It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

We head to the airport this morning.  After breakfast we have to way goodbye to three in the group who head back to New York.  We have had a wonderful time together and the group has really bonded.  We seem like family!

We hope to arrive at the Nashville airport at 9:45 pm.  Please pray for our safety as we travel home.  Thank you for joining us on our journey through England visiting the British Hymn Sites.  It’s been wonderful!  Wish each of you could have been with us!

We have all had a great time but the old well known saying is still true — “There’s no place like home!”

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Our Last Day in London

Today was our last day in London so we hit the ground running.   Our first stop was Westminster Abbey.  Ian, our tour guide, gave us a wonderful and detailed tour of the Abbey which was fascinating.  One bit of trivia about Westminster that we all found to be of interest — 3,300 people are buried there including royalty, well known musicians, scientists, writers, etc.  It seemed that every square inch was covered with a memorial of some sort.  We were all extremely puzzled that within the area dedicated to the burial of those who made huge contributions in the world of science was the grave of Charles Darwin.  That really caught us by surprise.  We weren’t expecting to see him there!

We also got to see the coronation chair.   Since the coronation of Edward II in 1308, almost every monarch has been crowned in this chair.  It is currently undergoing some major restoration however, the restoration crew was working behind a huge glass window so we were able to get a good close look not only of the chair but the actual restoration in progress.

From there we walked across the street, ate lunch and got back on the coach to head to The British Library where were saw some ancient manuscripts such as the early manuscripts of the Bible, the Magna Carta, writings of Shakespeare and other famous writers.  We also got to see the original written lyrics to numerous Beatles songs many of them jotted down the back of a card, an envelope, or a scrap piece of paper.  It was a very interesting place.

From there we were off to The British Museum.  It’s enormous so during the two hours we were there, we were only able to see a small portion of it.  However, there was something of interest for everyone so we all took off in different directions to explore the areas that we had interest in.  One thing that I think we all went to see was the Rosetta Stone.  It was neat to see it in person.

We are now back at the hotel getting ready to go the see “Oliver” tonight.   This will be our grand finale as a group.

We have had a great day in London!

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Our First Day in London

Windsor Castle and Gardens

We checked out of the hotel this morning after breakfast and headed into London. Our first tour today was of Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Queen Elizabeth II uses the castle both as a private home where she usually spends the weekend, and as a Royal residence at which she undertakes certain formal duties.

Royal Guards

We arrived just in time to see the Royal Guards marching down the street towards the castle for the Changing of the Guards. It was really neat to see them and it was perfect timing for us!

Sara Goodpasture & Katie Murphy

Once inside we visited St. George’s Chapel which is a place of worship at Windsor Castle. The chapel has been the site of many royal weddings, particularly the children of Queen Victoria. It has also been the site of many royal funerals and interments and is presumed to be the place selected for the burial of Queen Elizabeth II upon her death. It was a fascinating place and so elaborate and beautiful! We also visited the State Apartments and got to see Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the most famous dolls’ house in the world. It was a highlight!

After our visit to Windsor Castle we were able to go to the hotel. We quickly checked in, dropped our luggage in the room and then we had the afternoon to do whatever we pleased. Some opted to stay at the hotel and rest up while others took the opportunity to explore London.

Tower of London

One group of people went to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels while others went shopping at Harrods, theworld’s most famous department store. Some experienced riding the “tube” while others

choose to experience the bus in London. No matter what the choice, we all had a really fun afternoon in London!

Tomorrow we will enjoy another day in London. Hope you’ll check with us. Thanks for following along!

