Old Donation Episcopal Church
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+