I am doing an interesting thing for the next several days, and I will try to write about it as I can. I am joining my husband, Taylor, on a Wesley Pilgrimage in England. We are staying at Sarum College in Salisbury and visiting places where the Church of England experienced renewal under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley.
My husband is United Methodist. He serves at Director of Worship Resources for Discipleship Ministries, sort of like working at 815 for Episcopalians. He is helping out on this pilgrimage, which is led by Steve Manskar, Director of Wesleyan Leadership for Discipleship Ministries, and Dr. Paul Chilcote, Professor of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary and one of the leading Wesley scholars today.
I admit, I signed up initially because it was a rare opportunity to travel with Taylor for a change (he travels often) to a place neither of us has visited (Salisbury). But as I learned more about the pilgrimage, I realized it was also a good opportunity for spiritual retreat in community with others to listen to God’s call in the 21st century through people who earnestly tried to respond to that call in their own times. We are pilgrims, not tourists.
Steve made that point in our opening gathering today. “This is not about the Wesleys,” he said (or something close to this). “This is about Jesus. I’m interested in John and Charles Wesley because they show me how to follow Jesus and be part of God’s work in the world.”
We will travel to places where the Wesleys worked – Oxford, Bristol, Epworth (where they grew up), and London. We will hear lectures on their work. We will meet in small groups for prayer, fellowship, and discipleship. If the first day is any indication, we will eat great food and enjoy gracious hospitality at Sarum College.
Sarum is on the Close at Salisbury, just across from Salisbury Cathedral. I took a tower tour today and learned about the magnificent architecture and the brilliant Medieval engineers who put it together. This is one of the only cathedrals standing that was built all at once. The spire is the tallest Medieval spire still in existence. Taller spires were built, but they all fell down. This one still stands because Medieval workers, most of whom could not read, figured out how to build a scaffold inside so that the spire could sway with the winds and endure.
Like these ancient workers, the Wesleys figured out how to build a structure for Christian living that helped people respond to the winds of the Spirit. That structure is still with us in different forms – not only in the Methodist church. One part of that structure was accountable discipleship – an intentional commitment with others to grow in love of God and neighbor. Another part was a missional vocation, a sense that the purpose of the church is to build a community that reaches out to the world in love. Another part was what Paul (Chilcote, not St. Paul) called a “holistic spirituality” – works of piety (prayer, gathered worship, Christian community, sacraments) and works of mercy (compassion and justice, especially for people on the margins of society).
Sounds a lot like our Baptismal Covenant. Sounds a lot like how I experience the Episcopal Church today.
We will visit Oxford tomorrow, where their first experiments in this kind of accountable holy living began. Looking forward to the journey.
Here are a few photos of the day.
Salisbury Cathedral (perpetually under renovation)
Interior of the Cathedral, taken on the tower tour in front of the west window
Here’s the font – recently added by the current dean who feels that each generation should add to the cathedral. I love the way the water reflects the surroundings.
And here is the scaffolding the stabilizes the spire. The wood dates from the 1300’s.