It’s a gorgeous day here in this suburb of Carshalton, about 14 miles south of London. I always tell the Londoners that I bring the Texas sunshine with me–which is generally the case! I understand, however, that we will probably get rain tonight and it will be considerably cooler by the weekend, with highs then in the 50’s.
Sunday is the beginning of the Queen’s Jubilee celebration here–on that day, it will mark the 60th anniversary of her coronation as Queen of England. Although we tend to think of the monarchy as an outdated, archaic institution, there is something quite powerful about it as it gives a sense of continuity in the midst of constant change. The family here will head to London to see the Queen’s Flotilla, where over 1000 boats will traverse the Thames in honor of this event. My son, Jonathan, works from an office that overlooks the Thames, so we shall watch this in comfort and style!
I’ve spent the last two days touring London. It took quite a bit longer than I had hoped to heal from my pre-sabbatical surgery. Starting this extensive travel just over two weeks after the surgery did not help, so it wasn’t until Monday that I was well enough to go. During those tours, I heard over and over again from the tour guides something like this, “And this building was burned in a fire/bombed in WWII/destroyed by battle but was rebuilt in . . . “
Resilience–and a willingness to dig out yet one more time after yet one more time of destruction–have kept this place alive and vital.
For hours yesterday, I tramped up and down stairs, in and out of towers, limped over cobblestone streets, and read snippets of history as I explored the Tower of London. Most of us think of it as a place of execution. People such as Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII and William Wallace, (AKA Mel Gibson in Braveheart) were indeed brought here for beheading or to be drawn and quartered.
But it was far more than that. Kings and Queens resided there, along with all those who would make the royal lives possible. Coins were minted, food was grown, wild animals were kept for entertainment, armaments and artillery created and stored–all the things necessary for life. AND, the people prayed. I spent time in the 11th century chapel of St. John the Evangelist near the top of the White Tower in the middle of the whole complex. I could see the priests, royalty, and commoners coming to this space, right next to the primary royal living quarters, offering and receiving the sacraments, making their prayers, hoping for yet another day of life in their very uncertain worlds.
Nearby the Tower is the oldest church in London, All Hallows by the Tower, originally built in 675 AD! The majority of it was destroyed in WWII, but parts of the original building remain, and the church itself stays a strong force for Christian witness in this place. I went to the crypt below the Sanctuary and prayed in the little chapel there, which dates from around 1280 AD.
Again, death and life–such power in knowing that.
I took a cruise on the Thames, hearing from the captain some of the history of the buildings and bridges around and over that river. The Globe, the theater where Shakespeare presented many of his plays, has long since been burned–but a replica has been built. Twice a day, one of his many plays are presented.
Possibly the most important landmark in London is also a church, St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Sir Winston Churchill, that great statesman and leader of England during WWII, is said to have asked, after a night of major bombing and much destruction by German aircraft, “Is St. Paul’s still standing?” That symbol of faith helped keep the hope of the nation alive during that dreadful time.
Tomorrow, I hope to attend the noon Eucharist at Holy Trinity, Brompton. This is the church where a ministry called “ALPHA” began that has expanded around the world. ALPHA is a place for adults to come together around a meal, a short lecture and then discussion groups to explore the Christian faith in an open, ask-anything way. Would love to see us implement this great ministry in Krum.
But today, on this sunny, beautiful day in London, I am writing, I am catching up on laundry (to see why that is necessary, read this part of my blog on how lightly I packed) and will go this afternoon to see my six-year-old grandson perform in a school play. To become far more acquainted with my grandchildren (Joshua, six and Sami, four, here in London; Kate, nearly five, Wesley, two and baby Kinzie, six weeks, in NYC) has been great joy. For me, this has been the hardest part of my calling as pastor. As many other clergy have noted, we don’t get three day weekends, and the times that are often especially set aside as family days for many, such as Christmas and Easter, are our heaviest working times. So I thank you, the good people of First UMC, Krum, for giving me this opportunity to spend these weeks with them, and for this time of rest, reflection and healing.
I miss you all a great deal. I miss our worship, our conversations, our work and play together. I ask you to stay faithful as I make the same request of myself. We are called to be the light of Christ and light burns best and brightest when it is connected to others.
With all blessing,