“So, who do you think you are? Prince Charles?” I heard my mother emphatically ask my brother, whose legal name is Charles.
It seemed an odd question to me as a seven-year-old lass. The old fairy tale, ascribed to Charles Perrault, introduced me to royalty as I read “Cinderella.” However, I didn’t remember that Prince’s name being Charles.
However, after my mother’s visit to England, I learned who Prince Charles was and that he had a sister, Princess Ann. Well, I thought, I’ll never be called Princess Ann. I couldn’t drop royalty issue and quizzed my mom about England and the royal family. She helped me learn more about the Windsors.
“Mom,” I declared. “I may never be a queen or a princess, but Queen Elizabeth and I were born on the same day.” For years I laid claim to that birth date as my claim to fame. How droll! As a young person, it helped my fragile self-esteem.
Mom’s patience and willingness to help her young daughter learn, whetted my appetite for more information. My deep longing to visit England began decades ago. I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity visit England.
In July 2005 the plane landed at Heathrow Airport. Escorted through immigrations and customs, I was spellbound. My blue passport holder, which I wore around my neck, showed I was a tourist. My starry-eyed appearance announced it.
“There's the London Eye,” my friend pointed out. “We walked to it last year. It takes almost an hour for the Ferris wheel-like capsules to rotate. It gives tourists a wonderful view of London.”
Our tour guide showed us Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column commemorating Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French in 1805. We saw Parliament and toured St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Thames River was interesting.
However, little thrilled me more than visiting the historical sights of my spiritual forefathers, John and Charles Wesley.
City Road Chapel in London is a magnificent edifice. It could not be called a church because the “Church of England” was the official church. City Road was a ‘meeting house.’ Our guide courteously noted the ornate furnishings were added after John died. Wesley would not have approved. When John died, he was buried behind City Road. I distinctly recall the guide sharing, “One gentleman remarked it was ashamed John Wesley wasn’t buried on consecrated ground. I told him: Any ground where John Wesley is buried, is consecrated.” I thought It isn’t the ground that makes it consecrated. It is one’s actions, deeds, and obedience to God.
The New Room in Bristol was more than a room for worship. During Wesley’s lifetime, it served as an infirmary and a school. Wesley and his brother Charles preached from the pulpit, served communion. They sang rousing hymns of worship, but it was a ‘room’ not a church. The New Room now boasts pews. However, during the eighteenth century plain benches was the norm. The benches needed to be moved for other activities.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the hymn written by Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh.
The church is not a building,
The church is not a steeple,
The church is not a resting place,
The church is a people.
I am the church!
You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world!
Yes, we are the church together!
My journey to England was an educational tour. We visited the Roman Baths and Anne Hathaway’s home. Avon-upon-the-Stratford and William Shakepeare’s home was also on our agenda. The heavy tapestry hanging against the walls was not only excellent insulation, but periodically one could change the decor.
The scenery along the highways was as gorgeous as one could describe. Rolling hills, dotted with sheep, cattle, horses and occasionally a tractor, exhibited every imaginable hue of green. The villages were festooned with beautiful hanging flower pots. “Old English” and modern architecture greeted visitors. Cathedrals, with stained-glass windows, were awe-inspiring.
However, what I will recall of my visit to England is the epitaph of John Wesley. “After having languished a few days, he at length finished his course and his life together, gloriously triumphing over death, March 2nd, 1791, the eighty-eight year of his age”
I don’t care about the number of years I live, but I want it to be said that I “gloriously” triumph over death.
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