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LaGard and Ruth Smith

What a day we have had! The weather has been incredible — sunny and about 72 degrees and I haven’t felt any humidity since we left Nashville! Our day began with a visit to the Cotswalds one of the most beautiful picturesque places I’ve ever seen — like something out of an old English movie. The real treat came when we got to be guests at the cottage of LaGard and Ruth Smith. When we arrived, LaGard was out by the street waiting to greet us. Ruth had prepared some refreshments which were served out in the garden area and they were delicious! Wow! Their cottage and garden were absolutely stunning! So beautiful & so quaint. After visiting at the cottage for a while, we strolled down the lane to the church. While inside the church we sat and listened to some thoughts from LaGard, we sang and prayed and had a wonderful time together It was a very memorable morning in the Cotswalds! A perfect start to the day!

The church in the Cotswalds

We said our goodbyes to LaGard and Ruth and went to Bourton-on-the-Water, one of the loveliest villages in the Cotswalds. It was here that Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795) became the pastor at the Baptist church and he served for 55 years until he died. He was also a hymnwriter and wrote many hymns, the most famous being “God is the Fountain Whence.” The Manse House where he lived those years is beside the creek that runs through the village. No doubt he was inspired to write this hymn as he looked out his windows or walked beside the water on his way to the church each day. We all ate lunch and had some free time while there.

Bikes at Oxford

From there we headed to Oxford for a brief walking tour and time to explore the town. We were told by Ian, our guide, to be extremely careful and not only watch out for vehicles but to also watch out for bicycles since there are many bicycles in Oxford. That may be the understatement of the year! I have never seen so many bikes in any one place but they do provide a wonderful means of transportation within the city. We got to see the Martyrs’ Memorial and tour a portion of Lincoln College — a beautiful college with lovely old buildings and a beautiful library. Some visited the Ashmolean Museum while others shopped. There was something for everyone in Oxford! We had a great afternoon!

Then back to the hotel where we had dinner. After dinner, we all met in the lobby and had a book signing party — everyone took turns signing each other’s hymnals that were given out at the beginning of the trip and that have accompanied us throughout England — that would apply to both people and hymnals!

Today has completed the hymn sites tour portion of the trip. Tomorrow we head to London where we will spend our last two days. Hope you’ll join us on this last leg of our journey.

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O Happy Day

Hello to all those who are following us on this journey of the British Hymn Sites!   All is well with the group here in England and we hope all is well for you!   Thank you for visiting the blog and for your interest.

After two nights in Harrogate, we repacked our bags and loaded the coach this morning to head for Northampton where we would visit the church where Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) preached.  Doddridge was not only a Congregationalist preacher but he was also an educator, writer and composer of hymns.  His most well known hymn is “O Happy Day.”  We were greeted by the current minister who gave us some brief history of the church building and of Philip Doddridge.

Philip Doddridge Pulpit

The pulpit from which Doddridge preached is still located in the church.   The pews in the church have doors on the ends to keep out the chilly draft and each pew was rented by a certain family and became known as their pew.  The rental fee for the pew was in addition to their offering.  The minister made the comment that church members today are the same as then — many of us have our “assigned” pews and we don’t even have to pay rent for them!

In the end, Doddridge had 375 hymns published although most are sung infrequently.  While at the church we sang several of these hymns including “O Happy Day,” a song of celebration of a Christian’s day of salvation.

Back on the coach and we were off to Olney in Northampton.  After a bit of free time, we went to visit the sites of John Newton and William Cowper including the Cowper and Newton Museum. John Newton (1725-1807) was born in London in 1725.  He was the son of a strict sea captain who introduced him to life on board at age 11.  He worked for many years on merchant ships as well as the Royal Navy before joining the crew of a slave trading vessel.   However, years later he saw the error of his ways and joined the fight to abolish the trade.   He became the preacher for the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul from 1764-1780.   While living at the vicarage, he wrote perhaps the most popular hymn of all times, “Amazing Grace” which was written in preparation for a New Year’s Day sermon on January 1, 1773.

William Cowper lived just down the lane from John Newton and wrote such hymns as “There Is A Fountain” and “God Moves In a Mysterious Way.”  John and William became dear friends and together because of their shared Christian faith they published “The Olney Hymns” in 1779.

