In London still, by way of Paris

Shakespeare & Co.

All quiet on the blog as we’ve been on holiday in the UK and France for the past fortnight.

It’s been an extremely refreshing time catching up with friends and seeing the beautiful cities and countryside.

Paris itself was a highlight, with more of a relaxed feel than London, and more beautiful. And as the English drink beer like it’s coffee, it was good to switch back for a few days, albeit with crepes thrown in.

While in Paris, I finally made it to the legendary Shakespeare & Co bookshop, and purchased Marilynne Robinson’s new book of essays ‘When I Was a Child I Read Books‘ which is proving a fascinating read.

Naturally I noted various churches and their historical buildings.  The first time I visited Westminster & St Paul’s Cathedrals they felt rather more like war memorials than places of worship, grand and beautiful though they are.

This time, though, we shared communion in Westminster, which certainly helped. And I also noticed the magnificent verse above the high altar from Revelation 11: 15, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord..” which seems to put all the surrounding dead kings and queens in their place.

Perhaps the most visible location of that verse, after paragraph 1 of the Uniting Church Basis of Union that is…

Over the road from Westminster is the large round Methodist Central Hall, looking rather like the US Congress, and location for both the inaugural United Nations meeting, and performance of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I also visited John Wesley’s chapel in East London, location also of his house and grave. It is actually his second church building, the first being an old cannon foundry which they bought and converted into multipurpose school, church and general welfare centre, but it has long gone.  

It was somewhat thrilling to stand in his original pulpit, and be reminded of his vast and innovative ministry. I was left with a renewed impression of how safe so many of our churches and ministries are in the West today. 

Yesterday morning I attended Holy Trinity Brompton, a large vibrant megachurch with various satellite congregations, famous for its creation of ALPHA. I must say I found it to be a thoroughly engaging, worshipful and welcoming, vibrant place with lots of laughter, and very friendly people.

Despite the huge size, and although the church building is conventional and very old, it had a wonderfully relaxed and messy, contemporary, feel, rather like a large family gathering. Nothing too slick or pretentious.

In fact it felt like an ideal Christian environment for large church, where a wide variety of people obviously feel at home, and the gospel is clear, the passion for mission was obvious, nothing was hyped, but is totally alive. I actually really loved it.

I’m in Oxford this week doing a Summer School on Apologetics & Evangelism, so I’ll share some thoughts on that soon.