Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, honoured guests, fellow graduates of the University of Leicester (especially those of you who unlike me have worked so hard to get to this day); it is a joy to receive this honorary doctorate. I am deeply grateful to the University. I receive it on behalf of all who have worked with me to make Leicester Cathedral ever more the beating heart of our city and county. The Cathedral laments when the world hurts such as flying the rainbow flag for Orlando. We celebrate as the community rejoices, thus we lit the building blue and flew the Foxes football flag for quite a significant victory.
I count it an enormous privilege in particular to have been so intimately involved with colleagues from the University in the project which searched for and then identified King Richard III, leading to his reburial in the cathedral with an international audience of millions. This required interdisciplinary working and cross organisational working. We were all immensely enriched by one another. We all enjoyed the humour which emerged and kept us sane in the public gaze of those days. Some of my favourite tweets included: ‘No sooner had they removed Richard III from the car park in Leicester, than NCP sent him a fine for £60.00 for parking more than two hours’
‘Leicester now famous for Richard III’s remains. But let us not forget it was the town of 7 previous kings…..Showaddywaddy.’ (Your grandparents will explain that one to you!)
There is nothing new about a partnership between the church and the university. In 1927 the Diocese of Leicester was reformed and the medieval parish church of St Martin made into the cathedral. That same year University College was created which has now become this University. The city character was shaped by the establishment of both these institutions for the common good. Indeed our founding figures understood that a healthy city at the heart of this beautiful county would need academic rigour and deep faith if the promises which it seemed to hold were to come to fruition.
The motto of this University is ‘Ut Vitam Habeant’ (that they may have life). This is a secular institution yet the motto is a quote from the Bible, from John’s Gospel – ‘Jesus came that they may have life and have it abundantly’. I hope that as you graduate and many of you move on from Leicester that your memory will be one of life in its fullness. What might this kind of life look like for you as you long term?
We are graduating at an extraordinary time in the life of these islands? In Shakespeare’s Richard III we find Richard asking Lord Hastings ‘What news abroad? And he replies ‘No news so bad abroad as this at home.’ We’ve seen great political upheaval. There is uncertainty and sadly conflict. I hope that you have glimpsed from your time in Leicester a vision of our community where diversity is cherished and where racism and prejudice is not the language we speak. Life in all its fullness comes from standing and walking together, from reaching out across differences rather than closing up. My old school motto ‘Omnes Honorate’ (honour all people) stands the test of all time.
Secondly, don’t forget in your quest for happiness, success or wealth that life is and can be more than all of that. This city is dotted with churches, gurdwaras, temples, mosques and synagogues and at its heart a Cathedral. The Stock Exchange is never going to capture our hearts even if it lines our pockets. These places of faith speak of other values. It may not be fashionable but a life without an awareness of the spiritual is diminished. We need resources to shape our deepest identity not least for when all that normally anchors us is taken away by illness, redundancy, war or political meltdown. A cathedral is a ‘sermon about love in stone’ which keeps inviting us in. Is there an eternal love which shapes us to become more fully human? The playwright Oscar Wilde who also went to my school said ‘when you really want love, you will find it waiting for you’. So I hope that we continue to find life in all its fullness. As Honorary Doctor of Laws, my life is certainly fuller and for that I am profoundly grateful. As our former Prime Minister reminded us yesterday, you are the future. I hope that part of that future will be to help others enter into this ‘life in all its fullness’.
The Very Revd David Monteith, 14 July 2016