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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Live - from St. Stephen's Parish, Hackington

It's quiet today, thank the sweet baby Jesus and all the angels that sing him to sleep. The bishops and the Integrity film crew are all up in London today for the Millennium Development Goals March. Well, actually, it looked more like a 'stroll' on the telly. All very proper and contained, with deliberate restraint.

Later, they'll have proper tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. All in good order, you know.

So, let me take this quiet time to show you around a bit.

The above is the entrance into St. Stephen's, Hackington, our gracious host while we're here in Canterbury. It's a delightfully typical English church, completely surrounded by the parish cemetery - or, as they like to say here "all the saints, who from their labours rest."

There are so many fascinating graves, some so old the names are no longer legible. One is of a 15 year old boy, "Killed (not died) in an accident," it reads, in 1854 and then, sadly: "He will not grow old." The grief his parents' bore is still palpable all these centuries later, isn't it?

One is of a 3 month old girl, died in 1867 on which is noted: "Of such is the Kingdom of God."

There's also this plaque in the church which reads: "On the south side of the chancel and within the rails lie the remains of Mr. William Bunce of Camberwell, Surrey. Son of the Rev. John Bunce. Formerly vicar of this parish for more than half a century and of Mr. William Carter also of Camberwell and a native of the City of Lichfield. The former died 22 August 1831 aged 76 years and the later, 2 September 1836 aged 83 years. They had lived in a course of uninterrupted friendship for sixty years. And in the grave they are not divided."

Whew! Makes my eyes sweat. You can read the "Cardinal Newman/Fr. Ambrose St. John version of this in The Lambeth Witness, Issue 3, July 23.

Bring your tissues.

The Parish Hall where we are working is just across the way from the church. Lovely, actually. The neighborhood is bustling with traffic and kids on bikes.

Here's the view up the road toward University of Kent. There's a most dangerous "traffic calming" thingy to the far left of the picture which you can't see. The British love "roundabouts" and "traffic calming" which I suppose is necessary when you drive as they do - not only on the wrong side of the road (tee hee), but also like veritable bats out of hell.

No joke. I drive in the passenger seat with my 'eyes wide shut', as it were, most of the time. No wonder they need something to calm the traffic.

You can see the Beverlie Pub up there on the right.

Here it is. They have amazing fish 'n chips (Though not wrapped in newspaper. Against the law, you know. Pity about that, in'it?), but I was told they charge too much. Seven pounds and a half. You can get them around town for three pounds and a half. Or I'm told.

No matter. Either way, the dollar is so far down in value it costs twice as much as you might get it at home. Thanks, Shrub.

Here's Jon Richardson, hard at work. No. Honestly. He's one of the hardest working folk around here.

I am absolutely convinced that if we asked John Clinton Bradley, the coordinator of the Communications Center, to get together with Jon Richardson to try and find an end to the War in Iraq, our troops would be home at the start of the new school year.

The communications place is a whirl of intense activity. Folks from Changing Attitudes UK and Changing Attitudes Nigeria work together with Inclusive Church UK, Integrity USA, TransEpiscopal, Episcopal Women's Caucus, the Chicago Consultation and a list of other groups I can't think of this very red hot second.

There's Jon Richardson, John Clinton Bradley, Carol Cole Flanagan, EWC and Chicago Consultation, and Susan Russell, all hard at work.

Ah, yes, and finally, one snap of the Market Place, which is twice as big as I remembered it from 10 years ago. Lots more booths hawking lots of stuff - the usual coffee mugs, baseball caps, etc. to purchase, lots and lots of organizations happy to tell you about their work and ministry.

This is the Changing Attitude/Integrity space which features lovely, comfortable love seat (of course!) and overstuffed chairs where one can sit down and have a chat and visit. Bishops wander by when they're not in session ('Indaba Groups") - some averting their eyes as if to avoid the "cooties" and others sitting down and engaging in fairly intense conversation.

This is our film crew, Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod with long-time Integrity NY saint, Phil Nicholson, packing up after filming one of Bishop Gene's visit to the Market Place.

It's an amazing experience. The excitement that surrounds one of his visits is like unto a 'rock star'. Everyone wants to tell him how much they admire him and to thank him for his courage and witness. The nice fellow over at the Coffee stand made a latte just for Bishop Gene and absolutely insisted that he take it for free. He did so with tears in his eyes saying, "It's an honor to serve you, sir."

It's hard not to get all girly-burbly when this happens.

If only the rest of the Anglican Communion could see this.

