Oxford Study Centre Reflections
The year 2012 was a hallmark year for the United Kingdom. The Olympics in London, a royal wedding, and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee were all splendid celebrations of Britannia in her happiness and glory.
For me, that year was a celebration of a different British icon: Oxford University. Indeed, my best memories of 2012 will always be of long studies, grand adventures, and the towering significance that was my time as a student of the Oxford Study Centre.*
Why the Oxford Study Centre?
What makes the Oxford Study Centre special, unique, worth considering? Well, when asked so candidly, the website provides a sufficient answer, I think. (And do watch the invitational film just below in this post.) A better question to ask, or at least one I wish I had asked before going, is…
Why do you seek the gifts of Oxford and what will you do with them? The answer to this question helped me discover the value of the Oxford Study Centre, both in what it is and how it has so profoundly shaped me.
Worldviews in Oxford
I knew Oxford would be difficult. During the term most days began with breakfast, followed by a long stretch in the library for research, broken by lunch, again followed by more research, topped off with dinner, and then perhaps a third round in the library.
In truth, I spent the vast majority of my waking hours in libraries, pouring over hundreds of books, under the harrowing shadow of paper deadlines. This is what I thought I was preparing for, what I thought was the main value of the program. To practice being a scholar was why I sought Oxford. But that is just the beginning of what the Oxford Study Centre is.
I later came to realize that the demanding and in many cases overwhelming schedule was the stage that set the scene for the Oxford Study Centre.
Among the many hurried days I ran around inside the libraries were scattered the gems of a brilliant community, the loving Bywater family, invaluable mentorship, and many other treasures. It was the community of the Oxford Study Centre that began to affect me.
Fridays and Fellowship
Four hours every Friday afternoon spent in group discussions and guest lectures changed from an added stress to a splendid relief. The frequent fellowship with Kevin James Bywater stopped being a program requirement and became rewarding exploits in deep discussions and thoughtful reflections. Afternoons spent with laughing, wild children in the warmth of the Bywater home invigorated me.
Indeed, the beauty of an expert lesson, the transcendence of an evensong choral service, and the joy of local jaunts with new friends might all have been hidden under the arduous work I thought I wanted most from Oxford. But these were highlighted through the community of which I was a part.
It is because of these that I now value peace, virtue, scholarship, and a great many things so dearly, not because I studied them in Oxford, but because I truly experienced them through this program in Oxford.
There and Back Again
Any student can test their mettle in the hallowed stacks of prestige and knowledge that is Oxford, but it is the result of this journey that is the focus for me. In my opinion, the gifts of Oxford are time to think, to ponder, and to dive into the depths of a subject beyond the things you even knew existed. But the gift of Centre, the value of my time as a member of this community of faithful scholars, is the peace and joy of God throughout such seasons of learning.
My Oxford studies were the most fruitful, rewarding, and challenging of my life, and I craved them bitterly after returning to the United States. In fact, I still do, even while studying here at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Then and Now
Despite the years that separate this day from that, my love for The Enchanting City has neither diminished nor tired beyond more than a few forgotten details. Oxford, more than a city, is an experience of the heart.
Yes, I went on a journey of the mind there, but the most lasting imprint is on who I am now, not what I now learned then. The Oxford Study Centre made that imprint. It prepared me for every inch of the course I have taken since. It is more than just rigorous study and honored academia.
Truly, Oxford Study Centre is an unmatched opportunity to discover why we value these things so highly and learn how they ought to be used beyond ourselves for the glory of God and the wellbeing of ourselves and others.
Benjamin Bailey holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and a Bachelor of the Arts in Spanish and Religion from Mississippi State University. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. He and his wife Rebekah have been married since summer 2015.
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