Sorry for the delay, folks. I’ve just started teaching at the UW and that takes up a great deal of my time. Probably two entries to go on the travel blog, but the pictures are good, so I’ll plug away.
On Tuesday morning (6/10) I caught the train from London to Oxford, a considerably less daunting experience than the Cambridge trip. Everything went smoothly this time, though it still costs a fortune. If you’re in the UK, book early. It halves the price.
Oxford was everything I could ask from a Medieval University town. It has amazing architecture, quaint little spots to sit and drink, self-important guards walking around in bowlers, exam-taking students in white-tie and gown. (That’s a tux with white tie–formal wear–and a black bachelor’s gown–basically what undergrads here wear when they graduate. Oxford does not have exams in classes like we do, but students sit big exams at the end of their 3-4 year stint. Formal wear is required.)
Matt Rees (www.lostempireslivingtribes.blogspot.com) was kind enough to meet me at the train station and put me up for the night. He organizes the emergent community Home (www.home-online.org). I wasn’t able to catch a service, but I had a wonderful time talking with him and Andy Smith, a local seminarian interested in emergent church stuff. Here’s the three of us grabbing a drink by the river.
While I had a brilliant time the whole time I was in England, I may have had the most fun hanging out with Matt and Adam. They’re theology junkie’s like me and made it easy to talk academia. Adam also shares my interest in science and religion. Alas, I was coughing pretty heavily, so I don’t know how much I contributed to the conversation. I’m thinking they lean low church, so it would be interesting to see their worship and their community.
After meeting Matt and Andy, I snuck off to see Ian Adams (inthebellyofthebigfish.blogspot.com), the original Anglimergent Abbot and shepherd of the MayBe community (www.maybe.org.uk). Ian and I spent a lovely hour and a half talking emerging church and comparing MayBe to COTA. I was truly impressed by his calm and vision for what a Christian community can and should be. I think he has great ideas for new monasticism–people centered church, service, and true humility.
Next I wandered around the town and discovered the museum of scientific instruments–a wonder of gadgetry and history. I think it would fill anyone’s geek quota for a year. The building was full of astrolabes, sextants, sundials, timepieces, and any number of other objects of science.
After this first foray into Oxford, I headed back to Matt’s place to have dinner with him, his wife Pippa, and their family. He has a great little townhouse with three stories not far from the center of town. The back yard wanders a bit through garden into a wandering stream. Evidently you can punt up the Thames from London.
In the morning we met up with Adam again and saw some of the historic sites. This included the Bodleain Library, alas only seen from the outside
the dining hall from Christ Church, (used as the dining hall at Hogwarts)
and the site of execution for Ridley, Cranmer, and Latimer.
And here’s just a few more cool scenes:
I ended my time with a quick trip to the Ashmolean Museum and an unbelievable collection of Egyptian artifacts.
On Wednesday afternoon, I caught the train for Birmingham. 28 hours is definitely not enough time to experience Oxford properly and it’s definitely on my list for things to see next time I’m in England.
Theological Reflection: Oxford appears to be a place of strong opinions. I had great appreciation for both Abbot Ian and Matt Rees and their visions for what the church can be. I find it interesting, though that there should be two emerging/emergent churches in so small a town as Oxford. Matt and Ian know one another well, but seem to have some different operating assumptions. As we think about revisioning church, one question comes up again and again for me. What is it that holds us together? I was also quite amazed at the partisanship I heard about in Oxford Seminaries–high and low. (Mind you, at least 3 of the seminaries in The Episcopal Church are pretty partisan, too.) What would it take to live out “one body in Christ”? What would it take to live into a church that interred Mary I and Elizabeth I together with a monument to those who died in the Reformation (both sides)–but seems determined to live into it’s Reformed character and/or Catholic unity?
May the peace which passes all understanding abide in your hearts.