sorry i failed to write yesterday. i was exhausted, and we hadn't really done much to warrant me writing. yesterday was a bit of a free day, at least in terms of methodist significance. we certainly had a good day of enjoying england, particularly a region known as the cotswalds, a region witha particular geography and geology. we went to several villages in the cotswalds, stopping for shopping and eating and just enjoying the sights. shannon and i found a pub called the Kingsbridge Inn in a cute little town called bourton-on-the-water. we had fish and chips, and bangers and mash, and some refreshment, while sitting next to a warm fire. it was delightful.
today was far less casual, and much more interesting, at least from a methodist perspective. we started early, driving east across the country to epworth, the childhood home of john and charles wesley (on the way we passed nottingham and sherwood forest!). once we arrived in epworth, we began the day by worshipping with fellow methodists at the wesley memorial church there. it was great to experience british methodism, to have tea with them (right in the sanctuary!) and to sing some charles wesley hymns with gusto right there in the town where he grew up. what a joy! they even served us a lunch of soup and sandwiches afterwards. their hospitality was amazing, and the message delivered by the preacher was well-given: we need to be ready to discover the joy of God whenever God shows up, much like Simeon was ready for Jesus.
after lunch we headed over the rectory, the home where samuel and susanna, the wesley's parents, lived and raised their children. it was cool to be in the house from which wesley was pulled on the night of that devastating fire when he was 5 years old, an event which caused his mother to call him "a brand plucked from the burning" for the rest of his life, believing he had some special purpose. and indeed he did!
after touring the rectory, we had the opportunity to go to the epworth parish of the anglican church, known as st. andrews, and sit in the same building where john and charles sat to worship as boys. i got to hold a silver chalice from which they would have received communion!
throughout the day, i was moved to consider my heritage as a methodist. it is interesting to imagine the "what might have beens" in life, and i wonder what might have been if we hadn't started going to that little methodist church on the hill just outside of town. or if things had gone differently for asbury in america, or if wesley had decided that field preaching was just too vile, and he would rather serve a more respectable appointment in a parish church in some well-to-do english town. where would i be now? while i don't love every little thing about methodism, i am proud of the heritage i have been given as a methodist: a heritage that emphasizes God's grace, that believes in the necessity of good works as a result of our faith, and that calls us to share good news with creativity and gusto and courage and passion.
today, as we worshipped at that methodist church in epworth, we looked up at a stained glass window which bore the words that have come to be accepted as wesley's final words: and the best of all is God is with us. and i am grateful for that heritage, as well. that wesley, even as he surrendered his final breaths, bequeathed to those who followed him - even me! - the call to celebrate that most radical truth of our faith, that the Word was with God and the Word was God, and the Word came to dwell among us! God came to us! God sought us out! and the best of all is God is with us!