Old Donation Episcopal Church
God is glorified.
Today is our last full day in England. Being Sunday, we wished to make the most of our opportunity so we walked the one mile to Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The Choral Eucharist was “heavenly” and a perfect way to offer our THANKSGIVING (Eucharist) to God for a perfect pilgrimage.
Our group was able to sit together next to the choir, with a great view of the preacher in the pulpit. It was a special day for commissioning a new organist, building manager and “Clerk” (one of the adult singers in the choir). The sermon was insightful and well presented. The choir was even better. The worship experience was another of our moments when Christ seemed very present, lifting us up into the throne room of God. Coffee hour helps tell the story. They served champagne in the north transept.
We found markers telling of the ordinations of John and Charles Wesley as well as a burial marker for a former “Randall” inside the nave. Some of us were trying to make our way to the Christ Church dining hall which was the model for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts dining hall. It was a ‘heady’ ending.
Following Christ Church we made our way through the various shops and eateries of downtown Oxford. Now many are resting up for our closing supper. In the morning we begin the trek home.
We offered thanksgiving for you all and for the hurricane not visiting Virginia Beach and ODEC. We will see you soon.
As you learned from Paddington, we spent yesterday at Stonehenge, Salisbury, and at George Herbert's parish church in Bremerton. Today we were in Stratford-upon-Avon all day. As you might expect, we saw and learned a lot about William Shakespeare. Most of the group attended "Romeo and Juliet" at the fantastic theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
We were joined briefly at the end of today by the Rev. William Howard, seen in the picture beside here. He was formerly the rector of St. Botolph's in Grimston and has been to ODEC in past years and kept up with us. Here are a few reflections from members of our pilgrimage.
Romeo and Juliet could be called The Story of Clueless Adults. Every time I see it I want to yell out to the nurse and the friar “No, don’t do that. It will only lead to a real tearjerker.” The excellent young actors, the perfect staging and direction let me truly know that I was at ground central for all Shakespeare lovers. And the story of Juliet and her Romeo always brings me to tears. It was a fine choice to end our time in the charming town of Stratford. The halftimbered houses seem natural here, not just being quaint. The swans on the River Avon remind us that they are really big fierce birds and don’t they all belong to the queen? For me this was the highlight of the trip. I’ll dream of this day when I reminisce about our time together.
This was my second visit to Salisbury Cathedral on a pilgrimage. In 2012 I was focused on whether I could succeed in climbing the tallest church spire in England! Salisbury captured my heart this time.
I remember the pillars as darker than other cathedrals, but this time I saw them as seasoned and appreciated the way that light comes in. I appreciated the fan vaulting throughout that spreads the weight of the massive ceiling.
Every hour on the hour prayer is broadcast over the speakers and everyone stops to participate or at least allow space for focused prayer. Altars around the Cathedral are dedicated to prayer for special needs such as healing of memories and prisoners of conscience, in addition to intentiond centered on specific saints. Another special feature at Salisbury is the Charter House where an original copy of the Magna Carta is on display.
On the tour of Salisbury Cathedral Friday, our guide wanted to show us the “dip stick”. He asked if anyone could bend down to pull up a small square piece of the flooring which had a stainless pull. Well, with my very long arms I don’t have to bend over very far to reach the floor. So I volunteered. I easily lifted the cover. He inserted a long pole and there was water at the bottom!
This Cathedral does not have a crypt, cellar or basement of any type. The water level is so high that at times it is only four feet below the floor. The Cathedral sits on wet gravel and if it was to ever dry out, then the walls would start collapse. When it gets too much rain, it can flood. So they have places they check for water like you check the oil in your car. ~ Jonna
Bremerton — George Herbert
Our final stop Friday was to visit George Herbert’s tiny church at Bremerton. He was an extraordinary rector in the way he cared for his congregation, a musician whose hymns can be found in our hymnals, and a poet who wrote about his relationship with God. The picture of him in the church’s stained glass window illustrates his poem “The Window.” The lovingly made altar cloth with its individual flowers illustrates his poem “The Flower” and attests to a man who continues to inspire even these present-day pilgrims. ~ Barbette Timperlake
Hello! You may not know me since I’m new to the tour but my name is Paddington. I was adopted yesterday from Blenheim Palace and I’m very excited to join this very interesting group from across the pond.
Today my new family and I went on a tour of my country to see several famous sights. After an English breakfast, we boarded a bus and off we went. First stop was quite intriguing- a rather large ring of monoliths called Stonehenge. A place of mystery dating back thousands of years. How were those huge stones lifted into place? What meaning did they have? And how do they relate to today. I tried to move a stone and didn’t have any luck even with help.
