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Treasures of History

Where am I?

cross

If you look carefully in this picture you’ll see some clues.  Yes, its a church, although the vaulted ceilings and the tomb may indicate that it is in fact a crypt.

Perhaps you recognise this symbol on the chair by the altar.

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Yes, its the cross of St John’s Ambulance or in fact of the Order of St John.  The Order had its origins in 11th Century Jerusalem when in 1080 it founded a hospital to look after sick pilgrims.  By 1113 the religious Order was registered with the Church as the Order of Hospitallers. After the Crusades it took on a more military focus and its members became know as the Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

This crypt dates back to the 1140’s but its not in Jerusalem; it’s one of London’s historic treasures situated in St John’s Square in Clerkenwell and was the London Headquarters of the Order.

When King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and established the Anglican Church, the Order in England was dissolved and all its lands and wealth were seized by the Crown. The Order was briefly restored by Henry’s Catholic daughter, Queen Mary, who granted it a Royal Charter. However, with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Order in England was dissolved for good.

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This tomb dates back to the 16th century.  However, the buildings in Clerkenwell were put to different uses in the years that followed. They were used as the offices of the Master of the Revels. Thirty of Shakespeare’s plays were licensed here. However, they quickly reverted back to religious use as a chapel and in the early eighteenth century, a Presbyterian meeting house. In 1721 it was rebuilt giving it much the appearance it has today.

The church became the parish church of St John for some years until 1921 when it was given to the new order of St John of Jerusalem who use it as their chapel. The new Order of St John in England had been granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1888. Humanitarian in its aims and purpose, it recognised the need for public First Aid and ambulance transport services, as no such system existed in newly industrialised England. In addition, the Order established an eye hospital in Jerusalem, following the principles of the Order’s first hospital, treating all those in need regardless of faith or wealth.

During the Second World War the church was badly bombed, by the end of the war it was left a blackened shell. The Order of St John restored and rebuilt the church afterwards, although not to original designs.

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The new church building is not amazing but there is a cloister garden built in the 1950’s.

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However the crypt itself is spectacular and not to be missed.

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So if you are in London and looking for ‘free things to do’, don’t miss the peace, tranquility and history of this Christian place of worship.  Nearby you can also visit the Museum of the Order of St John (another freebie).

Reviews available on Trip Advisor.

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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Church, cities, History, Travel

 

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The Wesleys – founders of Methodism

My understanding of Methodism has been rather limited, experienced until recently only through interdenominational services in my youth.  My teenage observations were that there seemed to be a greater emphasis on the Bible and preaching (longer bible readings and sermons than in our church) and less of a focus on the sacrament, with greater engagement of lay people in ministry.

As a new board member of the Methodist Relief and Development Fund, I thought I had better find out a little more about Methodism.  I grew up worshiping in an Anglican church so I’m well versed in the words of Charles Wesley, singing many of his hymns during my time in the choir.

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Favourites include:

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
   And the famous wedding hymn….
 
