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A day in the life: PhD candidate

The Revd Preston Parsons was ordained in 2004 in the Anglican Church of Canada. He is now a PhD Candidate in the Divinity Faculty, writing a thesis on the friendship between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eberhard Bethge. He is also the Priest Vicar at St. John’s College. Here he shares a day in his life:

8.15am Morning Prayer in Pembroke chapel with the Dean. I usually read the Old Testament lesson. I plough through all the strange names, probably mispronouncing most of them. But if you mispronounce them consistently, no one notices. Except the dean.

9.30am I do a bit of reading in the library. There is a never ending list of articles for me to translate. My German is good, but the translating is still time consuming.

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11am I go to Fitzbillies for a cappuccino while I check my email. This really is the best cappuccino in Cambridge. After coffee I head back to the library for a bit more reading. I’m in a research phase, so I’m not writing yet. But I will have to get some words on the page, in the right order, very soon.

2.30pm Senior Seminar in the Divinity Faculty. It turns out to be a very good paper on Bonhoeffer. It’s always good to hear someone who is working in your area, unless they are working on a nearly-identical topic and their arguments are similar. Not this time. My own argument remains safe and sound. Questions follow, then tea downstairs.

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6pm I arrive at St. John’s College Chapel. I’m Priest Vicar at St. John’s, which means I take a service or two each week during term. It’s a nice arrangement, because I can still practice my liturgical craft, but without the demands that would come with a parish. And, because there’s no necessity for me to be a member of St. John’s with a position like this, I can remain a member of Pembroke. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I vest for Evensong in my cassock, surplice, and scarf. No hood needed tonight, as it’s not a Saints day. Stephen, the Chapel Clerk and Verger, fills me in on any particulars about the service. Sometimes I have extra bits to add to the service, like a confession. But it’s a straighforward service tonight.

6.30pm Evensong. I sing the Rose responses. They are much harder when the whole choir is here, but it’s Wednesday, so it’s only the men singing. My part is simple today. The choir is in good form, as always. God is worshipped in beauty and holiness. After the service I dine at high table. I love Pembroke, but I have to say, the dining rights I have at St. John’s are a nice perk.

9pm Back in my rooms at Pembroke. I catch up on an episode of The Walking Dead before bed.

For more about graduate study at Pembroke, see our website.

Photographs by Preston Parsons.

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