During my recent trip to England and Scotland with students, we had the opportunity to spend some time in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. While the main reason for going in is seeing the place where Shakespeare is buried, it’s also a beautiful church in and of itself. As I sat in the silence, I took out the pew-rack hymnal and came across this hymn:
“O Happy Band of Pilgrims” by St. Joseph the Hymnographer and J. M. Neale
1 O happy band of pilgrims,
If onward ye will tread
With Jesus as your fellow
To Jesus as your Head!
2 O happy if ye labour
As Jesus did for men;
O happy if ye hunger
As Jesus hungered then!
3 *The cross that Jesus carried
He carried as your due;
The crown that Jesus weareth,
He weareth it for you.
4 *The faith by which ye see him,
The hope in which ye yearn,
The love that through all troubles
To him alone will turn,
5 *What are they but forerunners
To lead you to his sight?
What are they save the effluence
Of uncreated light?
6 The trials that beset you,
The sorrows ye endure,
The manifold temptations
That death alone can cure,
7 What are they but his jewels
Of right celestial worth?
What are they but the ladder
Set up to heaven on earth?
8 O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize!
It was, of course, a song appropriate to the moment, particularly as we were about halfway through our trip. At the same time, the hymn speaks to the broader reality of the Christian journey. You’ve got some Augustinian sense of Jesus as the Way in the first stanza and some solid reminders of how God works on this side of the journey in stanzas four through seven. And all with the picture of pilgrimage.
You can learn more about the song here.
Here’s last Sunday’s classic Calvin and Hobbes from Bill Watterson. It’s a little more somber than usual, but it fits the mood of the season well. The strip showcases an interesting turn: the frustrations of people to the genuine joy of friendship.
(image from gocomics.com)
Last year while in Scotland, I got to enjoy the day-to-day life more than when traveling with a group. Part of that meant enjoying shows on the BBC and ITV (which culminated in the first episode of the newest season of Doctor Who). I got to watch one episode of the show Press, which tells the story of rival newspapers at a precarious time for print journalism. A few days ago I learned that the show had finally made its way to PBS in America as part of Masterpiece on Sunday nights. The second episode (of six) airs tonight. Here’s the preview for the series as a whole.
I recently told a friend that I only do PBS for Sherlock and Downton Abbey, which means I don’t do PBS much at all these days. This is a nice break with form for me.
Yesterday was a day of airports and airplanes. We left our hotel in Edinburgh at 6:45 in the morning and touched down in Honolulu around 10:30 last night. Along the way we stopped in (and ran through) the airport in Philadelphia as well as LAX. Besides some slight frustrations at each (well, that last sprint at Philly was more than just a frustration), the flights themselves went well: all arrived a little early, each fed us well.
The trip went well. We had nice weather, at least while we were out and about at each site. The rain tended to fall while we were in the bus. The weather was cool to cold, with one or two days that were shorts-worthy. We got to do most of our itinerary. We weren’t rushed as much as we had been in the past. Traveling with students in a large group is definitely different than traveling solo at your own pace. We did get to retrace some of my itinerary from last year’s Scotland trip, particularly in visiting parts of Hadrian’s Wall at Steel Rig and seeing the Augustinian abbey in Jedburgh. We also stopped at the Scottish border, which was cold and windy and wet, making it just right for the moment.
One of my personal goals was to track down the three Rivers of London books that I had not read yet. One was a novel only available in hardback in the US at this point. The remaining two were novellas. I found the novel and one of the novellas at the Blackwell’s in Oxford. When we got the hotel that night, I found that the novella (hardback) was actually signed by Aaronovitch as part of an independent booksellers promotion. I found the other novella (paperback) at the Blackwell’s in Edinburgh. Collection complete. The bookseller there recommended another series in a similar vein. I picked up the first book in that series.
I refrained from starting those books on the trip. Instead, I finished Jamie Smith’s book on Augustine. I also started reading through some of Augustine’s letters on my Kindle (where ancient texts are often free or cheap). Beyond that, it was a trip of looking at landscapes and enjoying the countryside. My downtime in the hotels was spent on paperwork, room checks, and regularly sifting through the purchases of the day.
