When my classes ended yesterday for the year (yes, March 13th!), it was definitely a realization that my year in Ireland is moving rapidly along. Spring has finally arrived here, to my delight, even though in a move of possibly dubious wisdom I am leaving today for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where it is still snowing…(I AM looking forward to the trip. But when I checked the weather forecast this morning, I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been a better plan to go to Malta…)
This past term has been largely occupied with classes. Having class for several hours a day every day of the week means that I haven’t had as much time as I might have liked for everything else (although it’s entirely my own fault for taking so many classes…), but now that classes have ended for the year I will have the opportunity both to work on my research and to explore Ireland even more. This term I have particularly enjoyed my class on ecumenical ecclesiology, and a course on Muslim-Christian relations which was team taught by a Muslim woman and an Anglican priest.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an Anglican Faith and Order consultation for three days as an observer, where representatives of the Anglican provinces of Ireland, Scotland and England discussed some of the theological issues that are affecting their churches. At the risk of revealing just how very much of a theology geek I am, I have to confess that I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun! It was a small group, with just the official delegates and two of us observers, and everyone was extremely nice and welcoming to the random graduate student who had somehow managed to get invited to the proceedings.
Over the three days we had sessions on confirmation, the diaconate, the authority of scripture, and the new agreed statement on Mary produced by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Outside of the official sessions, however, conversations continued over dinner and coffee until late at night, with passionate debates on everything from universal salvation to the 39 Articles. (The latter is a document that the Anglican church in Ireland still takes seriously, although I have always been glad that the Episcopal Church in the United States has consigned it to the back of the Book of Common Prayer in the “historical documents” section, where we can continue to happily pretend that it doesn’t exist!)
In late February my best friend came to visit me from New York, and I enjoyed showing her around Dublin before the two of us headed off to Glenstal Abbey on retreat. Glenstal was wonderful, and although I am looking forward to returning there with all of the Mitchell Scholars in May, it is entirely possible that I won’t be able to wait until then to make another trip. Back in Dublin, the two of us did manage to get caught right in the middle of the riots on February 25th, which was somewhat scary at the time. I felt terrible about having a guest with me, and kept wanting to exclaim, “It’s not normally like this here! Really it isn’t! I promise!”
Closer to home, my Lenten effort to fit daily mass into my rather irregular schedule means that I will soon have visited every Catholic church in Dublin. (Well, at least the city center and the nearest suburbs.) The diocesan website has a very handy tool with which you fill in what time you would like to go to mass, and it will give you a complete listing of the parishes that fit into your schedule. Then all you have to do is locate them on a map, and suddenly, thanks to Lent, you have the perfect excuse to explore Dublin! I continue to be involved in my own church here, Saint Bartholomew’s, including serving as an acolyte, and the people there are very much the focus of my social life.
I have all sort of plans for the coming months. After my trip to the Baltic states, we have a Mitchell gathering in Belfast. In April and May I am hoping to visit several other Irish monasteries and convents, and I’m planning to go on a young adult pilgrimage to the shrine at Knock. In June, Richard and I are going to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Add a thesis and a few more essays into the mix, and I expect that I will be more than busy over the weeks to come, even if I don’t have to go to class anymore! I continue to be greatful to all of the sponsors of the Mitchell Scholarship for making all of these things possible.