From there we got back on the bus and headed for Salisbury and the Cathedral there. It has the tallest spire in all of England! And it also has the coolest baptismal font ever! There are a couple columns bowing in though holding up those beautiful arches and elaborate ceiling. The cathedral dates back to the 14th century! Wow! And don’t tell anyone but I sat in the bishop’s chair. Wandering around old churches, gothic and Norman, is very exciting. And seeing where ancestors worshipped and how many struggled to keep their faith.
Next, it was lunch on the grounds or in town and then off to St. Andrews Church, the church of George Herbert. I hadn’t really heard of him until then. But I’m sure glad he was there because as a rector, in 1630, he wrote many hymns we still sing today and and started the practice of visiting and caring for his parishioners. On the way back to our hotel in Oxford, we heard a quick talk on the Oxford martyrs, by Fr. Fred.
So, all in all I had a great intro into my new life with a wonderful set of new people.
So until next time,
Cheerio and enjoy our travels
Today in Oxford we had a day primarily devoted to C.S. Lewis. We started with a delightful visit in his home, "The Kilns." Our guide brought “Jack” Lewis to life with many stories that helped us know him as one who lived his faith. C.S. Lewis not only wrote fascinating and engaging stories and books that passed along the Christian message, he ‘walked the walk’ faithfully.
When we wondered why he seemed to always be without money despite the enormous popularity (and sales) of his books, we heard that he donated approximately 70% of his pre-tax income. We learned that he had lent his house out for large numbers of displaced girls from London for several years during the WWII German bombing of England. He turned down prestigious appointments because they would take him away from Oxford and his friends. He had quirky personality traits and rarely took care of his own needs, but always provided for needs of others. His words were more than words to him. We left treasuring his work even more.
We enjoyed wonderful hospitality in Brasenose College, heard a talk about the Oxford colleges, and walked the city. We finished with a Choral Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, again featuring a boys and men’s choir of enormous talent.
Every day we experience something that surprises us and deepens the learning of this pilgrimage. God is surely good to us!
Today on the way from Bury St. Edmunds to our next hub city, Oxford, we made two stops. Our original intention was simply a visit to Blenheim Palace. This most beautiful (and over the top) home of the Churchill / Spenser family is beyond imagination. The home is like a Vanderbilt home on steroids. The exhibition of Winston Churchill’s life was particularly impressive.
But the late addition to our schedule is what touched more hearts than the grandeur of Blenheim. So we would be able to stretch our legs and use the restrooms, we arranged a visit to Olney Parish, north of London. John Newton, writer of one of the most familiar of all hymns, “Amazing Grace,” was the vicar there in the early 18th century. He and his good friend, William Cowper wrote hundreds of hymns while living in this small village. Many of them are in our current hymnal and you know and love them. Most have heard about Newton’s conversion from being a slave ship captain. Not as many realize he was an Anglican priest. Fewer have heard about how involved and caring he was for his congregation — which we heard about today from the parish historian. We sat in the chancel of his church and sang Amazing Grace, and saw his gravestone outside.
But even more powerful than his story was the present witness of the current congregation. Several women showed up to make tea, coffee, and biscuits for us. Others offered tours and conversation. The present vicar was on his 3rd day of being vicar of this church and he shared his excitement about making Christ known in the community. He invited us and Old Donation to support him and the parish through our prayers. Their welcome with love and joy was tangible and moving.
It was another example, like our days in St. Botolph’s, Grimston and yesterday in St. Edmundsbury, of seeing love in action. When we shared our God-moments tonight, several of us commented on how welcome we have felt at every stop. Even the two small congregations, who might reasonably seem overwhelmed, actually overwhelmed US with love. One of our pilgrims said it was an important reminder of how much we bless others with simple actions and of the opportunity we have to bless visitors every Sunday at home.
We have been keeping Old Donation Church in our prayers as well as all who will be in the line of Hurricane Florence. And last night at Choral Compline, we had prayers for 9/11 that were moving. Please keep us in your prayers as well.
We checked into our Oxford home and have several very exciting days ahead. In the pilgrim way…. Bob+
As one of the 36 pilgrims on this Canterbury Trails pilgrimage, the one thing that has impressed me the most has been the people. The people I am traveling with, the people I have met along our journey and the historical people from the past who we are learning about. Each day I am learning more about my different traveling companions. I had no idea they were all so interesting and caring. Father Bob suggested we sit with different people at meals or other times and that was such a wonderful idea. This is an awesome group of pilgrims!
