Revd Dr Stuart Mousir-Harrison
University of Northampton Chaplain
I wonder what your first memories of Park Campus were? Perhaps you were local, and can never quite pinpoint the first memory, even though the first encounters with new friends, enrolment or lectures are clear. Perhaps they were from an Open Day, and being blown away by the beauty of the place, or enchanted by the scampering squirrels and bounteous bunnies. Or perhaps it was as you turned up on travelling weekend after a bit of a shambolic A Level or FE process that just somehow ended up with you there, having never set eyes on the place before. My first memory involves turning up for an informal chat with the Head of Student Services (Chris Cooper) about a half-time post and parking in Sunley Management Centre car park by accident, bemused by the array of signs!
Whatever the first memories, and all those that follow, we can’t deny that Park Campus made an impression. Whatever our faith, or none (or the uncertainties between) we are creatures of place. We don’t exist in solitary bubbles, but socially and geographically, with a place in a community of relationships and real, grounded, earthed location. Where we are, and have been, shapes us just as much as the people we share our lives with.
Being somewhere shapes us, not just with the label that we were at Nene, or UCN, or UON, but provides us with fixed comparative reference points. All other university halls of residence will be judged in the light of Charles Bradlaugh Hall, all lecture theatres by HLT1, all sports grounds by Gallagher Fields, and so on. If you went on to another Higher Education institution, you’ll have compared everything to the original (I should know, I’ve studied at four different polytechnics, colleges and universities, as well as working here).
All these things make Park Campus special: the greenery, the proximity of nature, the open spaces all contribute to that uniqueness. The Bible, in the Book of Genesis, begins with a Garden, that idyll that places like Park Campus are little echoes of. It begins with innocence, and most of us, no matter how worldly-wise we like to think of ourselves, rolled up as undergraduates rather more innocent than we might like to admit! Life (and faith for that matter) are full of experiences that come from new starts, some exciting, wonderful and positive; first partners, first experience of handling money… or drink, and some hard, difficult and sad ones; break-ups, health problems, even bereavement. We carry them with us.
We don’t walk alone, of course, at least, not most of the time. We may not recognise, or clearly remember, some of the companions and helpers along the way: students, staff, locals…. And maybe an awareness of something beyond the merely human too, whether in an explicit faith, or just an awareness of that spiritual, divine, mysterious Other. This shouldn’t really be a surprise though, the history of Park Campus, from early days, rests on and includes many whose learning and training was implicitly focussed on the well-being and advancement of others, in healthcare, in rehabilitation, in education, often rooted firmly (if quietly) on a clear Christian faith. Perhaps there was still the chapel on site in your time, though only a ghost of it remains on a trace of an old map now, at least for me.
As you re-discover the Park Campus you knew, the hidden bits you never saw, as well as discovering what came before and after, it’s my hope and prayer that there’ll be space for gratitude, and awareness, of the generally unseen other that shapes, shadows and supports our lives, and that maybe, you’ll discern more than you thought of that divine helping hand beyond immediate sight who has inspired so many who’ve lived and worked on Park Campus down the years.
May this website, these memories, be a blessing!
Who created humanity as creatures of relationship and place,
loved and loving,
Bless all who share in the memories of Park Campus stirred by this website.
Help us to find in them examples, strength and hopes for the future
Even as we continue our one-way journey through time,
Leaving Park behind and journeying to whatever lies before.
Stir up in us, we pray, a renewed sense of gratitude, purpose and faith,
That we may make a positive difference to those we meet,
And in doing so, display something of your nature
Revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev Dr Stuart Mousir-Harrison, Dec 2018.