Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sorry Yanks, I'm on Holiday

So, you're all probably wondering why I haven't posted anything in over a week on Joshua. You're eager to move onto Judges, because you can't wait to hear reflections on that episode with Jephthah's daughter. Or maybe you have better things to do than check this blog all the time, but somehow find yourself reading this anyway.

Regardless, it's time I came straight out with it - I'm in England for a week with my wife celebrating our anniversary. Read on if you want to become insanely jealous (I'm getting jealous of myself just writing it!)

We spent the first day or two in York, taking a special look at the largest cathedral in northern Europe. We actually took Communion there, which was a rather strange experience. We sat with a handful of others for the service, while a group of tourists larger than us sat on both sides watching and taking pictures. It must be tough business being an English priest at a cathedral like that - trying to treat something like a church while it is also a museum. Perhaps they hope that it is a ministry to some of the tourists, but I could not help the feeling that they were looked at as a spectacle not unlike a rare and endangered animal at a zoo.

Another thing that bothered me a little was the information that the Archbishop of York was responsible for raising the king's northern army, and even leading them into battle. Now, I can imagine a situation where it would be appropriate for a bishop to lead his sheperdless flock into battle, if they were being attacked by a cruel enemy bent on their annihilation. It might well be the godly thing to do. But the English were oppressing the Scots, who were fellow Christians! Would not the right bishoply thing to do be to meet with the Scottish bishops and together insist that their nobles find terms of peace? I know history is more complicated than this, but it seems to me to be quite a scandal. Any English (or Scottish) history buffs want to correct my ignorant ramblings?

Speaking of scandals, it pains me to tears to see all these empty parish churches in York. There were so many, that it was once said you could worship in a different church every Sunday of the year. Now many are "redundant" despite the fact that the population is much larger. And my own fledgling church back home is meeting in a school cafeteria. We would love nothing more a stone English chapel to meet in, but most likely we will never have this. Meanwhile, the churches fall apart, become museums, or get co-opted into pubs or other use. There is still a vibrant Church in England - may God blow these embers into full revival, so that they must build even more!

After York we visited Durham. I wanted the chance to worship in a great Cathedral that is being used as such, and not just a museum. I was impressed by Durham Cathedral as opposed to Yorkminster. They made it very clear that this is a house of worship first and foremost, and that while visitors are welcome, the building does not exist for their gawking but for the praise and glory of God. Their needs come second.

The worship service was interesting. We got to sit in the chior for Matins, which was quite an experience. My wife was impressed and charmed by the choir boys, and we were both impressed by the sermon (in content if not style - we're used to a more dynamic and less...well..."British" tone I suppose). The Holy Communion service was harder for me to engage, for some reason. I could see why, despite my coming to love high-Church worship, people feel the need to strip away traditional trappings to make the gospel "real" to ordinary folks. There was a distant, austere, dryness to much of it that I didn't really like.

Is this wrong of me? I've experienced Anglican worship rich and full of liturgy and seasonal celebration, yet done with evangelical and charismatic enthusiasm. Is it wrong to wish it all were so? Perhaps this is a difference in culture, and what looks to me to be rote dryness is really reverence and awe. But we had that too. I don't know - I just wish in my heart that more of these services in England (and here) could be filled with enthusiasm and life, without sacrificing the tradition, reverence, and awe. I don't think these need to be polar opposites.

Anyway, much to our sadness, bishop N. T. Wright wasn't at the Cathedral, nor was he waiting in his Castle courtyard just in case one of his drooling American fans would come walking by. I mean, come on! I've bought his books! I even came to hear him speak in Roanoke! A little gratitude might be in order from the world's most preeminent New Testament scholar and third-ranking Bishop in the Church of England. So, with a sad look at the empty windows in the castle on the hill, we left Durham without seeing my idol. I guess no vacation can be perfect in this creation still groaning for the glory of the sons of God. We'll have to wait for life after life after death.

So now we're starting on a three-day walking tour of the lake district, and I must say I am already overwhelmed with the beauty of the British countryside. We had driven through Yorkshire on the way to Durham, and that was near paradise. It was a testimony to the beauty that man can create with centuries of loving care of creation - with wonderful stone churches at every turn giving the glory where it belongs. Now the lake district is some of that combined with absolute grandeur. And we get three days of walking this fine country, stopping at inns and pubs along the way.

I had thought Lord of the Rings was a fantasy, and the Shire some idyllic mystical world - but it actually exists! Walking through the green hill country as the road goes ever on and on, and at the end of the day stopping for a pint and meal while meeting fine friendly folk at a merry inn...this isn't just stuff of legend and storybook. And we even may get the odd chance to stop in for evening prayer at the occasional church. Oh - and they're all Anglican! God has really outdone himself with this country.

Glad to hear you're having a great time! I'm insanely jealous.

I figure you won't be blogging till you return from the walking tour, but I'm pondering on your reaction to the Communion Service at Durham. Was it the lack of emotion? Or the ritual? I'm wondering whether it's much different than what we do.

Just think--you could be home, with 95 degree weather + no breeze + 70% humidity (= misery).

Give me a call next week when we're both back from out of town (I'm gone till Sun)--I want to see pics...

Wow - that is great. Have a great time!

emibzWow! I'm jealous. I wonder if I don't make it to England before I die, could I somehow visti England in heaven? Will I stil want to? At least, I could meet some British heroes and heroines of mine.

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