Then there are the different people I have met on the street, in various pubs, during church services, hotel staff, cab drivers and restaurant employees. Not a grumpy person among them. Each time I have asked a question or just made a comment, I have received the most delightful replies. A gentleman was walking faster than my husband & I and gaining on us. I asked my husband to move over and let the man pass because he had very long legs and we had short legs and were slow. The man laughed and said he was early anyway for a dinner with friends and he would just walk with us. We talked about where we had just visited and where he had just been visiting. Then we stopped on a corner and talked about other travels and where we were all from. After awhile he realized he was going in the wrong direction, said “good bye, but if he didn’t find his friends he would come join us”. Everyone can’t be so cheerful because of the weather. It has been rainy, sunny, cloudy & overcast, a bit of everything, just like at home.
So what is it? Are there just many delightful, cheery people living in these lovely towns we are visiting? One person in Canterbury, told us it was just the way they were brought up. Their church or the Cathedral in his case, was the center of their life. They felt that they had a purpose, they spent time looking out for others and doing things for others. Today a bar tender told us he tends bar two days a week, cares for handicap people five days a week. Then there are the people we are learning about who put God before everything else in their lives, the people who built these churches and Cathedrals. The saints who died spreading the word of God. The centuries spent building these communities of love. Love of God, of family, of country. There has been such a peaceful feeling here and very good cookies at St. Botolph’s in Grimston, King’s Lynn.
Today we truly feel like pilgrims: we have gone back to where it all began. We toured St. Botolph’s (patron saint of travelers) in Grimston, birthplace of Adam Thorowgood, father of Old Donation. Experiencing this small church (but probably twice the size of Old Donation), with its six bells and its north aisle built in the 1200s, takes us back in time to a young man with, as Father Bob said,” adventure, faith and courage,” whose destiny was to start a church in a new land. Seeing his baptismal font makes us feel a part of all that has gone before.
Although we at Old Donation do not have to bird-proof our belfry and rabbit-proof the churchyard, hearing of the difficulties of replacing walls using “Roman bricks pillaged from a Roman villa 450 yards from the church,” adding columns, and repointing bricks through the centuries connects us to our own renovation. Plus, it reminds us that every church has obstacles — and with God as our strength — they can be overcome.
Adam knew who he was, where he was going, and how he would get there. Today we are closer to answering these same questions, and tonight we feel a “part of the ages.” Truly “His truth endureth from generation to generation.”
A highlight of our time in Grimston was the VERY warm welcome from their current vicar, Judith Pollard, and a group of parishioners. They told the history, gave us homemade cookies to snack on, and led us in Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, 1662.
Following that, our bus took us to Ely Cathedral. This is one of the most beautiful of all cathedrals in England. It had a wonderful sense of scale and style. Some of the most modern art didn’t seem to “work” as well as in St. Paul’s modern art, but nonetheless, the spaces looked like they would be great for worship.
Then we had some free time for supper in Bury St. Edmunds. The journey continues to be “blessing upon blessing.”
Prayers for you and for all in the storm’s path continue….
Today we left the charming town of Canterbury, our temporary home for the past three nights, for our next destination of Bury St. Edmunds. But, before departing we attended a Cathedral Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral. It was a memorable service made even more so for me by being asked to assist with Father Bob and Father Fred, in the processing of the Communion Elements to the high altar for consecration and distribution. This was a privilege I assure you I will long remember. The boys and men choir sang, sounding like the angels. One of our group remarked that it was a highpoint for their worship.
I was particularly struck by the words of the second reading from the Second Letter of James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” So it really comes down to what we do, our actions, and not so much what we say. These are words that should govern our daily life. It also tied in so perfectly with the theme of the sermon delivered by the Vice Dean of the Cathedral, in which he challenged us to break barriers down rather than build them up. And, it reminded me of the words of Father Bob from the opening Eucharist of our pilgrimage - “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “How am I going to get there?” Questions that should direct how we conduct ourselves.
As I write this we are in our hotel, the Angel, in Bury St. Edmunds preparing for dinner. Linda and I just returned from a lovely walk through the gardens of the local cathedral and the ruins of the Bury St. Edmunds Abbey. The beauty of our surroundings and this pilgrimage make us ever aware of God’s work and the need for all of us to continue to become builders of community and more aware of our actions.
Saturday, September 8....
I chose to remain in Canterbury today. I had no expectations except to immerse myself in all that this ancient town offers. I found much that spoke to my inner being.