The traveling has gone well these last few days. While it’s been a little rainier than usual for us, we’ve still had more than our fair share of sun. We spent Monday in London, starting with the Globe and ending with dinner just beyond Trafalgar Square. We walked a lot.
Today was spent at Stonehenge (in the morning) and Oxford (for lunch and dinner). I was able to pick up a couple of Rivers of London novels (one as signed!). I also bought sodas for my group at the Eagle and Child, which was great as always.
I definitely feel like I’m showing my age on this trip. I’m a little more by-the-books and systematic (a trait that has been growing more and more these last few years). Having gone on the trip a number of time also changes the feel of things. There’s also something odd about being the one who is always trying to keep things on schedule. You hold it as best you can, of course: not too tightly, but also not too loosely. And there always has to be room for discovery. But you’ve also got places to go and promises to keep.
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These last few days of my Old Testament readings have come from the stories of Hegelian in both Kings and Chronicles. I found Chronicles’ retelling of Hezekiah’s reform to be quite moving. It’s easy to forget just how “far gone” the people had been prior to his kingship. Besides that, I found the Kings story of what happened after Samaria is resettled by Assyria … and I’m not even talking about the part with the lions. It’s about the inability of the people to understand and hold on to the faith. A very sobering passage to reflect on more.
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Tomorrow we make our way to Stratford-upon-Avon. The weather should be really nice. Hopefully, we’ll go boating on the river. We’ll end the day with a presentation of King John by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hoping it’s good enough to keep us all awake!
I write this entry from the D terminal of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. After six hours flying from Honolulu to Texas and a good seven hours’ layover a few miles from Cowtown, my traveling group and I are ready to board our nine-hour flight to London.
Whether alone or with others, travel is a funny thing. It rubs you raw in odd ways, points out your flaws when you didn’t even ask for any kind of personal critique. My goal this time is to be open to the Spirit and learn from the frustrating moments.
Along the way, I’m going to continue reading Jamie Smith’s On the Road with Saint Augustine. It’s one of two books that I’ve brought along for the ride. Here’s a great quote from the section titled “Orientation”:
The key is to know where we are, and whose we are, and where we’re headed, and not to be surprised by the burdens of the road.
Smith is talking about the things we can learn from Augustine as we consider his personal travelogue. That paragraph from page 17 ends with this:
To know where you’re headed is. Not a promise of smooth sailing.
I’m trying to practice prayer as I walk and grace as I talk. I am hopeful about arriving, having left the idea of “the joy is in the journey” behind with other things that sound nice but just aren’t true.
This week’s “Sunday’s Best” is actually last week’s “Sunday’s Best.” I did not get around to posting last week’s WuMo which did a great job of capturing something critical about our particular moment in time.
I’ve found my use of social media continually on the slow-down. It’s not just the posting, mind you; it’s also the reading and perusing. I’d much rather blog, even if it is posting to the void for me. I find that I just don’t have the personality for tweeting. And I don’t have the consistency necessary for a real presence on Facebook. Instagram is mostly for travel. None of these things helps in good ways for me (except for Twitter, because that’s where some of my favorite thinkers and writers are present).
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The school year is already flying by. September will be over in a snap, it seems. The next three weeks are particularly crazy, with a social, a camp, grading, and final preparation for travel to England and Scotland. Beyond that, I’m working hard at my new position at school, visiting teachers as they attempt “faith integration” lessons. I’ve got a meeting with administration this week to check-in and articulate some plans and ideas for what is next.
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The bookshelf has been kind to me lately. I’m currently reading the sixth Rivers of London novel: The Hanging Tree. I’m amazed at how unique each of Aaronovitch’s novels ends up being . . . and all while building one large narrative. After a novel set in the countryside, book six has Peter Grant back in London and working a case with the wealthy. Beyond that, I just finished Faith for Exiles, the latest Barna book. It’s a great read in the way that everything Barna does is great: it gives you permission for good but difficult conversations. I’m just over halfway through The Outrageous Idea of Christian Teaching by Glanzer and Alleman. It’s been a really good read for me, a good way to filter and add to my understanding of teaching from a faith perspective.
(image from gocomics.com)