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.
But what of the other brother, John, and the principles of Methodism?  This week, while I was visiting London I stumbled upon the Wesley Chapel and Wesley’s House (free entry) and took some time to explore.
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John was born in Epworth in Lincolnshire in 1703, the 15th child of parents Samuel and Susanna (buried opposite the Wesley Chapel in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground).  Samuel was the Rector, so John experienced life in the church from a young age. Educated at Charterhouse School in London and then Oxford University, he was ordained as an Anglican deacon (1725) and priest (1728) at Christ Church Cathedral, and became a tutor and Fellow of Lincoln College.  He was a member of the ‘Holy Club’, a group of like-minded people who disciplined piety, but it was not until 1738 that he had a spiritual experience that convinced him of his salvation through Christ and made him want to preach the Good News. John Wesley is estimated to have travelled 250,000 miles in 50 years to preach the gospel.
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes of Wesley is:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as ever you can!”
He was committed to preaching a gospel that stood up for living a life based on scripture and standing up against injustice. He would start his day with prayer and devotions for at least an hour.
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Christianity was not something to be kept within the four walls of the church, but to reach out to others, particularly those in need, bringing them the love of Christ.  He placed an emphasis on personal faith and holiness. Justification by faith, forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ, was the essence of his theology. Sanctification (defined in terms of “pure or disinterested love”), is found through the Holy Spirit. Its characteristics are to love God and one’s neighbour as oneself; to be meek and lowly in heart, having the mind which was in Christ Jesus; to abstain from all appearance of evil, walking in all the commandments of God; to be content in every state, doing all to the glory of God.
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This is the foundation for the Methodist interest in helping the poor and promoting social justice and Wesley led by example. During his time at Oxford, he took courses in basic medicine and first aid and ventured into London during much of his free time to work with the poor, providing medical aid where he could.  Wesley and his Methodists worked hard to raise the money to provide food and clothing for the poor.  He introduced interest-free loans to the poor in London and Methodists devoted themselves to helping the poor to find jobs.   In a time and place in which many viewed poverty and sickness as an indicator of the worth of the individual, Wesley preached God’s love for all mankind and demanded unrestricted love for one’s neighbour. Long before the Quakers introduced anti-slavery legislation to Parliament, Wesley was convinced that slavery was an atrocious blot upon mankind.  In 1774, Wesley wrote Thoughts upon Slavery, presenting his case for abolition.  Wesley’s staunch opposition to slavery heavily influenced abolitionist members of Parliament such as William Wilberforce.

Wesley’s famous Sermon 50: The Use of Money, stated ”gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” demanding his followers be good stewards of their wealth.  In fact, Wesley earned quite a bit of money from his published writings, and yet lived and died in relative poverty.

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But this life of preaching and service took a toll on his family life.  Wesley and Mary Vazeille, a well-to-do widow and mother of four children, were married in 1751. By 1758 she had left him—unable to cope, it is said, with the competition for his time and devotion presented by the ever-burgeoning Methodist movement. Molly, as she was known, was to return and leave him again on several occasions before their final separation. Due to her husband’s constant travels, Molly felt increasingly neglected.
In 1778 he built the Wesley Chapel and the house next to it where he lived until he died in March 1791.
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Despite John Wesley’s claim ‘I live and die a member of the Church of England’, by the time of his death the Methodist movement (which, by then, was largely associated with John Wesley) had grown apart from the national church.
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He is buried in the grounds of the Wesley Chapel, but has left a long legacy behind him of Methodism, people who walk in the footsteps of Christ, caring for the poor and standing up for injustice.
If you want to carry one the work of Wesley how about starting by studying the Bible, showing kindness to your neighbour and making a donation to the work of the Methodist Relief and Development Fund?
 
 

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What is Reality?

Is what I see and experience reality?  Of course most of us believe so, but think about it…..

Do we see things in the same way as the person next to us? Perhaps if we did there would never be any disagreements. Or do we have different perceptions and perspectives based on our cultural and religious beliefs, our values and past experiences, likes and dislikes, labels and preconceived ideas? Whose way of seeing things is reality?

When we look at a scene do we see what is really there, or focus on the aspects that attract our attention? It’s amazing how a photograph can reveal the detail that we missed.

On my previous drives from Delhi to The Leprosy Mission’s office in Noida I have seen rubbish, dust, poverty

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and traffic….

 

Noida traffic

 

Today I chose to focus on nature and saw what I had never seen before, that at every moment of my journey I could see trees and bushes, often covered in seed pods and flowers, sometimes with butterflies, and bees pollinating the flowers.  There were birds in the trees and dogs sitting under the shade of the branches, an abundance of life and beauty.

Trees

Butterfly Mystery Pondi

So what is reality?  Are Delhi and Noida cities of beauty, places of poverty, or both? Do they really need a label? Perhaps their diversity it too vast to be contained in a single description and that can be said for all the situations we encounter.  We will never under all aspects of the true situation we find ourselves in, the thoughts and feelings experienced by others or the reasons for their actions or motives.  Only God, in all his infinite wisdom knows the true reality.  Reality is how God sees things.

1 Corinthians 1:25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Evelyn Underhill in ‘Practical Mysticism’ says that to understand Reality i.e. gain an insight into the wisdom and plans of the Almighty, we need to clear our minds of the whirlpools, twists and currents that prevent us from focusing on God and give Him space to show us Reality.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

My next blog will explore the steps we can take to experience Reality – otherwise defined as communion with God.