One last image. This is where I come to sit in the morning, mid afternoon and early evening. It's just to the left of the entrance to the church.

It's lovely and quiet, shady and cool. I want to build one in the back yard of the rectory when I get home. Two poles on the side, three across the back, three across the top. If I plant in August, think it would be covered with wisteria or clematis before the end of September.

It's also surrounded by gravestones which make for fascinating reading while I'm sitting there with my mug of hot tea.

All perfectly lovely, as they say.

Alright. That will be just about enough of that. It's back to work for me. I'll be writing a sermon for Sunday - preaching at St. Andrew's, Rugby, about an hour or so outside of London. And, I want to tell you all about last night's premier of "Voices of Witness - Africa." Very, very powerful.

Ta for now.

(Have you noticed? I've got the "Madonna English" thing down fairly well, right?)


Fran said...

What a beautiful post to read... Thank you.

the Reverend boy said...

Sounds like an amazing time!

I can't wait for you to start with the English spelling (humour, colour, etc.)

marnanel said...

Beautiful post, and makes me miss home so much. I love the stories on the gravestones you tell.

Bill said...

Elizabeth, having built backyard perogalas before, I must warn you not to plant wisteria. That plant is highly destructive. Over time it could snap a telephone pole. Go with some other climber and the structure will last a lot longer.

Anonymous said...

Mark Beach here, Rector of St Andrew's Rugby and we are DELIGHTED that Elizabeth is coming to see us. We met while I was Interim Rector of All Saints Millington in the Diocese of Newark 10 years ago and she and Barbara gave us a wonderful feast of Clam Chowder in their home. (well food seems to feature quite highly in Elizabeth's posts...)

Anyway take a look at our website to see the fabulous church that Elizabeth is coming to on Sunday ... and follow the links to St Andrew's

June Butler said...

Lovely report, Elizabeth. Thank you. Pretty pitchas, too, love. Also, prayers for a knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark sermon at St. Andrews. I know you can do it - with God's help.

JimB said...

Thanks for all the background colour. It helps make the event more real.

I find markers like the one you mentioned so sad. Those men led the way on a path we still cannot see to the end.

"It's still a long hard and damn hard and bitter road, but its 2008,"

Shel Silverstein in "Hey Nellie, Nellie."


Jane R said...

You do it much better than Madonna!

Thanks for the local colour.

And please keep in your prayers one of our gay congregants who is terribly upset and angered by +Daniel Deng Bul's statement. +Gene Robinson's videos and writings don't console him. He can't bear anything about patience and forbearance any more. I'm sure (well, almost sure - and we don't talk much about the Communion, we mostly go about our business of being church, which I think is the case for most congregations in the AC and in TEC) he won't leave our congregation, of which he is a long-time, active, and beloved member, but his pain is intense right now. Just being with him and sharing in his pain is all one can do at the moment. Pray for the church. Pray for those who suffer. Pray for those who inflict suffering, whether they know what they do or not. Pray for those who work for welcome and justice.

Lindy said...

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for the details! I've always loved a parish surrouded by "the saints." Used to enjoy visiting old parish churches in/around DC when I lived there. There are some stories to be told by the walls and parish yards of those old churches. How much more where you are!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Sounds like you are having an amazing time. So when do we all get the souvenir T-shirt? You know, the one that says, "My friend TELP went to Lambeth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"

Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for this lovely tour, Elizabeth.

Robert Zacher said...

Hi Elizabeth. Like so many others I am enjoying your Lambeth commentary. It's the many of the little things that you notice and the background coloUr of your surroundings in Canterbury and elsewhere that make a big difference for us here back at home.

Keep up the good work!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Jane R makes an EXCELLENT point. I'm pissed off about that "normal Christian" remark too--really pissed--and my sexuality would pass Sudanese muster.

But I do not care one bit for this slippery slope of "normal" vs. "abnormal" Christians. There are plenty of things in my mind that would qualify me as an "abnormal Christian." When we get right down to it, who of is IS a "normal Christian?"

Jane, please tell your congregant that I am sitting in his hurting place alongside him. Hell, we'll just all be abnormal in our own ways together!

JCF said...

Prayers ascending for your parishioner, JaneR. Tell him there's another one "right there w/ him" in the anger and PAIN.

How long, Lord, how long? Must *I* be in the grave as long as "Mr. William Bunce and Mr. William Carter", before we LGBT people receive our simple dignity as children of God? Come, Lord Jesus!