Starting with a lovely boat ride on a canal off the River Stour I learned that a waterway that was once the town sewer is now transformed into one of the cleanest rivers in England! Ducking under the low bridges was fun and drew us into close quarters with pigeons and lovely marsh hens. We floated by gardens, orchards, scenic stone buildings and lots of ruins. Everywhere I was reminded of how God is able to restore balance and beauty in places that man has devastated.
Canterbury Cathedral held a hops hoodening service --part of an ancient festival celebrating the main ingredient in one of Britain's famous products. I was thrilled to receive a sprig of hops that had been blessed at the Cathedral. "Morris Men" (and now women too) Dancers performed in the streets. Thanksgiving and celebration filled the air all day. I was impressed that the Cathedral was a part of it all.
Staying at the Cathedral Lodge is another blessing. Our windows allow close-up views of the Cathedral while being in the midst of a garden. It feels very like a cloister attached to the Cathedral, the sound of bells from the Cathedral's towers punctuating the day. This afternoon I sat outside in a second floor garden area listening to a bell concert lasting over an hour. A wonderful place to pray and journal.
Today in Canterbury has put me in touch with who I am and where I think God is calling me. I know that my path will inevitably involve staying in touch with nature, music and companions on the way. Joy abounds.
If yesterday seemed to be full of new experiences and interesting learning, today went over the top. Half of our pilgrimage group went to London and the other half enjoyed events or friends in Canterbury. Tonight you get two reports: one from the London trip from me and the other from a special fun event that was held at Canterbury Cathedral today. Several of our group attended parts and Will Walker wrote it up.
75 minutes on the road brought us into London and our 20 pilgrims dispersed in about four different directions for the morning. Some took the “Hop on-Hop off” double decker bus that toured all the major sites of London. The guides were funny and very interesting. Others walked to the Tower of London or toward Parliament or for a tour of Westminster Abbey. Each person came back sure they made the best choice. That’s testimony to the value of London for touring.
But the best was ahead of us. Our group was booked into St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were very honored because The Rev. Canon Michael Hampel, the “Canon Precentor” (priest responsible for the liturgy side of the cathedral) gave us a personal tour. He took us to areas and gave background few have access to. This was my third tour but at least half of the elements were brand new to me.
We climbed Christopher Wren’s “perfect” staircase that is normally not open to tours. This staircase is a movie star. You’ve seen it lots of times including in Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Paddington. The original model of his design Wren produced in 1700 to win the contract to design the new cathedral filled a room 2/3 the size of our parish hall. Original famous art that you would immediately recognize was just casually filling walls. Historic traditional design was interrupted by contemporary art that all told a story and worked well. The choral Eucharist with incense and a very talented choir was the fitting conclusion. We had a terrific pub meal, including a new favorite “Eaton mess” for dessert. WOW!
One of the highlights was Fr. Michael’s caution. While the building is beautiful and notable for its architect and its remarkable history, St. Paul’s is grounded in its identity. St. Paul’s is a living church dedicated to serving and worshiping Jesus Christ. They serve as truly a church for all people in the way that Christ came for all people.
I found myself encouraged about our approach at ODEC. We faithfully honor and preserve our history and heritage, but always work to keep our mission and ministry and worship full of life. Our job is to also be a living Church for today and the future. St. Paul’s is definitely full of 1400 years of Christian history. But it is not a museum. The Spirit is alive!
We are keeping you in our prayers every day...
HOPS in Canterbury
A half-dozen or so of our pilgrims attended a celebration in honor of the hops plant, a long-time agricultural product from the Kent area and a principal ingredient of beer. The ceremony, known as a “Hops Hoodening”, took place in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. Several hundred people watched as costumed and bell-frocked participants danced and played musical instruments as they made their way into the sacred space. After a Psalter reading by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, the Vice Dean addressed the gathering.
His message was simple and direct:
God gave the world the natural bounty of wheat and barley and hops vines (and grapes!) as well as the ingenuity and intelligence to make things from them. If mankind uses these gifts in harmful ways, whether through overindulgence or abuse, it’s not the fault of these gifts from God. Rather, it’s due to Man’s sinful ignorance and careless usage of these things that cause problems.
We sang more harvest hymns and dancing by the Morris Men followed, then the blessing of the hops, brought forward by the beautiful Hop Queen and her two Hops Princesses, was performed. After we sang “Lord of the Dance”, the whole troupe processed out of the Cathedral to dance outside for quite a while longer. It was very fun and entertaining!
Peace and blessings, Will Walker