I love how the world seems to crisscross along my journey. Today after class I spent the afternoon with Eli, a friend/former Lee student I haven't seen in over 7 years. He was passing through London on one of his many European adventures and took the train to Cambridge to visit for the afternoon. His American friends happened to be in town for one day and joined us. One had previously been stationed in Mississippi and one is about to be reassigned to Mississippi. Then, two friends of one of the Americans happened to walk by him on the street and-- wait for it!-- those two individuals were from Mississippi. It was like a great big Mississippi reunion along King's Parade in front of King's College as we talked about common places and people. There was a momentary display of southern emotion. This whole day has been spontaneous, but it has been most enjoyable. My world is so small and interconnected.
Growing up, I sang in the home church choir from childhood. It is the way we did it in our country, Pentecostal church. One of the songs we'd sing included the words, "The Spirit moved within my soul." Certainly the Holy Spirit is with us always, but sometimes it seems we can sense it more easily. As I stood worshipping Christ today in a church service, I had the deep sense of knowing the Spirit was moving within my soul.
After our group enjoyed breakfast together this morning, individuals scattered across Cambridge in smaller groups, most to attend church services. I, too, made my way to a local church. Passing a number of colleges and even the market, I meandered through the streets enjoying the maze of my 20-minute walk to an old church building on Jesus Lane. That seems like the right place to be for church, doesn't it?
Previously connected with Jesus College, the building in which I worshiped today was built before 1870, but the history of its former congregation goes back to the 11th century. In 1973 that congregation ceased and the building became redundant. However, a nearby congregation now uses the space for special services and other events. The service I attended today was with a congregation temporarily using the building while their chapel is being renovated. It is charismatic Anglican congregation that is part of the Church of England and has existed as a congregation since the 1100s. They have four services on Sundays, and the one I attended was filled to standing room only. I'm certain there were a few hundred people in attendance, and at least 75% of them were college students. A guitarist and a handful of singers led the congregation in a mix of new choruses and traditional hymns. God's presence was evident in the service, and people responded in various ways, some even raised their hands as they lifted their voices in song. I was especially blessed by some of the song lyrics, which I had not heard before. The Spirit seemed to speak directly to me through them today. I thought how for 1,000 years the Spirit has guided individuals and ministered to them through the ministry of the that local church.
The vicar delivered his message in that comforting, teaching manner I appreciate so much, and it was filled with Truth, interesting facts, and helpful instruction. At times we chuckled; at times I wept away my tears. I was reminded of some things, and I was convicted of some things. True to Anglicanism, the service was rich in the Word and everything centered around Christ and our response to His loving goodness. Jesus was the central focus of the service. Men and women of various ages participated in the service by reading scripture, offering prayers, receiving the offering, and serving communion. I so appreciate the Anglican way of intentionally including women in all parts of the service. I also appreciate the emphasis on the Eucharist. Receiving Communion is a deeply spiritual experience for me, and I could do so each day if given the opportunity.
After the service I enjoyed talking with the vicar and the student pastor while enjoying the free refreshments. I learned about the church, how it actively engages the faith, and their use of the spiritual gifts. I could relate to that Anglican preacher John Wesley (whose followers established Methodism) when noted his heart had been strangely warmed. I was encouraged today, and I felt like I'd had a good visit with Jesus-- just like He had been sitting next to me on the pew. (And, of course, He is with us when we receive Holy Communion). When I finally walked outside, I saw it had been raining. That is the first rain we've had in Cambridge since our arrival. As I made my way to a restaurant for a bowl of soup, I pondered that not only had it rained on the outside, but my soul had been spiritually refreshed with Living Water also. I'll certainly visit the local church again during my stay in Cambridge.
Walking in the new norm, and we are enjoying it. Each morning we bundle up and toss backpacks over our shoulders to make the 30-minute walk to our classroom. Most mornings as we talk along the way we see our breath condensation as that light foggy mist in the air. Students have become inventive in their pathway choices. Some meander through the stone streets toward the river; others walk the soggy bottom field. Thankfully, the hotel serves a delicious hot breakfast, which we enjoy together before leaving for class. (Above image on left PC: Vanessa Dixon.)
We are back at "home" in Cambridge and in the classroom today. I'm surrounded by some thoughtful, reflective, and engaging minds in this room. Today's discussion focused on an article about the introduction of literate communication into western culture. Students provided terrific comparisons with contemporary communication methods and the impact to culture and a shared reality. Now they are busy working on their online courses, reading, blogging, and (probably) engaging with contemporary communication tools like social media (as is yours truly).
Today after class I walked near the market and ate lunch at Michaelhouse. It is a former church, but now redundant. The quiche and leaves were delicious, as was the hot tea. While I was eating, I enjoyed listening to a selection of Bach's music from inside the chapel area. Afterward, I walked through the market and down some streets new to me. I then made my way to Fitzbillies, which has become one of my favorite cafes at which to stop on the way home for a hot tea and free wifi. While there, I met an American originally from Alabama and enjoyed conversation. The world is a small place.
Today we departed Oxford on our way back to Cambridge. Along the way we stopped in Leavesden to tour the Warner Bros. Studio's "The Making of Harry Potter" set. What a fascinating place! We saw the original set pieces and costumes. Here's a couple of images of looking into the mirror with some of the traveling companions and enjoying a Butterbeer (Lee U covenant approved) in the world of Harry Potter. I'll post more images here soon.
This was the place where Matthew Melton and Chris Conine separated from the group to make their way back to the U.S. We were quite sad to see them leave, but the students thoroughly enjoyed having them visit. (I did also, but I was sick most of their time with us-- and am quite bummed about that, especially not being able to hear about Oxford from Matthew's tours). Each added much to the students' experience, and I know they were sad to leave.
Since arriving in Oxford I've been under-the-weather and mostly in the bed, other than the few hours of walking yesterday to try to find a doctor. I went to four doctors' offices, but no openings. I was sent to a pharmacist who insisted I needed a doctor. Finally I was connected to a doctor and had an appointment at 7 this morning. Let me say, walking the foggy streets of Oxford this morning before sunrise was lovely, even if my hacking cough disrupted the ambience. I'm quite certain I'm in love with my doctor now. She is lovely. And after leaving the doctor, I went for breakfast. It just so happened the pharmacist was in the same restaurant. She was happy to hear I had seen a doctor. So with meds and more bed rest today, that means I'll miss all the beauty of Oxford. I'm quite bummed about that. I will have to return here one day to enjoy the magnificence of this city. (I can deal with a return trip). The students have had a super time here. Thankfully, Matthew Melton and Chris Connie have been here with them. And, Andy Sinclair continues to prove how awesome he is. Your best wishes for the students today and prayers for a quick recovery for me are appreciated. Dang this sinus trouble I have!
On Monday, January 23rd we departed Cambridge for a few days in Oxford. As we neared Oxford, we stopped in Headington to visit Holy Trinity Church, where C.S. Lewis attended regularly and is buried, and The Kilns, where Lewis lived. Dr. Melton provided the tour at the church and cemetery, and one of there individuals now studying in the resident provided a tour of the house. Both were enjoyable, but I almost didn't make it through the house tour. By the time we reached Oxford, I went straight to bed with a sinus inflection. I'm thankful I was able to enjoy this part of Oxford. The steps outside the white door on the house led to the room where C.S. Lewis slept. The pond is just a few yards away from the house.
"Jack" (C.S. Lewis) and his brother, Warnie, sat on the small back pew to the left of the flag in the image below inside the church. The church is within easy walking distance from his home, The Kilns. The story of Jack's conversion is most remarkable, and his impact on millions of individuals through his writings and lectures is incalculable.