Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday (St Fabian)

Slowly but surely recovering from jet lag. Most of the way there already. Got up at a fairly leisurely hour and caught the 9:50 train from Paddington Station (about four blocks from my hotel) to Oxford. The trip takes about an hour. My observation about trains in Britain is that they are very frequent, very fast, very crowded, they run on time, and while not by any means inexpensive, the fares are not unreasonable. Seats are tiny; leg room is minimal. Makes a coach airplane seat seem spacious. Did I mention they go fast? Even the freight trains go fast. Not what I'm used to seeing. I was met at Oxford by Fr Mark Clavier (son of Tony, who preached at my consecration). Mark is priest-in-charge of the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Steeple, and Tackley. Two of the three churches date from Norman times, and one as elements from the Saxon era (which is to say, some of those stones have been in place for more than a thousand years). The villages themselves have a combined population of about 2300, with a high proportion of retirees, followed by commuters, both to Oxford and even to London. Much of whatnI saw was a complete caricature of how an American thinks of English country villages, complete with the church warden in tweed with three working dogs on a leash. Before we went out to the countryside, however, we had a wonderful tour of Pusey House in Oxford, one of the icons of the Catholic revival of Anglicanism in the nineteenth century. The highlight for me was surely a glimpse of a page in sixteenth century missal in which one can see at a glance the successive tumults of that era just in whose names are scratched out and whose are added in the intercessions of the eucharistic prayer.  Lunch was in a pub at Steeple Aston. Interetingly, pubs share a certain unenviable position with churches in England: everyone wants them to be there--indeed, there is a sense of entitlement about it--but fewer and fewer people want to actually support them personally. Between the three parishes Mark looks after, average Sunday attendance is around 110, which means maybe 250 would be considered "active baptized members" by Episcopal Church standards. I expect I will have more to say about my experience of the Church of England when I get home and have something more than an iPad to type on--and pictures to post as well. I was fortunate to even a get a seat on the 4pm train back to London. After resting for a bit,I ventured back out by tube to the West End (Picadilly Circus, theatre district), finally deciding on fish and chips for dinner.

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