Northern England: A Trip Report

(This is a long-ish letter that we have been sending out about everything we did and what’s up for the future. The difference with this one? We’ve included lots of links in this edition for your enjoyment and pictures that expand when you click on them. Additionally, if you want the TL;DR version, just hit the segments in bold.)

Firstly: Thank You. Yes, you.

At the Peak district

I wanted to thank everyone for the loving support we’ve received. I’ve been encouraged by the gracious encouragement, fervent prayers, and generous donations we’ve been given. It was also a blessing to see how the church of Crystal Springs took care of my mom while she watched our children. It is so great to see the body of Christ at work and humbling to be a recipient of our Savior’s love!

The D-Low

Now that Remley and I have returned from our England Vision Trip, I wanted to take some time to share what we did and what we learned. It was a 10-day trip filled with time to meet the pastors in Northern England, get to know many church members, and experience the culture. The hope was that exposure to these things would help clarify whether our family would fit well. If you want to look at where we went on a map, Rem put together something on Google Maps.

Day 1View of Sheffield

We left the USA on July 9 and landed in Manchester, England on July 10 where Dr. Kevin Bidwell’s wife, Maria, greeted us and drove us to Sheffield. Dr. Bidwell is the pastor who planted Sheffield Presbyterian Church. We spent the first day at their home, getting to know them, their family, and their ministry. We also got to take a hike up a “mountain” to get a panoramic view of the city of Sheffield and took time to pray for God to use the church in that city. We also met a few church members who stopped by the house.

Day 2

The next morning (Saturday), we took a train north into Newcastle where Chris Richards, a deacon at the church in Gateshead (on the other side of the river Tyne from Newcastle), met us. We stayed with the Richards family for the duration of our time in Gateshead and are grateful for their Christian love and hospitality. They were celebrating their oldest son’s birthday when we arrived and were so kind to share their party and cake with strangers from America!

Gateshead MeetinghouseDay 3

The next day we joined the Richards’ and the rest of the Gateshead Presbyterian Church for a full day of Lord’s Day activities. We worshiped with them during the morning service and enjoyed some tea and a fellowship luncheon with the entire church after the service. We then got to rest a little and prepare for the evening service where I preached the sermon.

Day 4

Monday morning, Remley and I were invited to observe a LoveWise presentation for 7th graders at Emmanuel College. LoveWise is an organization co-founded by Dr. Richards and covers sexual education and relationships from a Christian perspective. Emmanuel College is a public high school in Gateshead where, though it’s government funded, a lot of Christian education is done. After the presentation, we met up with Dr. Bill Schwietzer, the pastor at Gateshead and were introduced to Phil Baiden, the pastor at the church in Durham. Dr. Schweitzer took us to lunch in Durham, where we saw the historic Durham Cathedral where N.T. Wright sat as bishop. Afterwards, we went to the Schweitzer’s home where we visited with him and his family and had dinner.

Day 5

The next day we took a train early in the morning to head further north into Scotland where we spent the day in Edinburgh. We saw the Edinburgh Castle, walked the Royal Mile, enjoyed some haggis, and hiked at Holyrood Park. It was a full day of fun “tourist” things. We took the train back to Newcastle that evening and spent our last evening in the Richards’ home.

Greys MonumentDay 6

Wednesday we woke up early and rode with Dr. Richards into Newcastle, where he works. We spent a few hours in Newcastle visiting the Newcastle Castle, the River Tyne, and Grey’s Monument before taking the train south to Sheffield. We arrived in Sheffield in time to enjoy some dinner at the Bidwell’s with a young lady who is helping start the new crisis pregnancy center there and for me to teach the Wednesday night lesson at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. He taught an overview of the book Zachariah.

ChatsworthDay 7

The next morning, Dr. Bidwell took us on a tour of the Sheffield area. While we chatted and got to know one another, he drove us through the Peak District, took us on a walk through a beautiful forested area, stopped at an English Freehouse, and showed us Chatsworth House (the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire). It was a good day of getting to know Pastor Bidwell and seeing the beautiful countryside surrounding Sheffield.

Day 8

Friday was our London day. We took a train from Sheffield into Kings Cross early that morning and then wandered around London for the day. We saw the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, The Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey (we went inside!), Buckingham Palace, Brick Lane (a.k.a. Curry Lane), St. James’ Park, Trafalgar Square, and Big Ben. It was another very full day but we enjoyed the opportunity to see such a historic city!

Day 9

The next day as set aside as a day to rest from a lot of the traveling and for me to prepare for preaching and teaching on Sunday.

Hill Top ChapelDay 10

Sunday, I taught the Sunday school lesson at Sheffield Presbyterian Church on questions 146-148 of the Westminster Larger Catechism about the 10th Commandment and then worshiped with them for the morning service. Later, I preached the sermon for their evening service. It was really humbling to preach at the Hill Top Chapel since it was built in 1629 and was pastored by an elder who was one of the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Day 11

We took a train in the morning from Sheffield back into Manchester airport where we flew home!

So… Now What?

We had a great time and enjoyed Britain a lot. We got positive feedback from everyone while we were there and anticipate hearing from the church leaders sometime in late August after they’ve had a chance to enjoy some vacation time, pray, and meet with the presbytery elders. At this point, both Remley and I feel good about serving in England in the future and continue to pray that God would open doors where he wants our family to be.

The fields are ripe for the harvest in Northern England. The state church is the Anglican Church and much of the population has faded into nominalism, agnosticism, or atheism and there’s little to no cultural pressure to identify as Born Again or Evangelical. This means that those who choose to identify themselves this way are passionate about evangelizing and hungry for good preachers to help disciple them. They are a small percentage of the English people but we know that God can take the smallest remnant to build his church. He is a great God!

Things To Pray For

Please pray for:

1. God’s wisdom for our family. We are still praying about the opportunity to serve in England and hope God will open doors to go.

2. The leaders of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales. We hope they’re having a good rest after our trip, a good discussion about our possibility of serving there, and the wisdom on how best to lead the people in their flocks.

Thank you again for your prayers and support for our trip.

With much love in Christ,

Gateshead Group Photo

This is a group photo taken at Gateshead Presbyterian Church the Sunday we were there. I’m in the back on the right.