Well, it's been another truly beautiful day in the neighborhood. The kind of beauty that only England could provide (the cold and rainy kind!).
I spent today in Oxford. The trip really had two major purposes. First, my brother spent some time in Oxford a number of years ago, so he really wanted me to go so I could see some of his old stomping grounds. Also, a friend of mine who I had met in Jerusalem a little over a year ago. He is a retired Vicar and Professor at Exeter College in Oxford. He still lives there, and invited me to lunch with him and a visiting Polish Orthodox monk who was staying with him.
This is a picture of the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalen, where Canon Hugh was vicar before retiring.
I hadn't spent nearly the time studying my maps in advance of my stay as I did with London or Canterbury, so I spent the first part of the day utterly lost! I was looking for the Oxford Union to pick up a souvenir for my brother, and must have walked past it four or five times before I actually found it! And no, I wasn't being stubborn and refusing to ask for directions - I was just so lost that the directions didn't help! But even so, it was a beautiful time spent wandering though lost.
After finally locating Oxford Union, my first stop was at the Christ Church Cathedral (pictured on the right). I decided to enter first as a tourist for photos and such before returning for Evensong that evening. After that it was off to Canon Wybrew's for lunch!
As things often go with friends, lunch lasted several hours. I eventually just had to peel myself away so that I'd have a bit of time left to see more of Oxford before heading back to London.
Evensong at the Cathedral was just lovely. I've read that Christ Church has the unique distinction of being the Church of England's smallest cathedral. I don't know if it's because of it's size, or perhaps because it's not one of the major "tourist" destinations like St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey, but the volunteer staff at the Christ Church was absolutely astounding. While on my tourist visit, a lady saw me looking at a window of St. Michael that most don't look at, and she took an interest in me. She told me all about it's history, then proceeded to take me on an individual guided tour of the cathedral pointing out just about everything along the way.
Then, later, when I returned for Evensong I was early, so I sat in the narthex while waiting for the church to open. The usher began talking with me. She is a Dutch woman, but told me that she had lived in Oxford and that she and her husband had worshiped at the Cathedral for 40 years.
When she learned that I was an American and a member of The Episcopal Church, she reached over, hugged me, and thanked me for the work that the American church has done in pushing the communion toward inclusion - she mentioned specifically for Gay and Lesbian people and women.
She passionately exclaimed her belief that our work was much more important than any effort at maintaining peace and concord in the communion. She said, "It's fine if we have to fight for a while. Some may even feel that they need to leave. But our worship makes us Anglican, not any institution. And whether or not the Communion survives the current fighting, we'll always be one church. We'll always be Anglican. So keep pushing us. We need you to, very much!"
It was a really humbling experience. And in an odd way, it put me in the right frame of mind, both for worship, and for beginning my work tomorrow in Canterbury.
Continue to pray for me and for the church. This is an important time. The church needs it's members to be steadfast. Let's see what the Holy Spirit can do when She descends upon the gathered Communion!