It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to write this first reflection. It seems as though I have only just arrived. My first days in Dublin were largely occupied with sleeping, trying to set up house, and answering all of the profound, meaningful questions that moving into a new home in a foreign country inspires. You know, questions like, “Is it possible to make scrambled eggs in a microwave and eat them without any silverware?” Since then, I have settled in much more.
I am greatly enamoured of the Irish School of Ecumenics, where everyone has been unbelievably friendly and welcoming, from the first day when I showedup — lost, unexpected, and completely drenched — on their doorstep and they took me in and gave me tea and cookies . The system here allows us to sit in on as many courses as we like, and to choose next semester which ones we want to be assessed on. Turning me loose and allowing me to take as many courses as I like is a somewhat dangerous enterprise, but as it stands now I am taking all of the following classes this term: Authority, Tradition and Experience; Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations; Conflict and Peace in Northern Ireland; Sociology and Politics of Ecumenism; Religious Anti-Modernism; Conflict Resolution and Non-Violence; Religion and American Foreign Policy; Ethics and International Affairs, and World Christianity and Inter-religious Dialogue. I am also taking New Testament Greek with a group of students from the Church of Ireland Theological College.
One might think that this would leave me with little time for anything else, but this has absolutely not been the case. Once I recovered from the shock of not having an Internet connection in my room, I realized that breaking my Internet addiction has left me with incredible amounts of time that would not previously have existed in my schedule! All of us Dublin Mitchells have developed our own haunts around the city, although mine are perhaps more unusual. No bars or pubs or clubs for me, alas… Instead, I keep returning to places such as the Chester Beatty Library with its collection of beautiful, ancient and medieval religious books. Whenever I see them there in their glass cases, I always feel this urge to kneel down and kiss the glass and venerate them. I tell myself that this is because they are religious texts, but actually, I think it’s because I really am that much of a nerd…
And there have been so many churches to visit, and I know that there remain many more to discover. Somewhat to my surprise, I have discovered that I am not (quite) the only Anglo-Catholic in Ireland, although I’ve also learned that mentioning that I think there are seven sacraments and hope to become a nun is a good way to distress my fellow Anglicans here… But most people have been remarkably indulgent of what probably seem my rather peculiar religious eccentricities, and so I go to mass eucharist with the Anglicans and things like rosary and benediction with the Roman Catholics, and it mostly seems to work out fine. I am especially indebted to the priests who have helped me try to navigate and negotiate my religious identity here in Ireland, especially Fr. Kevin Moroney, Fr. Gervase Taratara, and Fr. Patrick Roe. But every time someone asks me whether I am Protestant or Catholic (a natural question to ask a theology student), I always feel like I should take a deep breath and say, “Well…you see, there was this thing called the Oxford Movement back in the 19th century and…”
There have also been many wonderful opportunities to attend lectures outside of class, the most exciting for me has been going to hear N.T. Wright speak at Maynooth. (I had been assured by many people that it was impossible to get lost in Maynooth. I, however, seem to have talent for doing the impossible, because I managed to get thoroughly lost no less than 5 times within a 40 minute period. Many thanks to all of the strangers who dropped everything they were doing and managed to get me where I needed to be, even if it meant walking me there themselves…!:
I’ve been making friends at both the School of Ecumenics and the Church of Ireland Theological College, and I have also befriended the stray cat who seems to live on the Trinity campus, and whom I have named Mel (after the Irish saint and companion of St. Patrick). Although I haven’t had much opportunity to travel yet, I am planning a weekend in Paris later on this month, and in December I will be going to visit monasteries in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, thanks to the generous travel bursary that we have been given. So, on the whole, things are really going wonderfully, and I am optimistic about what the months ahead have in store.