Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oxford Institute Day 4-Seminars and Hogwarts

Lest you think all we are doing here is traveling around and having fun, today we had an intensive seminar time in the morning to focus in our learning about both global and future leadership. It was a good conversation building on the texts we have read for this summer. Texts about leadership and helping move communities forward with principle and purpose. Particularly we focused in on the reality that leaders must be involved in change. Kotter, Collins and Heifitz are some of the best authors on these topics, I certainly recommend them.

After our seminar we headed over to the main Oxford Library, the Bodleian. Because of our status as residents at Regents Park College we were given special access to the library. Although they did not let us take any pictures. Sorry. But it was a nice late morning opportunity to visit and spend some time in one of the oldest and largest (11 million volumes) libraries in the world. 

Below is one of the rooms in the Bodleian we were allowed to take pictures in. This is a room in which the faculty meet as well as where Charles the First, when he had been forced from London by Cromwell, held his parliament. It dates back about 500 years, which is something to think about. Additionally, when Nelson Mandela received his honorary doctorate from Oxford, he did so in this room. So lots of history here and thoughts to have about leadership in the midst of crises.

The Bodleian also marked the first Harry Potter site we saw today as the old Divinity school is the site of the infirmary at Hogwarts.

After lunch we went for a tour of Christ Church College. One of the oldest and most well established of the colleges at Oxford. For those who are Harry Potter fans, you will also recognize some of the places there as well. It is a beautiful and picturesque place.
 This is in the cloister of the college, just outside the cathedral (Christ Church college houses the Cathedral church of Oxford town). The tree in this picture is an olive tree and around its base is an inscription from Revelation 22:2 about the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. This tree and later, Bishop George Bells tomb, will speak to the challenge of courageous leadership.
 Potter fans will recognize the sense of this space. The dining hall of Christ Church was the inspiration for the great hall in Hogwarts. You can certainly see the resemblance, also the Christ Church hall only has room for three sets of tables.
 But it does have lots of pictures on the wall, which no doubt inspired the idea of the Ghosts and the portraits at Hogwarts. All of the portraits are of famous Christ Church alumni including the folks below. The lower picture is of John Wesley (the founder of the Holiness movement that became Methodism) and the upper photo is of William Penn (Quaker and founder of the state of Pennsylvania).
 What I find interesting about these portraits from a leadership perspective is that they specifically positioned to remind the students of their heritage. Christ Church College is over 600 years old. These are your forebears. You are to build on that legacy. Also, although a Church of England college, it is not surprising that over the time Christ Church has existed it has had many alumni would went on to other faiths and traditions. Penn and Welsey illustrate that. If your mission is to educate and enlighten, people will come to different conclusions. And that is OK!
 More for the Potter fans. The steps at which the first year Harry comes up before entering the great hall. I looked for Neville's toad, but couldn't find it.

 When I speak about courageous leadership. Bishop George Bell certainly comes to mind. This is an altar in Christ Church Cathedral dedicated to Bell's memory. For those who don't know, Bishop Bell was a good friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a strong part of the ecumenical movement that attempted to help Bonhoeffer and the conspirators. His attempts to connect the German resistance to the British military were roundly refused by the British government.

Bell also had a hand in rescuing many Jews from their fate at the hand of Nazi fascism. And finally, Bell argued against the bombing of German cities and civilians. Stating it was not humane to target civilians. This did not make him popular in his time. But his moral voice was essential and without him, the memory of Bonhoeffer would likely have been forgotten. In fact, Bonhoeffer's famous last words "This is the end — for me the beginning of life" were in fact addressed to Bishop Bell through a fellow prisoner, an Englishman Payne Best.

The inscription on the tomb stone reads...
"No Nation, No Church, No Individual is guiltless. Without repentance and without forgiveness there can be no regeneration." Blessed be the memory of Bishop Bell and his leadership.

Lastly, a couple pictures from the grounds of Christ Church. Just beautifully maintained and kept.
 Pleasure boats on the river.
 Young boys learning to play that incomprehensible game Cricket.

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