Term began today. Last week was Induction. On Friday afternoon, I was standing outside the Dean of Studies’ office, waiting to discuss my timetable. On the walls in the hallway there are several boards listing the names of those who went out from St John’s to serve as missionaries in other parts of the world. And there, on the board outside the Dean’s door, towards the bottom of the last column:
LAVILLE, J. Philippines 1972
Jo Laville was a godfather of mine. He died, training church leaders in India, not very long back. He’d lived for most of my life in Asia, but, by chance of home-leaves falling at the right time, he happened to attend our wedding in 1996; our honeymoon in Switzerland in 1997 (yes, I know that sounds a little weird: we were married in October, but wanted to go skiing, and so waited until the spring, and went on a group package. We didn’t know Jo was booked on the same group – but he was a life-long skier, who had skied in the Alps long before that became popular); and to the christening of our daughter in 2001.
Just as I hadn’t expected to see him get on our coach somewhere in Switzerland over a decade ago, so I hadn’t expected to see his name on a board in the hall.
As it happens, another of my godfathers, Revd Canon Dr Michael Green, was the first Principal of St John’s, Nottingham (1969-75 – the college goes back to 1863, but was located at various sites in London prior to moving to its current home).
And my parents share a god-daughter with the current college Principal.
And one set of my youngest child’s godparents are the brother and sister-in-law of the wife of the Dean of Studies whose study I was waiting outside on Friday.
Surreal does not begin to describe it. But there is something else: something about continuity; and inheritance; something about standing in a god-parental genealogy; something about arriving somewhere I never knew and until just under a year ago was not heading towards, and finding myself coming home. Something that brings with it anticipation…