August 31, 2015
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today is the Feast Day of St. Aidan and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Before my trip to England, I barely knew these saints and I had no idea what Lindisfarne was. What an amazing month and and what a life-changing trip!
On Saturday August 1, we flew to Baltimore and stayed with seminary friends. The Rev. David Drake is the rector of an Anglican church plant in the suburbs of Baltimore, and we were blessed to worship with him and the Church of the Resurrection on Sunday the 2nd before flying overnight to London.
The first three days were spent in the big city of London. We loved seeing historic and religious sites. The highlights were Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye.
While we were in London, Tara and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a special night at the theatre to see our favorite musical Les Miserables. What an amazing story of Gospel grace and the failure of the Law. Be forewarned, many references to the storyline will appear in upcoming sermons.
From London, we traveled to Canterbury by bus for two days and then on to Oxford for three days. To be in both of these cities for me was nothing less than a dream come true. Canterbury Cathedral and the Roman ruins were thrilling. Seeing the crypt at Canterbury where Huguenots (my family included) were welcomed to worship as they fled persecution in the 16th and 17th century allowed us the opportunity to remember all believers persecuted for the faith. There is still an active Huguenot congregation that meets in the crypt. Oxford was beautiful and following the footsteps of CS Lewis was another lifetime goal realized.
We worshiped Sunday August 9 in Oxford at St. Ebbe’s, a lively Evangelical congregation that is a part of the Church of England. They are a mutli-ethnic church that has planted several churches in the area and has a vibrant outreach to university students. There were people of all ages at St. Ebbe’s including lots of children. During worship I was stunned by the arrival of Clair Miller and Ed Simmons, our ministry interns from this past year. They just “happened” to be in Oxford on Sunday. We enjoyed an awesome day of food and fellowship. It was great to talk with people who knew and understood us.
On Monday the 10th of August, we rented a car and a new portion of the adventure began. Driving on the left side of the road using a standard transmission auto for 4 days was both thrilling and terrifying. Having a car allowed us a great deal of flexibility to travel at our pace. We started the week with a quick peek at Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) before heading to the northeast coast of England. We traveled through the Yorkshire Moors to reach the ancient seaport city of Whitby. It was here that the great synod occurred in 664 AD that aligned British Christianity with Rome and united the Church of England. Being in Whitby tied our trip together historically as we remembered that Roman monks from Canterbury and Celtic monks from Lindisfarne met at Whitby to decide the future of the church in England. I will be studying this interesting piece of church history more in the upcoming weeks in order to prepare a class for the congregation when I return. Here is the 12th century abbey ruins at Whitby that sit atop the 7th century abbey ruins destroyed by the Vikings:
From Whitby we traveled north to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), our final stop on the trip. For me this island retreat was the highlight of England and the place to which I would most want to return. Crossing over the causeway at low tide knowing that we would be “trapped” in this peaceful spot was just the beginning of the excitement of Lindisfarne. Bishop (and Saint) Cuthbert used Lindisfarne and the smaller, surrounding islands as his refuge. We found many here on pilgrimage and enjoyed worship, prayer, and the beauty of Holy Island greatly. I had the pleasure of crossing over to Cuthbert’s island where he used to “trap” himself away from the demands of his ministry to be quiet and be with the Lord. This place was a highlight for me as the picture displays.
There is so much more to tell. Our trip home was long: Drive from Northeast of England to Oxford and return rental car. Bus to London. Underground to Heathrow. Flight to Baltimore. Overnight in a hotel. Flight cancelled on Saturday the 15th of August. Rented a car. 9.5 hour drive to Myrtle Beach. Sunday drive to Charleston. Needless to say we were desperate to see the girls and sleep in our own beds. On the way home, we were able to worship with camp friend, the Rev. Hamilton Smith who is planting an Anglican church in north Mt. Pleasant called St. Thomas. It is so great to be home!
The last two weeks of August have been filled with getting four daughters and one math teacher-wife back to school. There is so much to do that it makes we wonder how we do it when I am not on sabbatical. I have been able to worship at St. Paul’s, Summerville and also at St. John’s, Johns Island where I was able to see the Rev. Jamie Sosnowski officiate his first baptism. I was also able to return to Good Shepherd and assist with Ellen Fralix’s funeral. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make that celebration of her life (100 years!) so wonderful. I was reminded again of how blessed we are at Good Shepherd to have the talented staff team that we do.
I finished the book Openness Unhinged and was really touched by the final chapter on Christian hospitality. You will hear more about that later. I also read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill and St. Cuthbert by Bede. I read more English church history in my seminary textbook, A History of the Church in England by Moorman. All of these books helped me understand more of what we saw in England. The time to read is a great blessing and reminds me that I need to continue with that discipline after sabbatical.
The midpoint of sabbatical passed last week and I can tell you three things are true:
1) I miss you all and the ministry of Good Shepherd very much.
2) There is a lot more reading, writing, praying, hunting, hiking, fishing, and watching football that I want to do before I return.
3) The gift of sabbatical continues to be a living sign of your love and care for me and my family which is only a small reflection of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. That fact moves me to tears and praise.
Please continue to pray for me especially for the discipline to study in these upcoming seven weeks. I promise to redouble my efforts to pray for you. You will be pleased to know that I remember you by name at different times as the Spirit leads and additionally as a body in my daily prayers. What a gift!
The best is yet to come,