An English Winter

Ruth and I are now home from spending two weeks in England. The purpose of our time there was a mixture of pleasure and work. The story began when I received word from the Primate's office last autumn inviting me to attend the international Conference for New Bishops that is hosted every year by the staff of Canterbury Cathedral. The problem was that the course was to begin on the very day of our 25th wedding anniversary. When I announced to Ruth that I had good news (that I had been invited to the conference) and some bad news (that it was to begin on the day), she announced that that was not bad news because she would come with me. Of course she was not allowed to attend the conference but we soon decided to smash our piggy banks and go a few days ahead of the conference and "celebrate" with an English winter holiday.

From January 25th to 31st Ruth and I enjoyed the hospitality of the staff at St. Matthew's House, Westminster, in the very heart of London. From there we visited around the city and made side trips. One venture was to Oxford where we toured parts of the university and the Cathedral and enjoyed "high tea" in the hotel made famous by the "Inspector Morse" TV series. I had always wanted to see the original Holman Hunt painting of "Christ knocking at the door" which hangs in Oxford's Keeble College Chapel. Alas, it had been removed as a new organ was being installed…drat!!! The next day we went up to York to enjoy a tour of the great Minster and then to attend Evensong.

The highlight of our trip was a journey to Bath and out to the tiny bedroom community of "Corston". We were met at All Saints Church by the Vicar, Fr. Richard Hall, who graciously agreed to conduct a short service for the Renewal of Marriage Vows. Of course, it had been Ruth's idea to do that and I was happy to agree, thinking that it would be a nice little moment. I must admit to becoming quite emotional …indeed, the Bishop even shed a wee tear!!!. Fr. Hall was so enthusiastic and pastoral in his time with us that the occasion became the definite highlight of our visit.. It was also an added touch to actually go to the village of our family name. Interestingly there is nothing in the history of the church or the village as to the origins of the name and the Vicar commented that we were the only Corstons he had ever met.

We returned to downtown Bath and enjoyed an afternoon of touring the city and then attending a beautiful Evensong at the great Bath Abbey, sung by an all girl's choir. We sat behind a group of boys who were obvious from some other school choir because they were not only making eye-contact with the girls but singing along with them! Bath is famous as the site of ancient Roman baths…but enjoying them on the day we were there was the last thing on our minds…it had to be the coldest day in England!!!

On Sunday in London we found our way to the east end, so badly destroyed in the bombings during the war. It was there that we attended the morning Eucharist at All Saints Church, Poplar, not far from the famous Canary Warf complex. The 17th century building was the ancestral church of Ruth's family and where her father was a choir boy. On the morning we attended the heat was off and the building was cold, but the congregation was warm and welcoming. It was marvelous…4 clergy and lots of incense!!!  Afterwards were were invited to the hall for "tea and bisquits". Later that afternoon, we made our way back to Westminster Abbey for the Sunday Evensong.

Of course, we also enjoyed doing some shopping, browsing and enjoying the Dickenish streets of the cities as well as the fine English pubs. One afternoon we even became visitors at Parliament and enjoyed the discussions in the House of Commons. I enjoyed everything about being in England…except the cold…far colder than even -30C in Canada, believe me!!! 

It was a great way to celebrate our 25th anniversary, even though many of our friends can't understand why we wouldn't go to  warmer country and sit on a beach!!! Frankly that's just not us. Twenty-five years has flown by from that winter day in Trinity Church Saint John, NB, when we stood before Archbishop Harold Nutter, surrounded by family and friends and made our vows "for better, for worse".  Like many marriages, ours has involved many ups and downs, changes and moves across the country in our love of the Church, some tears but a lot more laughs and best of all, the raising of two very fine sons. God is good!

Ruth headed back home on January 31st and I continued on the Canetrbury…the subject of my next blog.

Laus Deo!


       With Fr. Hall at Corston   


               At Bath   


   All Saints Church, Poplar

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