Saturday, July 29th, was transfer day. Around 10 a.m., we boarded the double-decker bus from St. Catherine’s College in Oxford to Robinson College in Cambridge, about a two hour trip. Since our afternoon was free, our All Saints’ Group (which, by attrition now numbered eight; three people were only here for the first week), walked into town for lunch. Although Cambridge is generally more quaint and less busy than Oxford, you mightn’t have been able to tell on this day. Tourists were everywhere! We were concerned about whether or not we might find a place to eat together, but finally we found a pleasant spot that served very good food.
After a delicious lunch of sea bass, an old-fashioned, and a glass of port, I joined the group for punting. I initially found it strange that we would all be kicking footballs, but soon discovered that the word has a different meaning here in Cambridge. From Wikipedia: “A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.” So, we hired a private boat and punted for forty-five minutes on the Cam river. Parts were idyllic, although most of the time we were playing bumper boats with the mass of humanity also punting on this day, some of whom were punting their own boats with no experience and clogging up the narrow waterway. It was pleasant, however, slowly traveling the calm waters while viewing the backs of a number of Cambridge colleges.
On the evening of our first day in Cambridge, we were in for a special treat. Max McLean, founder and artistic director of Fellowship for Performing Arts, a New York City-based producer of live theater from a Christian worldview. He has performed a number of one-man shows based on works by C. S. Lewis and the Scripture. Cindy and I had seen his Screwtape Letters in the states. On this evening he performed “The Most Reluctant Convert,” a powerful and wonderfully presented story of the conversion of C. S. Lewis from atheism to Christianity. The after-show Q&A was equally enjoyable. He commented on how this audience was different than any other he performs for in that we were a group of people that traveled halfway around the world to study C. S. Lewis.
Sunday morning was free. I used the time to get caught up on blogging, among other things. Then, at 11:30, we boarded the bus for Ely Cathedral. Ely is situated about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge and is home to a massively beautiful church which dates from the 11th century. However before we visited the cathedral, we were blessed to visit with 90 year-old Mary Turner, the widow of a respected Greek Scholar Nigel Turner. She lives in a 17th-century house right across from the Cathedral. Martha, one of the ladies in our group, became friends with her many years ago on previous visits to the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute. She served us lunch and entertained us with her stories, her home, and her beautiful gardens.
After leaving her home, I walked a quarter-mile to see the house of the controversial Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, during the 17th century English Civil War. On the way back to the Cathedral, I walked down High Street in this small, ancient town of Ely. I spent my time before the beginning of Evensong walking through the Cathedral, admiring it’s grandeur. I was saddened by all the damage done during the reign of Henry VIII when he gave the order for the dissolution of the monasteries. So much beauty was destroyed in Catholic churches and abbeys. Most of the niches of the cathedral which once bore statues were empty. The beautiful stained glass of the Lady Chapel was destroyed. Other decorative features were defaced or destroyed as well.
Evensong was a glorious experience! The C. S. Lewis Chamber Choir transported us into heavenly places with their song. The sounds of praise reverberated through the massive cathedral providing an aesthetic and spiritual encounter not experience by many. How blessed we were!
Back at Robinson College in Cambridge, we had dinner before attending a performance by the Ad Deum Contemporary Dance Company, communicating the beauty of the Christian message through dance. It was a lovely end to the evening.