We were able to visit the home of Cowper which now houses the Museum, we sang in his garden and walked down the lane to Newton’s house (which is privately owned so we were not able to go inside).   “Amazing Grace” is said to have been written in this house (top right window in the photo).  We then continued our walk a very short distance to the church where Newton preached.  We sat inside the church surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows and sang “Amazing Grace” together.   We then walked to the cemetery and had our picture made at the gravesite of John Newton.  We have had a really great day in Northampton.

Today has been a gorgeous day — sunny and around 70 degrees.  We have been blessed with the best weather!  It’s wonderful!  We are now in Oxford for the night and will have another exciting day tomorrow.  Hope you will join us.

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York Minster

Ronnie & Emily Ferguson in York

Today has been a very interesting day. It began with a 6:30 am wake up call — actually calls — one by phone and one through the TV which no one had ever experienced before! To quiet the obnoxious beeping sound, we were instructed to press the “OK” button on the TV remote. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let me tell you — it’s not! Here you are sound asleep being abruptly awakened by the TV turning on unexpectedly producing a loud beeping sound. You are still in a sleepy stupor when you reach for the remote in the dark with no glasses handy and your eyes are still mostly closed! Needless to say, once we got it shut off we were definitely AWAKE!

York Minster

We again had a delicious full English breakfast together and then moved to a private room for our worship service and communion. We had a very meaningful service centered around the Lord’s Supper with prayer, scripture reading and songs. It was a wonderful way to start our day here in Harrogate.

Today was York day — we loaded the bus and headed out. Once we arrived in York, our first visit was York Minster, the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. We attended Matins which included singing by the girls’ choir, scripture readings and prayer. It was an interesting experience. Just to be able to sit in the nave and soak in the surroundings of York Minster was amazing.  It is a spectacular place!!  After the service we enjoyed a guided tour of the Minster.  This is truly a place that words cannot begin to describe but hopefully the pictures will give you a very small glimpse of the magnificence of this place.

Our afternoon included free time in York to eat lunch, shop and explore. What a fascinating village with lots of shops. We also had time for a walking tour of the city. We walked down the street with the Shambles, visited a church from the 1300’s and took a walk on the city wall which was once the wall of protection for York. The wall walk allowed us to have a better view of the village below. It was a nice way to end our day in York.

We’ve enjoyed our two-nights stay here in Harrogate but it’s time to pack our bags because tomorrow we continue our journey through the beautiful British countryside.

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O Perfect Love

Good morning!  Our first stop today was at the Holy Trinity Church in the community of Brathay near Ambleside.  This is the church where “O Perfect Love” was first sung.   The song was written by Dorothy Gurney for her sister, Katherine’s, wedding.  Katherine needed a wedding song and Dorothy, being known for her poetry, wrote the song “O Perfect Love” to be sung at Katherine’s wedding at the Holy Trinity Church in 1883.  Later the song was used by Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise of Wales, at her wedding at Buckingham Palace.  It soon became the choice of brides to be in Britain and America for the next half century.  Katie Murphy has decided she is going to have a destination wedding here and have “O Perfect Love” sung at her wedding!  

John Parker Phone Interview

Upon our arrival at the church, we were greeted by a dozen or so of the church members.  Not only did they sing WITH us, they sang FOR us.   Afterwards, they served us refreshments of tea, coffee and cookies.  Their hospitality was quite unexpected and overwhelming!  They had also arranged for Dr. Parker to have a telephone interview about his book while we were there.  As we were leaving, we had our photo made all together on the steps of the church.

