Academic theologians have been described as ‘the inarticulate in pursuit of the ineffable’. In other words, Paul and I make a living trying to overcome the defects in our own arguments in service of a conversation about the God who is indescribable. But that’s just our day jobs.
From Monday to Friday, we teach Patristics (early Christian Councils and theologians) at the University of Edinburgh. On weekends, we attend the 12 o’clock Mass at St Albert’s. We do both as Lay Dominicans.
Paul and I became Lay Dominicans in 2013, part of a resurgence of the Edinburgh Lay Dominican Fraternity in recent years (it now has some sixteen members). Within this tradition, we try to carry out the Dominican vocation of thinking about God and creation, and sharing our thinking with others in various contexts, spiritual, scholarly or both.
We were pleased to be part of setting up a new Justice and Peace group here, which the parish at large has now very much taken on. I am also proud to be one of the many 12 o’clockers who keep the after-Mass coffee conversations going as long as the Mass itself most weeks (as I hope we will continue to do after lockdown is over), and I have loved taking part in the music in all its incarnations.
We’ve also enjoyed being part of the St Albert’s Staff Group run by Philip Cook, and of the Albertus Institute for Science, Knowledge and Religion, which has often run joint conferences with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity. Women from all the morning Masses have joined Lilian the Lay Chaplain, her Seekers and the young women students on a couple of occasions for the camaraderie of a jolly Swish party (what we called a Bring and Buy in my day!), complete with lovely cocktails which convince you that you look great in everything. Paul has been known to head off with other husbands on these occasions for deep contemplation at an alternative venue.
Reading and teaching early Christianity is a huge privilege: it is like having the keys to an enormous treasure store to which one can give access to all those who are interested. It is always a great pleasure when students at St Albert’s take our Church History courses, which they often do. Long may the study and discussion of theology at every level continue to flourish at St Albert’s and at the University of Edinburgh alike.
Paul Parvis lectures part-time at the University of Edinburgh's School of Divinity, and Sara Parvis is Senior Lecturer in Early Christian History. Sara has been a St Albert's parishioner on and off since the early 1970s, and Paul since 2005.