Dartmoor, England

We flew from Moscow to London last Saturday morning with Rick and Cecily Jaynes, rented a car and drove to the Dartmoor National Park in southwest England. The countryside is beautiful whether it's sunny or rainy. We've had the opportunity to hike, drive across the moor, and enjoy pub food. Crosses were placed as boundary markers, prayer spots as recent as 100 years ago and as early as 1000 years ago. Christianity didn't come to Britain till the 7th century and the earliest churches were founded in the 10th century. We stopped at Bennett's Cross, near the Warren Inn, which probably served as a boundary marker. Maybe they were used like celtic crosses to tell the gospel story to travelers.

We attended evensong at the Exeter Cathedral on Sunday and Tuesday. This beautiful gothic cathedral has the longest continuous vaulted ceiling in England. The evensong is a very special service offered ever day of the week. The sung liturgy is beautiful and the setting is beautiful, but very few people attend besides the few visitors or tourists like us. The adjacent mall we walked through to the church was packed with people, but what interest do they have in this cathedral? I kept asking myself. The people we talked to in Exeter had no idea what Evensong was and had not attended, though they thought it was a beautiful building. We love the novelty of the service and we understand the meaning of the service, but where are the people? How relevant is the church, especially this beautiful, historic church, in the community?

Sunday afternoon we drove back from Exeter to North Bovey and walked up to the small village church. The evensong service started at 6pm and it was 6:25. We walked in on the last part of the service, so we grabbed a hymnal, sang a song and heard a short message about the Good Samaritan. We sang a closing song with the six others who attended and then talked with Wendy, the lay reader in her 60s who gave the message and led the service. There are four lay readers who work with a priest to provide services for the valley churches. I said, "Wow, we were just in Exeter, in that big cathedral for evensong, and now here we are in this small church in Bovey for evensong."

"But God is here," she said.

I admired Wendy's faith, faithfulness and her commitment to God and to his people. She and the others are working ecumenically to join the body of Christ together in this region of Devon where churches and villages are so small.

One day this week, when I was painting in front of the castle, five children came up to me and asked if I was an artist. "I'm painting, so I guess I am." They asked if I had other paintings. I showed them what I did in Italy. "Do you speak Italian?" "Do you speak French?" "Do you speak Spanish?" they asked me. They were full of silly pills. Rick took some pictures of Freddie, Carrie, Hannah, Harriet, Leo and me. They asked if my work took me around the world. After I gave them some clues they asked, "So you're a vicar!?" We had fun together.

On Monday we will train from Bath to Berwick upon Tweed to spend the week at the Northumbria Community.


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