Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


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Day 2: And so it begins!

It was an easy start for me today. Because the main business of Conference began in the afternoon I got to sleep in a little and have the morning to be a bit of a tourist. ¬†ūüôā

US embassy building in London

US embassy building in London

Because it was July 4th, a trip to the US embassy only made sense. It proved to be less exciting than I expected because like everything else in America it had the day off. The guards were friendly, but definitely not letting any tourists in, no matter their nationality.  I did get to enjoy the many presidential statues all around Grosvenor Square. There was FDR, Eisenhower, and Regan (not to mention the one of Lincoln next to the Houses of Parliament!)

The morning ended with a simple midday communion service at the not-so-simple St. Paul’s Cathedral. It really is a beautiful place!

Conference began after lunch with the Presbyteral (ordained Elders/minister) session. Conferences used to be only for the clergy and local preachers. As the movement grew, however, the church realized that the leadership needed to be shared with the laity–and it has been the stronger for it!

My main task was to walk around MCH and capture the feel of Conference with pictures. For a shutterbug like myself this was a dream come true! See the gallery below for some of my favorites, or go to the Methodist Church’s Flickr page for more.

Walking around I got to talk to many of the staff and volunteers who were helping to make the conference run. A little while ago a message went out to the circuits around London requesting volunteers and the people who stepped up have a passion for Methodism and a seriousness to their task. Methodist Central Hall is a very open place, so as one woman told me her job was to “help the right people in and keep the wrong people out.”

In the session, the highlight for me, and many, was the pastoral address given by the outgoing president of Conference, Mark Wakelin (click here to listen). He reminded the presbyters of three simple truths:

  1. God is God
  2. God is with us
  3. God believes in us.

There is going to be a lot of business done in the following days which is the result of the decline in membership of the Methodist Church in Britain. This reality can be responded to in many ways, however, I believe that if we as faithful people of God (who are also called Methodist) can  keep those three truths in mind we will witness God doing amazing things in and through our churches and the wider Connexion.

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(This is a series of blog posts during the British Methodist Conference. For other posts click here: Day 1)


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Advent Devotional: Prepare the Way…

[Note: This devotional was written for the annual Trinity UMC Advent devotional book. If you would like to receive the rest of them through Epiphany, click here¬†and sign up for the “Daily Scripture E-mail.”]

‚ÄúSee, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight‚ÄĒindeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?‚ÄĚ (Malachi 3:1‚Äď2 NRSV)

Something I have been doing a lot recently is packing. It is the hardest part of getting ready for a trip. It is tough deciding what you need and what you need to leave behind. However, the best part of the process is imagining what you will be encountering, so you know what to bring. This is what is happening in this passage. Malachi’s messenger proclaims the Kingdom of God and tells us to get packing. Because we hear Jesus’s declaration that the Kingdom of God is drawing near (Mark 1:14), we can begin to imagine the day with no poverty, war, injustice, pain, or death. It is this vision we receive which orients our lives; which actions and habits we need to keep, and which we need to leave behind. Do our priorities today mirror God’s ultimate intention for the world? Are we preparing ourselves and our world now for the Kingdom of God?
Prayer: God of Grace and Love, you have made us your children through the life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. As we celebrate his birth and await his coming again, let our celebrations turn to actions so that Your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Little John Wesley being used as a sermon illustration at Bearpark MC

Little John Wesley being used as a sermon illustration at Bearpark MC


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Morning Prayer, Monotony, and the Joys of Advent

LJW does his Morning Prayer.

LJW does his Morning Prayer.

One of the most significant parts of life in Cranmer Hall and the Wesley Study Centre is the regular pattern of prayer. At Duke I was an infrequent attendee of Morning Prayer. It was not because I do not love beginning my day with prayer and Scripture; it is just that I prefer to begin my days with a few more minutes of snooze-button enabled sleep.

Because Cranmer is primarily here to train Anglican students for ministry, Morning Prayer is a requirement for their students. Methodists (much to Wesley’s post-mordem disappointment) are not required to attend every day, however it is strongly encouraged. Because I am living in college and breakfast is only served before prayers, my motivation to get out of bed is significantly higher. As such it has become a much more¬†significant¬†aspect of my daily life.

This means that the lectionary readings for the daily office have made the pattern of the liturgical seasons all the more prominent. For most of the daily services we use the Church of England’s Common Worship. During Ordinary Time, it has different services for each day of the week. Each service provides enough similarity to provide continuity throughout the week, while also having enough change to keep things from becoming monotonous. However, After All Saints Day, the service changed. Gone were the variety and in came one liturgy for the entire month before Advent. Even though many of the students who led the prayers tried to add in various things to mix up the service, by last week I was awaiting Advent not for the emphasis on Jesus as the Light into the darkness, but just so that I could turn to a different page each day!

