

I am presently working on a new collection of sonnets about the sayings of Jesus to be called ‘Parable and Paradox‘, which will come out with Canterbury Press next year. The sequence will consist on a series of reflections on, wrestlings with and responses to the sayings of Jesus, voicing, I hope, the wide range of our responses to his teaching from thrilling recognition to baffled amazement, from the urge to follow to the fear of challenge, from wary evasion to life-changing engagement. Parable and Paradox is also the title of a series of sermons I am giving in Girton College Chapel this term which introduce both some of the sayings and some of the sonnets. I am going to post both the sonnets and the sermons on this blog over the coming weeks and I begin with the opening sonnet/sermon which addresses the problem of how we open our ears to hear Jesus in the first place. First I will give you the sonnet which is a response to Matthew 13: verse 9: ‘He who has ears to hear, let hm hear’ and then I will give you a link to a recording of the sermon, along with the references for the Bible texts in that service. If you are in Cambridge you are welcome to come up to Girton and join us for the services and sermons which take place every Sunday evening at 5:30pm during term time. The full term card with all details cam be viewed, or downloaded as a PDF here

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or on the ‘play’ button


‘He who has ears to hear let him hear’


How hard to hear the things I think I know,

To peel aside the thin familiar film

That wraps and seals your secret just below:

An undiscovered good, a hidden realm,

A kingdom of reversal, where the poor

Are rich in blessing and the tragic rich

Still struggle, trapped in trappings at the door

They never opened, Life just out of reach…


Open the door for me and take me there.

Love, take my hand and lead me like the blind,

Unbandage me, unwrap me from my fear,

Open my eyes, my heart, my soul, my mind.

I struggle with these grave clothes, this dark earth,

But you are calling ‘Lazarus come forth!’


You can listen to the sermon that includes this sonnet from this page

The texts for the sermon and sonnet: Psalm: 49:1-12
Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 12:1-12 New Testament Reading: Matthew 13:9-17

Next week we will look at Jesus’ saying ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit (John 12:24)




Filed under literature, Poems

Brave Black Squirrel: A Girtonian Ode!

There has been great excitement of late at the Discovery of the Girton Black Squirrel, many sightings, a facebook group, and even a motion from the parish council to adopt the black squirrel as a logo! If Girton had existed in Lord Byron’s day I’m sure he would have been a frequent visitor, and perhaps instead of the bear he kept at Trinity he might have adopted the Girton black Squirrel instead. So, borrowing the Ottava Rima stanza form that Byron used for Don Juan, and indeed the first four words of his epic, I have penned a little ode to the Girton Pioneer (with apologies to Lord B!)

The Girton Pioneer

I want a hero! Byron had Don Juan
As vehicle for all his fantasies
Each pleasure led him on to find a new-one
Inventive always in his ecstasies.
Byron’s  the  hero here,  at least the true one,
Pleasing his friends, teasing his enemies!
But now we’re all post-modern and ironic
And no-one ever dares to be Byronic.

Where shall I find a hero for our age,
A figure to inspire my eight-fold rhyme?
Where is the debater? Where the sage?
Oh who will mend this deep-disjointed time?
Our putrid politicians strut the stage,
Admiring one another, mired in slime,
They only mend their pre-election fences
And charge the said repairs to their expenses.

And what about the heroes of my youth,
The rockers who once moved me heart and soul?
Dylan delivered darts of daring truth,
The Rolling Stones were total Rock’n’roll!
They all wear slippers now, long in the tooth,
(Those years of sex and drugs have taken toll),
Now ageing rockers huddle round an Aga
And leave us in the grip of Lady Gaga.

I find no human hero for my themes
They all fall short, they shrivel, faint and fail.
But lo! A mystic voice spoke in my dreams:
“In Girton’s grounds you’ll find your holy grail
There dwells a creature all the world esteems,
A tribal totem, with a bushy tail!
Bright and dark, and wild and free and feral
An epic hero: Girton’s Brave black Squirrel!

Here is the hero for our modern times
Here is the one to set the world to rights
Here is a subject worthy of your rhymes
No silly superheroes in their tights
Could rid the world so well of all its crimes!
Put Girty, Girton’s squirrel up in lights.
I see the headline now, you’ll see it then:
“The First Black Squirrel enters Number Ten!”


Filed under Current affairs, Girton, imagination, literature