Subway Prophet

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


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Day 1: Holy Conferencing

Greetings from London! Over this year, London has become one if my favorite cities. It is full of life and has a sort of personality to it that I cannot really describe. Every other time I have been here I have always been a tourist, showing people the main sights. This time, however, I have a job to do.  I am helping with the media team at the British Methodist church’s Annual conference.

Conferencing is one of the defining features of Methodism. Ever since John Wesley gathered his local preachers for the first time in 1744 Methodists have gathered together yearly (if not more often!) to share in fellowship, worship, but most importantly to make decisions about the future direction of the movement.  My first Annual Conference in 2007 was where I made my First public declaration of my call to ministry, so these meetings will always have a place in my heart.

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Site of Conference 2013

Conference this year is at the Methodist Central Hall. It is a beautiful venue right across from Westminster Abby in the heart of London. As I walked in from the train station past the Eye and Big Ben it was hard to believe that this was my life!

I am really looking forward to experiencing how our British cousins do Annual Conference. There will be a lot of things that are the same. Budgets need to be passed, elections need to be had and presentations need to be made about the various ministries of the church. There will also be a lot of things that are different.  A president will run the meeting instead of a Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be addressing the Conference and nature of the issues will be different as well. The best part, however, is that I will have the front row seat to it all. As part of the media team, I will be keeping the website up to date as the conference goes on, live tweeting conference events, helping with speakers and anything else that the team needs me to do. The days are going to be long, but my commute to and from London will provide some time to write and reflect on the days events. If you would like to follow the events of Conference you can go to: http://www.methodistconference.org.uk or follow #methconf on Twitter. You will undoubtedly see me and many of my friends on there with updates, thoughts and more than a few humorous asides. It is going to be a great time!

(This is a series of blog posts during the British Methodist Conference. For the following posts click here: Day 2)


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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!

This gallery contains 5 photos


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The Best of It

On December 9, my Grandmother died. When I was born, I was so fortunate to have 11 Grandparents and Great-Grandparents, and before this year I had seven remaining. After I had written my remarks I was reminded that the pain I feel at her loss, is worth the 24 years I was able to have with her. In this season of Christmas, when so many of us miss our loved ones, I wanted to share these words which iI shared at her service.

 

It seems strange standing here behind this podium without Granny’s wheelchair there in the front row. Every time I would preach, she would make Papa get her ready and bring her down. Being a seminary student means that you need need to have a scripture verse for everything, and the one which came to mind is the phrase-“You are the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13). Now I could tell you that is because Granny was a simple girl from Tennessee who loved her family, both real and porcelain family, but I would be lying. I think of salt of the earth because granny loved salt. I loved to eat over at their house when granny would fix green beans where it was almost a one to one salt:water ratio. Her Chex mix a favorite because it was drenched in love, and Worcheshire sauce and almost every kind of salt imaginable. I remember Papa getting onto her for putting salt on her food before she had even tasted it. It is a silly memory, but I think in a way it indicates the kind of person she was. Someone who lived life in abundance and saturated the people around her with salty love. I remember how every evening we would be sitting down for dinner, no matter what time, and the phone would ring. It was her. She didn’t have an agenda, or really any reason. She just wanted to hear her daughter’s voice on the phone, get caught up on the day. I remember the first time I got one of those random calls in undergrad. I was feeling homesick and her call just made everything feel normal. I was in my new home, and she was there with me as best she could.

On the archway leading outside one of the doors at the Divinity school is my favorite quote from John Wesley, “The best of it is, God is with us.” Every time I leave, I look at that quote, and since I have been home and we have all been reminiscing on Granny’s life, it has been stuck in my mind. The best of it is, God is with us. God was with Granny when she was born in Edgemore, TN, God was with her when the Government moved her family to Knoxville where she would meet a dapper young country boy named John. God had to have been with her raising all four of her kids (how else would she have survived?). In Utah as Papa drove those switchbacks as she held her broken neck in place, God was with her. As she kept beating me in our weekly games of Checkers, God had to be with her. In her last moments, surrounded by pictures of everyone she loved, as she was lifted up in prayer, God was with her. And so now as we gather here today, remembering the 80 years God was with her, we celebrate that today, Granny is with God.