Reverend David Yeoman
Reverend David Yeoman, Assistant Bishop of the Church of Wales in Llandaff, recounts his lifelong relationship with Cardiff University.
Reverend David Yeoman
My lifelong journey of learning with Cardiff University is a story of three ‘…ologies’ and four decades. It began in the swinging ‘60s and ended in the opening years of a promising new millennium, albeit with a myriad of private and public changes and challenges in between.
It all began in the summer of 1966, when the male of the species wore their hair long and their gendered counterparts wore their skirts short, and it ended with the very opposite for both. But then each of my three spells at the University had their own magic, challenge and air of difference. Almost contrary to the spirit of the sixties, I was pursuing a vocation in the ministry of the Anglican Church and so I set about mastering the heady delights of Greek and Philosophy, Ethics and Scripture, History and Doctrine – all for the meagre reward of a Diploma – the only Theological qualification that Cardiff offered to undergraduates in those less enlightened days. And so, we sought consolation in the Students’ Union bar and the University Folk Club, which was liberation enough for those doing an ‘ology’ about God.
After three years of liberating life and learning, I was launched upon an unsuspecting public, but not before having my collar turned backwards and my tatty student’s jeans substituted for a long black dress (cassock). Yet, in the years ahead, I was to be ever grateful to the wise and learned people who formed my mind and inspired in me a love for learning. So much so that 25 years after my first spell at Cardiff, I enrolled for a degree in Theology, only to find that I was now older than most of my fellow students’ parents and was regarded with a mixture of curiosity and benign friendship.
It was both a relief and a joy to know that my ‘grey matter’ was still hard wired and was capable of processing some half decent thought processes, whilst the greatest challenge was the ability to wield a pen for three hour examinations, after so many years of idly tapping a keyboard. Yet to the amazement of my younger peers and the delight of this middle aged man, I passed with some credit and was then seduced into pursuing a Masters, which soon became the quest for a Doctorate.
And so I moved, academically from an ‘ology’ about God, to an ‘ology’ about people and transferred from the black-suited, white-collared domain of the cleric to the more liberated dress and intellectual domain of the sociologist, albeit on a part-time basis. It was perhaps an even greater shock to SOCAS (Separation Of Church And State), than it was to me; and yet my transition was met with uncommon kindness, both by students and staff. Their ease of manner and open acceptance made me feel very much at home.
So it was that this ever greying cleric set out on the marathon of probing into sociological research and methods, long before daring to try them out on unwary respondents and discerning tutors. Indeed, near despair set in, when the first of these, the estimable Dr Heather Snidle, announced her retirement – was I really that bad? Equilibrium was restored by my transfer to the irenic, scholarly and ever tolerant Dr Mick Bloor, who guided me towards my seemingly impossible goal and inspired in me the realisation of the importance and relevance of his ‘ology’ to mine, and who gave me an abiding affection not only for the subject, but also for the staff in Cardiff who teach it. Blessed be they.
So the story of the three ‘ologies’ concluded with a stranger than fiction ending, when I received my Doctorate on a Monday and was made a Bishop the following Friday. Thank you Cardiff -- not only for being my alma mater, but for being a lifelong friend in learning.