Therefore on Monday with words like, “…the dawn from on high is breaking upon us to dispel the lingering shadows of night…” ordinary time was over and the preparation for Christmas had begun! As I thought about it, I realized that this is the point of Advent. In the midst of the normal routines of life, the season of Advent breaks in all around us both with explosions of¬†garland and bright colored lights, as well as the reminder that so many years ago, God broke into the normalness of the world in the person of Jesus, illuminating a world filled with darkness and reconciling all of humanity within himself.

Now that is something we can celebrate!

LJW celebrates Advent at Sacriston Methodist Church

LJW celebrates Advent at Sacriston Methodist Church


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Update from Me and LJW

Wow…My first term in England is almost over, Thanksgiving has gone, Christmas is just around the corner, and as I knew would happen, it has been a long time since there has been a post on here. There have been lots of posts in my head, but none have been finished. I blame the quick succession of papers, presentations, and long conversations in the common room over cups and cups of tea. So, what I thought I would do is to give an overview of the past few weeks through a massive Little John Wesley update. LJW is a very helpful companion, because if I don’t do fun things every now and then, he gets rather cross with me. I know what you are thinking: How can his stitched smile look scary? Trust me. It does. So, here it is

LJW and a Monk

LJW and a Monk

Right after All Saints Day, The Methodist students all took a retreat to the monastery at Ampleforth Abby. It was a great time together. We focused on the “I AM…” sayings in the Gospel of John with brief devotions throughout the day followed by longer periods of personal reflection and rest. After a busy few weeks, it was a very welcome break! It was also very nice to be at an Abby and participate with the monastic order of prayer. Monastic worship has been meaningful to me for a long time and sitting in the choir with the monks was beautiful as their chants and prayers washed over us. After five long weeks of getting used to England, classes, and each other, to be able to get away from college, and gel as a community was more welcome than many of us realized. The one downside was that our Anglican friends were not there. They had a retreat for themselves, but sharing stories when we returned helped to bridge the gap.

LJW visits Whitby

LJW visits Whitby

The week after Reading Week was my birthday! Birthdays are one of those times of the year when you can throw a party and invite your closest friends and family and have a good time. This year was the big quarter century mark, which makes me feel rather old. As I thought about how to celebrate my birthday, I decided that I wanted a distinctly English experience. Which means that it needed to include Fish and Chips. This was also significant because my birthday was also my two month anniversary in England, so a Chip shop needed to happen. After much research I discovered that the town of Whitby has one of the best Fish and Chips in the country (as well as the best Mushy peas! Don’t curl your nose up. They are my favorite English side dish after the Yorkshire pudding). We woke up kinda early,went to McDonalds for Breakfast (“American” Style), and then off to the beach. It was VERY cold and very cool. Whitby is where Dracula was set, as well as beautiful lighthouses, and a ruined monastery. Kayla, who is my fellow Americah came along for the fun as well as two of our friends who are Anglican ordinands. Road Trips are always exciting, so it was good to have fun people to spend the day with.

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

The next exciting holiday was Thanksgiving! If you ever want to feel out of place,try explaining¬†Thanksgiving¬†to someone in England. I was surprised how many people had very little idea of what the holiday was all about, so it was fun sharing the story of pilgrims, Indians, massive feasts and subsequent oppression and unrest. To celebrate Kayla and I taught some of our fellow students how to draw hand turkeys. For me one of the highlights were all of our British friends wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving. It represented the hospitality which I have received time and time again since I have been in this country. Here was a very American holiday which could have been entirely depressing and a stark reminder of how far away from home I was. However, with each cheery greeting I was reminded that the heart of the holiday is the love of family and friends. Therefore, as much as I missed home, at the end of the day, I was thankful for the new friends that I have made and the community we have created. This was brought to the foreground even more over the weekend when Kayla and I forgot about our pending papers and spend 15 hours in the kitchen of some friends’ house cooking up a “proper” Thanksgiving meal. It included all the fixin’s from both of our families. There is nothing like a post-Turkey coma to remind you of home :).

So, there it is. Next week is our last normal week of classes. Following that is a week-long intensive class followed by a four week break. There is more to come, but I hope that this will appease those of you who have been checking and not seeing any changes. Here is a gallery of more pictures from the past month. Click through and enjoy!


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Little Wesley Returns!!!

For those of you who are new to this blog (or are not on my facebook) you may have missed the drama. If so, I suggest you check out the back story first here, then read on.

