So, I’m back in Cambridge, England to do more work on my faith/science book that focuses on the physicist/priest John Polkinghorne. On every street there is a cathedral announcing a Christmas concert — choirs, bells, orchestras — and it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit. I wandered into a few cathedrals today and heard organists practicing. It was furious, loud and beautiful.
It’s chilly outside here — maybe about 40 degrees — and rainy. But the streets are full of shoppers and nervous families. Students are being interviewed by professors to see if they’re the kind of people Cambridge University wants to admit to one of its colleges next fall. At lunch yesterday I overheard some professors discussing the many students they were going to turn down. The students will have to be chosen by another school in another town.
Still, it’s unmistakably Christmas in Cambridge. And nothing says Christmas like a group of American Indians playing Silent Night on their wind instruments and doing an interpretive dance in the cathedral of the street.
And I was nearly chased down another street for not paying my tithe to the robot after listening to him sing in an outer space voice about Santa Claus.
The one quiet place I found was the Westcott Chapel, where Polkinghorne said the daily office and prayed during his seminary training back in the 1980s. It’s a simple chapel — wooden floor, just a few benches, little ornamentation, definitely not a cathedral. But on the front wall, illuminated by a single candle, was the icon commissioned by Polkinghorne and his class of theology students. It is a picture of Christ, and the words of Jesus taken from John’s gospel — “You have not chosen me. I have chosen you.”
That’s worth celebrating, whatever costume you’re wearing, and regardless of what the professors say.