New College Oxford is a pretty special place. Originally established in 1379 as a college for the training of priests, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as you can see from the picture above, it has remarkable architecture and an inspiring chapel. Less inspiring however was the condition of the oak timber beam ceilings in various places in the college as we shall see. This college has been viewed as perfect for films, and was used in both the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and more recently Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But it would not be scenic at all any more, if the wood worms and deathwatch beetles had had there way. Some years ago, it was discovered that many of the great beams in the college had literally been eaten up. What was the college to do?
It dawned on the administration of the college that the college owned a forest—- of oaks. So the forester who was charged with the oversight of said forest was called in. He had not been called on in living memory, nor had his predecessors. When he was called upon by the college administrators he said something odd, namely, “We were wondering when you would call upon us.”“What do you mean?” asked the authority.
“Well the priests and college authorities, when the college was founded determined it would be necessary to plant a forest of oaks, for the day when the beams needed replacing. Everyone knows about the insects and creatures that eat the wood. So, 500 years ago, we planted a forest, for this very day, and I can tell you now, we have numerous grandfatherly oaks ready to be harvested to replace the massive timber beams in your college.”
The authorities marveled at the foresight of the priests, but really they shouldn’t have. The church is one of the few institutions in the whole world which has existed now for over 2,000 years, with a lifetime guarantee. The founder of said institution said that he would found his establishment on on Peter (and perhaps on his faith), and that the gates of death (Hades) would not prevail against it. When you have that kind of promise of longevity, you build to last, and you plan ahead.
And so it was, the forester finally got to serve the college, by providing the perfect timber, to replace the eaten and worn out oak.