Merville Reflections

Merville, reflected Merville, reflected. (It rained, nearly perpetually.) 

Ah Merville. I had mixed feelings as our coach departed. On the one hand, I was keen to return to normal life (with freely-chosen food, more friends, and consistent internet); but on the other, I was sad to leave a place that I’ve now spent 3 weeks of my life in. It seems St Mellitus will return to Merville next year (despite much room-sharing), but as a soon to be ordained ordinand, I will not be among them.

St Mellitus is virtually the only theological college in the Church of England to provide full-time ordination training in a non-residential context. It’s therefore slightly ironic that the highlight of the year for many students is the week we spend in a monastery, being as much like a residential college as is possible in rural France. Chapel every morning before breakfast and every evening before dinner; eating meals together; eating one meal in silence (while the sermons of St Augustine were read aloud); living alongside one another on corridors with fire doors that bang really loudly; awakening each morning to the sound of your neighbour’s footsteps echoing really loudly; and having the kind of fun in the evenings that only trainee vicars letting their hair down can have…

DeanoThis screen-grab is from the only video of my only appearance at St Mellitus open-mic night. It’s a private video so I can’t share it, plus it didn’t manage to capture the whole song. (I’m hoping we might repeat it at some point, so we can get the whole thing.) The above crew worked together to produce a parody of The Lumineers ‘Ho Hey’, that became a ballad of how our Assistant Dean was plotting to overthrow the Dean – who we affectionally call ‘Deano’, which would be the word we’re all singing at this particular moment. (Assistant Dean is now known as Ass. Dean, which is unfortunate.) 

In actual fact, our residential week is probably a lot more intense than a typical week in a residential college. For a start, there is next to no free time (apart from after dinner and one free afternoon), whereas you’d usually have time to do things like write essays, prepare sermons and visit churches. Secondly, even the married students are onsite. (This is a good thing, as otherwise all but two of my friends wouldn’t be around.) Thirdly, so are the tutors. (This is an especially good thing when one of your tutors brings with them an excellent card game that you become practically undefeated in.)

It’s a good job it only lasts a week! I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but it has got to be said that the level of exhaustion after 7 days of continuous vicar school is on another level. Not to mention just how peopled-out this introvert gets when the amount of time she can spend by herself is strictly limited. Although, one element of the exhaustion would be my own fault – given my commitment to rising at 6.30am (an hour before non-compulsory pre-morning prayer eucharist) in order to run; have early breakfast so that work could be completed; or walk to the boulangerie for croissants. I saw a lot of Merville in the dark and as dawn broke…

Before and during the dawn, Merville The church and civic hall before dawn (which finally broke at 7.30); the cemetery and canal as light began to appear.

Talking of the boulangerie, my reconnaissance mission to check its opening times and quality led me to have possibly the most appropriate pastry treat anyone at vicar school in a monastery could have:

Une Religiose GBBO fans will obviously recognise this as une religieuse – the pastry shaped like a nun. (Coffee flavour.) Recipe here.

Finally, I inadvertently began a Merville tradition in my first year. While out on a reflective prayer walk, I took a seat on a peculiar concrete manhole and started taking photos. Inevitably, I wound up doing a Liz. The next year, I found myself in the same spot wearing the same jumper and so took another. This year, I took the same jumper with me for the sole purpose of completing the trio. And thus, I now have proof of how much two years of vicar school has aged me:

Merville self-portraits 2011-13(2012 was clearly a little windy.) I think the answer is, I’ve not aged that much & I’ve certainly got happier! 

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