Chris at St. Marks Newsletter 2
On September 20th I turned 22 years old. This was the first time I’ve celebrated a birthday without some family present. I was a little worried that it would be a really trying and emotional birthday. Lucky for me the Wayper, Sarah Carroll, Viktor and Yan wouldn’t allow that. The night before my birthday Yan, Viktor and I drank “Mommas” (Corona with tomato juice) and watched "Napoleon Dynamite" (both sort of quirky American things to do). The next day when I wandered out of the shower in the morning I was greeted with "Happy Birthday" being sung in German and Slovakian. I received a birthday card from a couple from Central, the Lutheran Church in Eugene, and Jon, Sarah, and Liz (the warden and his family) gave me a book about the history of Saffron Walden. I also got crispy chocolates called "Maltesers" from Victor, Yan, and Sarah Carroll. Then we went to Cambridge, bowled and ate at a Portuguese chicken place.
In my last newsletter I painted a picture of The Church of England as a church with less spiritual charisma than “the frozen chosen” and characterized their worship as extremely slow. All these characterizations were thrown out the window when I showed up at St. Barnabus (or as members call it St. B’s) in Cambridge. This place would incense the most fervent Baptist or Pentecostal! They have a praise band, people wave their hands in the air, a few people even get up and dance erratically! I was quite impressed (and more than a little surprised) with the worship! They gather tons of young college students and the sermons are all very practical. Last week the sermon was about singleness, the week before it was about prayer. In some ways they are more like lectures than sermons. They are far from fitting Luther’s view of the sermon, that it should convict and forgive, but still very interesting.
Other Churches in England:
For the first time in a long time I’ve been church shopping. It’s interesting, especially because I’m a stranger in a strange land. I’ve been to a Baptist church and a United Reformed Church. The Baptist church used laptops and projectors throughout the sermon, whereas the Reformed Church was much more traditional, the preacher sat down on a chair in front of the altar and just started talking. The Baptists had very upbeat simple songs projected onto a wall; the Reformed Church had hymnals that looked to be very old.
What has impressed me the most about the churches here in England is the style of preaching, it is very logical, very step by step, very intellectual. It is sort of like hearing CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” in sermon format.
After an intense four days of training I am now certified by the Grand National Archery Society as an archery instructor! I’ve already taught a lot of kids.
No one knows where anything is in America! Which I suppose is fair, as I hardly know where anything is in England. Still, it can be frustrating at times because a lot of people ASSUME they know where things are in America. For some reason most British people believe Oregon is slightly North of Florida.
Once I realized no one had a clue where Oregon is (let alone Wyoming where I went to high school) I started to tell them “I’m from Oregon, its right above California.” This opened up a whole new set of unexpected problems. “Do you know George Lucas/Hayden Christensen/ Michael Moore/Jim Carry/Darth Vader/Orlando Bloom etc.” The first couple times I got asked this I thought it was a fluke, but by about the fourth time I realized that wasn’t the case. My eventual response to this do you know X Hollywood was. No, do you know Margaret Thatcher/Tony Blaire/ Niel Gaiman etc
Yan, Viktor, and I were comparing notes the other day and we realized British children have no clue what accent goes with what country. Most people assume I am… Irish! I know what you are thinking, Chris, are you trying to sound British, because your accents really aren’t very distinct or good. No, I’m talking like your typical mush mouthed American. One kid went so far as to try and place my accent. He was convinced I was from Indiana.
As for Viktor, the German, they all think he is American. And Yan, the Slovakian, he is Transylvanian.
A little fact about St. Mark’s College that not everyone knows. Its haunted by “The Monk.” I’ve yet to meet him, and I have a distinct impression that he may just be the old wiring in the Abbey, as well as the damp air messing with the smoke detector, but when a light flickers, or a door closes on its own, we say “that’s the Monk.”
A very short story:
747 years trapped in these walls. At first I thought it was another exercise, like meditation, or patient suffering, or the Rosary. After a while though, I… I started to question why I am here. I started to wonder if maybe, maybe I was not saved or sanctified.
Then I decided I was waiting in this Infirmary where I died so long ago, for a reason. Maybe I was kept here in this Abbey as a sort of gateway, an umbilical cord between the two worlds. I could see the auras of the sanctified immortals, the Saints bobbing around the crosses and the dim lit halls. So too could I see the dark faces of the living. Maybe my job was to give a holy feel to this place and allow the two worlds to touch. And so I created a certain serenity at St. Mark’s.
For the last two weeks we’ve had St. Edwards, a school in London, staying with us. Its pretty amazing, we get 30 twelve year olds through here every day for 8 days. We are their religious instruction. Each group has a different subject we examine with them from a Christian perspective. When their 24 hours are done they have to go back to St. Eds and give a 10 minute presentation to the rest of the school.
I’ve been getting to do Epilogue with the kids. Epilogue is more or less a brief evening worship service. I pick a Bible passage, read it, then sort of extemporize a sermon out of it on the spot and close in prayer. Its amazing how many things you can relate 1 Corinthians 12 to!
As some of you know when I preach I always have verbatim notes at my disposal, so free styling like this is really new and exciting to me!