Little Wesley ready to go!

Alright for the rest of you, I need to fill you in on the story. After we last met Little Wesley, he was packed¬†and¬†ready to go. And go we did. Wesley kept me company on the plane and when I got into London. The¬†family I staid with was so excited to see him (alright maybe it was more amusement bordering, but exact¬†emotions are not important!). Ready to¬†see¬†the sights of London, LW and I set off on our first adventure:¬†touring the Wesley Chapel. Wesley Chapel was the central hub of Methodism during Wesley’s life. It was¬†where he staid when in London (which was only during the winter months), and where any Methodist circuit rider could find lodging and rest. This place meant so much to John Wesley that he was buried in the back yard even though it was unconsecrated ground. It was remarkable. After touring the Chapel, Little Wesley and I took some pictures outside by the statue before heading over to pay our respects to Susanna Wesley’s grave. Unfortunately, there are not enough (or maybe too many) visitors to Susanna’s grave that it is inaccessible to the public. Therefore we were not able to get a picture.

The last known picture of Little Wesley

As a result, Little Wesley was tucked away in my coat pocket to keep him warm. After searching all over for a way to get into the graveyard, I realized that it the midst of all the fun I had lost track of time. I ran as fast as I could to the nearby Tube station and was half way to the platform when I realized that the lump in my jacket was gone. Little Wesley was missing! Not wanting to leave behind a fallen friend, I ran back and retraced my steps, from the Chapel to the graveyard and back looking as carefully as I could, but there was no luck. Little Wesley was gone. We put feelers out at the Chapel, but they had not seen him. Having shared this story with a few people we have come with a few possibilities:

Me and LW on an original Wesley pulpit.

1. Susanna Wesley’s ghost plucked the likeness of her son like a burning brand from the fire of my jacket.

2. A small child picked up the fallen Little Wesley from the ground putting her/him on the path of sanctification and Scriptural holiness following in the long tradition of Methodist education and discipleship.

3. Little Wesley, taking his motto a little too seriously, decided that the world was his parish and therefore could not be confined to a ministry of following me around.

Because all three are likely possibilities, the truth may never be known…

The story, does not end there (as if you had not guessed from the title of the post….)! After posting the bad news, I received many comments of consolation. Because (surprisingly) Little Wesley dolls are not popular in the UK, getting a replacement was going to be difficult.¬†Fortunately¬†for me, you, and British Methodism, there are generous people in the US who felt that no England Exchange program would be complete without a Little Wesley. On the same day I learned that both Bobby (the original Wesley benefactor) and my grandmother had sent Little Wesley dolls over to me. Bobby’s arrived first this morning by “parcel” and there was much rejoicing in the common room (alright, maybe there was eye-rolling, strange glances mixed in there as well, but there was definite rejoicing as well!). I am so grateful to have Little Wesley 2 (and soon to be 3) with me now. The adventures can continue!

As did his likeness, Little Wesley 2 has already been facing some rumors of what adventures may be next (all I can say is that there is talk of soaring heights and possible equine accessories…). Because Little Wesley has always been a community mascot I want to put the question to you. What do you think happened to the original Little Wesley? What adventures do you think Little Wesley 2 needs to experience? Feel free to leave your ideas/suggestions in the comments or on my facebook. The fun has only just begun!

The first picture of Little Wesley 2. Many more to come!

If you would like to see some pictures from Wesley Chapel and other Methodist excitement, check out the pictures on my facebook here.

The Adventures Begin in Durham (NC)

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Before heading out on the trip, I needed to head up to Durham (NC) for one final visit to say goodbye to my friends and get my Duke fix for a while. The semester has just gotten underway and so I have had to negotiate visits around people’s studying. Seeing as our classes do not begin for another month, I have tried not to rub my freedom in their faces. Come May, June and July while I am still in school and they are resting easy, I hope they return the favor :).

Being away from this place and the community of the Divinity school is most definitely going to be the hardest part of this whole experience. For the past two years this has been my home. As a class we have laughed together, cried together, argued and debated one another, and through it all grown closer to each other and to the God who has called us to this place. When I get back many of those who I am closest with will have graduated and begun their ministry, but fortunately many others will still be here and I am looking forward to getting to know them even better. For now, however, I am grateful to be able to see everyone here and enjoy these precious last days with them.

While I was with friends, Little Wesley began his trip by seeing the sights around the Divinity school. With some of the best Methodism scholars in the world, there were a lot of people to see. He went to a Div School pot-luck and had his picture taken by a few fans, but in the midst of it all he made time for some Bible study as well. Little Wesley has his priorities straight after all :).

Let the travels begin!

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