We left Brathay and drove to the village of Grasmere where we had a couple of hours of “free time”.   We all enjoyed walking the streets of the village, shopping along the way and eating lunch in this beautiful quaint town.
Our next stop was at Hebden Bridge, a bleak town that would remind you of something out of “Oliver Twist”.  At one time it was a mill town but now many of its residents are artists and writers.  The Wainsgate Baptist Church is located in Hebden Bridge and is the church that John Fawcett (1740-1817) served so well for over 45 years.  John Fawcett wrote the song we all know so well and sing so often, “Blest Be The Tie”.   Marvin Spann led us in singing numerous songs inside the church including his favorite hymn, “Where No One Stands Alone”.   When we moved outside to the churchyard cemetery we sang “Blest Be The Tie” as we stood around the grave of John Fawcett.

An ironic thing also occurred while at the cemetery.  Located only a few feet from John Fawcett’s grave was a headstone that read “In Memory Of ….. John Parker ……”.   How crazy is that??

We are now in Harrogate for the next two nights which means this is laundry night for some since we have time for things to air dry.  Since Ronnie Ferguson was in the dry cleaning business for years, we think it makes good sense for him to do laundry for everyone!

We’ve had dinner, walked around the town a bit — it’s pretty chilly here tonight — and now bed time.  Good night and look forward to you joining us again tomorrow as our journey through the Great British hymn sites continues.

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Take My Life & Let It Be

After a hearty English breakfast at the hotel, we loaded the motor coach to head to the Astley church, St Peters, where Frances Havergal (1836-1879) was born. She was the youngest child of William Havergal, rector of Astley. She was born in the rectory and her body lies in the churchyard. Frances is a leading female hymnist. Her hymns have been extremely popular through the years due the intimate nature with which they were written using the first-person pronoun. Some of her well-known hymns are “I Bring My Sins to Thee,” “Is It For Me?” “Lord Speak to Me,” and “Take My Life & Let It Be,” songs sung as often as any in Anglican and American churches.

St. Peters Church

The church is undergoing some restoration at this time as you can see from the photo. I suppose when we are close to 800 years old we may need a face lift too!

Here we are gathered around the tomb of Frances Havergal singing “I Gave My Life for Thee”.  The rector of St. Peter’s church joined us as we sang.  He was very familiar with the song so he was a great addition to our singing.   A great experience!

Hodnet Hall

Now we were off to see the Gardens of Hodnet Hall, ancestral home of hymnist, poet, parson and squire Reginald Heber (1783-1826), writer of “Holy, Holy, Holy”.   Reginald was one of those rare hymn writers born into status and wealth.  The Heber family has lived here for a thousand years!   When we arrived we went directly to the church where we sang “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  The church was beautiful with some of the most gorgeous stain glass windows.  It’s hard to describe just how beautiful these old churches are but they are stunning!  By the time we left the church the sky had darkened and the rain had begun – typical English weather we were told – but it did not dampen our spirits!   With raincoats and umbrellas in tow and even an occasional plastic grocery bag being used as a rain bonnet, we headed off in all directions to explore the gorgeous gardens.

Dr. John Parker with Lord Heber-Percy

We had an extra special treat while visiting Hodnet Hall today. The Lord of the Manor, Lord Heber-Percy came out to personally greet us. It was a real treat to get to meet him. Who knew that Lords could be so down-to-earth and have such a good sense of humor! He was wonderful!

After spending a couple of hours at Hodnet Hall, we loaded the motor coach and headed for our final destination of the day — the Lake District. It was about a three hour drive to the hotel, but no one seemed to mind. It just gave us time to talk, laugh, sing, see the countryside and of course, take a nap!

We have checked into the Cumbria Grand Hotel for the night. The view overlooking the water is really beautiful. We have now had dinner, been for a walk and are calling it a day. Hope you will join us again tomorrow to see where our journey takes us! Thanks for joining us!

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Another Day of Adventures

Torquay Harbour

Hello everyone! Well, for the sun to have set so late last night, it sure seemed to have risen extremely early! However, after a quiet, peaceful and restful night —- oh wait —- that is after things settled down from the fire alarms going off and waking everyone up around 1:00 a.m.! — we woke refreshed and ready for another day of adventure! Rumor has it that someone in our group was responsible for the fire alarm going off, but I won’t mention any names!

