hello from thursday evening here in england. we've had a full and interesting day here today, but i have decided to save myself the frustration and not even try to upload pictures tonight. just rest assured that we are taking plenty of photos, and at some later time, we will take advantage of better connections with the web to share some of those. for now, you'll have to read....
we left birmingham this morning and headed down to bath, an amazing city in the southwest of england that has natural hot springs boiling up from underground. the romans, having invaded britain under various emperors, including claudius (which made me think of my 11th grade latin class), took over the area as a kind of holiday city, building a temple there and all sorts of roman-esque structures around these hot springs, thinking that it was some sort of holy site. well, amazingly, much of those ruins have been found, so there is this really cool museum there in which you can see so much of the ancient roman work, and touch the hot springs. also, with all the roman influence, the city of bath itself is all built in classic roman style, so you have this odd sense of leaving the english countryside and arriving in italy. it is amazing. anyway, we had a lovely tour of the hot springs, and then enjoyed lunch and some free time. shannon and had a bit of a walkabout in bath, eating street food (sausages on a bun) while enjoying the local sites, looking in some of the stores, and listening to the street buskers. we ended up going in bath cathedral, which has the most amazing tall ceilings and is a hallowed place, and was well worth the time we spent there.
from bath we drove just down the road to bristol, which has a huge methodist connection. after george whitfield, one of the wesley's friends from their oxford days, had some success in "field" or "open-air" preaching amongst the poorer folks (miners and such) in the bristol area, he called upon john wesley to continue in this work, as he was returning to the colonies to "preach amongst the savages." wesley finally agreed to come, and set up what he called a new room, which was a meeting place for methodists to worship and to meet together in small groups from accountability and spiritual growth. part of his work in bristol involved taking the church out to the people in this open-air preaching which went against all of his high-church tendencies, and was a practice he called "vile." yet he continued to do it for many decades, discovering along the way that God had indeed called him to take the gospel to the places where it was most desperately needed. today we got to see the new room in bristol, to stand in the pulpit where wesley had stood, to see the clock he personally donated to the chapel, and so on and so forth. we also took a short walk from there to see a home in which charles wesley had lived for about 5 years in bristol, along with his wife sally and three of their children. fascinating to see how people lived in the 18th century.
so its been a great day. and, amongst the sort of shivers i got in walking on such holy ground, at least in methodist lore, i also had the strong sense of wondering what "vile" practice i might be called to. what is it that is "below" me, at least to my basic sense of pride, that might be just the thing that sunbury needs at this time? what if wesley had decided to keep the gospel in the church "where it belonged?" what then? what if i am somehow doing the same? it is an exciting challenge, and one i am fairly certain wesley himself would be glad to inspire in one who still, some 270 years later, calls himself a methodist.
talk to you tomorrow!