I can't help myself. For many years, July was the month of holiday time and travels to places new. Sometimes to places familiar because these we loved.
It has been a number of years now, but this week in July found us of a Sunday in Olney, England.
Olney is a market town by the River Ouse in Buckinghamshire. We spent special days in this little town, but it was the Sunday visit that seems freshest and dearest this morning.
The draw of this spot in England was the fact that it was here that John Newton began his ministry. It was here that he befriended poet William Cowper. It was here that many of our most beloved hymns were written by these two very different men.
It was here, and in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul that we worshiped one summer Sunday morning.
Needless to say, it was a most moving experience to sit, to sing, to listen in this church where Pastor Newton proclaimed God's amazing grace to his flock. God's Word is still being proclaimed here with the same clarity and fervor, thanks be to God.
A palpable cloak enveloped us as we sat and savored the spirit and glorious history of this place. We remembered the courageous lives of these two man as we gave thanks for the footprints they left for us on the pilgrim trail.
Like David and Jonathan, the hearts, ministries, lives of these men were interwoven. Even their gardens were connected by a path between. Beyond, but not too distant their church can be seen. Just beyond is the countryside and the river.
Cattle still graze here. I'm certain that hares still hop about too. Cowper love the hares and kept them as pets.
It is peaceful country, this. Even in this day and age it is easy to understand how their walks together here fed their spirits, as countryside peace has a way of doing.
I'm so grateful for having had this blessing of travel..
~to have the memories of my Preacher-man himself standing (on an earlier day with no one around) in John Newton's pulpit singing Amazing Grace..
~of walking through the church yard among the ancient headstones, of taking a rubbing of John's..
~of chatting with one of the Excellent Women who keep care of the church and grounds. She too cherished the history she daily tended..
~walking in their gardens and feeling a kinship with two men I've long admired..
~but most of all, that Sunday service, tourists though we were, blending in with a fellowship of believers worshiping our God together.
Wm. Cowper's summer house and writing place in his back garden.