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in butterfly, cities, India, Reflections

 

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A day exploring Pondicherry (of Life of Pi fame)

Pondicherry, it is believed, is a French corruption of the more ancient name of the town of Puducheri. The French were the fourth colonial power to reside on these Indian shores, following the Portuguese (16th Century), the Danes (c. 1616) and soon after the Dutch with whom the French battled for control in the late 1600s. Then they then were conquered by the British in the late 1700s and Pondicherry was eventually returned to them in 1816. French rule continued for another 138 years, with them clinging on to the territory even after the rest of India gained independence from the British in 1947. It was not until November 1st 1954 that Pondicherry finally became a Union Territory under Indian rule.

This Indian coastal city on the Bay of Bengal, 160 km south of Chennai, still has evidence of its former French colonial roots. Take a walk along the 1.5km promenade….

Promenade Pondicherry 210813

and you come across the French War Memorial

War Memorial 210813

 and Le Café

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side by side the 4.25m statue of Gandhi – just to remind you that you are still in India!

Gandhi (2) Pondi

Gandhi Monument Pondi

‘White town’ houses buildings with French Style architecture and tea rooms like ‘La Maison Rose’ where is it more common to hear French spoken than Tamil.

La Maison Pondi

In fact there are over 55 languages spoken in the 290km2 area with Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, French and English being the five official languages, many of which can be heard as you wander down the promenade, either during the day….

Icecreams Pondi

Or during the hustle and bustle of an evening….

Evening promenade Pondi (11)

Peace and quiet is not easy to find in Indian cities, streets are not only the domain of cars, bikes and autos beeping their horns, but also dogs, people….

Coconut sellers

And cows….

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Including those being milked on the street.

Milking roadside

It is no wonder that churches and temples are so common.

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Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), Pondicherry

Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica Pondi inside

Temple close up

Temple corner Pondi

….places to try and escape the noise of the horns, traffic and chatter to concentrate on the divine.

Other spaces to escape the struggles of daily life and meditate on the Almighty or to spend time with the family include gazing at the waves from the promenade….

Family watching the waves Pondicherry 210813

or sitting under the trees in Bharat Park….

Bharati Park

Although even here your peace is likely to be disturbed by the caws of the House Crows

House crow Pondicherry 210813

and the squawks of the Common Myna birds.

Common Myna Pair Pondicherry 210813

If you are lucky you might get to see a Tawny Coster butterfly as you tuck into your ice-cream.

Butterfly Tawny Coster 2 Pondi 180813

There is no zoo in Pondicherry (despite what the Life of Pi may have led you to believe) so another option to try to escape the city noise and get back to nature is to visit the rather dilapidated Botanical Gardens.  A lot of it is overgrown, but if you are lucky you can get glimpses of Common Crow and Dark Blue Tiger butterflies.

Common Crow Butterfly 2 Pondi 180813

Dark Blue Tiger Pondi

And you might get green fruits landing on your head as the Rose Ringed Parrokeets pluck them and throw them from the trees.

Rose ringed parakeet Pondi 180813

Make sure you don’t get run over by the ‘Joy Train’ through.

Joy train Botanical Gardens

This mix of Indian and French makes Pondicherry an interesting stop on a trip around India.  Don’t miss drinking the juice of a green coconut….

Coconut Pondi

pleasing the children by taking their photo…..

Lads in the park

and exploring the stalls on the promenade in the evening….

Evening promenade Pondi (17)

Evening promenade Pondi (10)

Evening promenade Pondi (8)

And as your roam the streets at night…. watch out for Bengal Tigers 😉

Then after a tasty Indian feast return to The Richmond, an oasis from the heat, noise and smells of this cross cultural city.

Richmond Hotel Pondicherry 210813

Before sleep kneel down and thank God for blessing you with the wonderful luxuries you have compared to the many thousands of people, just outside your door, who have no air conditioning, limited food, no clean toilet and no refreshing shower in their makeshift homes or on the street.

Children in the street

We are truly blessed!

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), Pondicherry Crucifix

 

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