We ate breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the ocean. It was a very windy morning but the sky was clear blue and the water was too. It was breathtaking! After breakfast, we stopped at The Harbour at Torquay on our way out of town. Ian our tour guide had a hard time, as usual, herding 17 women out of the shops and back onto the bus!

Rock of Ages

Our next stop was Cheddar Gorge at the rock cliffs where we saw the crevice where Augustus Toplady had found cover during a violent rain storm. He imagined the sheltering cleft in the rock as a figure of the saving Christ and conceived the idea for a hymn – the hymn we know as “Rock of Ages.” We were able to sit across from the cliff and sing this hymn, one of the most beloved of all Christian hymns. Altogether Toplady wrote about 130 hymns including this one, loved and sung ever since by millions.

Marvin Spann leading singing

Next we were off for Bristol to visit The New Room – John Wesley’s chapel. Here we were able to sit in the chapel and be led in song by Marvin Spann from Waverly, Tennessee and Dr. John Parker, our host professor. We were told that John Wesley would preach from the top pulpit and that Charles Wesley would lead the singing from the lower pulpit. During Charles Wesley’s life, he wrote several thousand songs and many have become the most familiar and frequently sung in Britain and America. Some of his hymns include, “A Charge To Keep I Have,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” “Hark the Herald Angel Sing” and “Love Divine, All Love Excelling.” Several other visitors in the chapel joined us as we sang several of his hymns.

Desk of Charles Wesley

We were also able to visit the home of Charles and Sarah Wesley and while there we saw his study and desk where many of his hymns were written. We had an opportunity to sing again while we were in his courtyard garden. The singing was beautiful!

Then back on the motor coach for the hotel and dinner. It’s been another gorgeous day — clear blue skies with temperatures in the low 70’s — just a perfect day! We look forward to what tomorrow holds! Thanks for following us on this journey!

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Now The Day Is Over

Our morning started with a delicious full English breakfast at the hotel and then it was time to climb aboard the motor coach.   Our first stop was in Southampton at the statue of Isaac Watts, the father of hymnody.  Isaac Watts was the first hymn writer to use Biblical text but to write in his own words, expressing his personal spiritual and emotional feelings.

As we stood at the foot of the statue we sang one of his famous hymns, “O God Our Help in Ages Past.”  The morning was cool and crisp — the sky a beautiful blue — it was the start of what promised to be a wonderful day!

We then drove down by the sea.  It was here in Southampton that the Titanic sailed as well as the soldiers during WWII when they departed for Normandy on D-Day.   Lots of history here.
From Southampton we went to Broadhembry, home of Augustus Toplady (1740-1778), writer of “Rock of Ages”.  It is a beautiful little town and while there we visited St. Andrews church where Augustus served as vicar in 1768.

Then it was back on the motor coach for Lew Trenchard Manor, home of Sabine Baring-Gould, writer of two of England’s most well-known hymns, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Now the Day Is Over.”   Currently the home is a 5 star hotel.  We also visited the church that is located next door and sang these hymns together.   While visiting Lew Trenchard Manor, we experienced English tea — the real thing!   It was amazing and such a wonderful experience for everyone!

After tea, we again boarded the motor coach to head to our final destination for today – Torbay, an ancient fishing village located on the coast of Devon in Lower Brixham. For 27 years Henry Lyte served as the priest of All-Saints Church in Brixham during which time he lived at Berry Head which overlooks the sea.   Berry Head is now a hotel and we are staying here for the night. After a delicious dinner in the restaurant overlooking the water, we walked outside to the spot where Lyte wrote “Abide With Me” just days before he died.   As the sun was going down over the water, we sang once again the words to that beautiful familiar hymn.  It was a great close to a fantastic day! By the way, the sun didn’t actually set here until almost 10:00 p.m.!

Thanks for joining us on this journey.  Wish each of you were here with us!   Hope to have more tomorrow.

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