London Journal – Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some people loom large in the story of the church. We “met” one such person today:

John Wesley, who lived from 1703 to 1791 and was the founder of Methodism, had his headquarters in London.

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This is Wesley’s Chapel, opened in 1778, and in continuous use ever since. The interior is lovely.

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We attended a mid-day service, which was ecumenical since this week is a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in UK. Then we went to the basement for a light lunch of sandwiches (egg sandwiches are a favorite here), scones and, as always, tea.

We also saw Wesley’s grave, outdoors, beyond the front of the Chapel; walked through the basement museum; and toured Wesley’s house, a simple three-story structure where he lived for the last 11 years of his life, along with various other Methodist preachers.

All of this was a sort of spiritual pilgrimage for me because we Brethren in Christ connect with the holiness tradition, in which John Wesly stands as a pivotal figure.

Back on the streets, everywhere in London you see not only the red buses, but also the taxi cabs, usually a proper black.

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In the evening we went to a musical show, the first we have ever attended in London. This was “Billy Elliot,” showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre. Based on a movie, this show is the story of the miners’ strike in northeast England in 1984-1985, and of the dream of 12-year-old Billy, who wanted to be a ballet dancer, against the raging oppostion of his struggling family.

The songs are written by Elton John. The dancing is superb. My favorite sequence is the one where Billy is dreaming of what it would be like to be in a real ballet, and an adult male dancer appears on stage, and the two of them, at different places and in separate spotlights, dance identical moves to a theme from “Swan Lake.” When Billy is swung off the floor in wide circles by the other dancer and then soars alone in mid-air (on a cable, to be sure), it is beautiful beyond description.

Back on the ground, we walked through cold rain to the Underground station, with this outstanding musical still playing through our minds.

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