My wife and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in Europe – a portion of this trip being spent in London. Honestly, I enjoyed these weeks abroad and had intended to find my inspiration in writing romantic poetry and enjoying the cuisine, the sights, the people, but purely by happenstance, I encountered John Wesley in London at several turns.
On our first day in London, while hastening across the street opposite Westminster Abbey, I suddenly looked up and noted a rather inauspicious building, but beautiful in its own right, bearing the name Methodist Central Gathering. Outside, a large contingency of Salvation Army officers were milling about for what appeared to be their own version of annual conference. I quickly explained the connection of the Salvation Army and Methodism to my wife and she said, “Why don’t you introduce yourself.”
I answered, “You mean, just walk up and say, ‘I’m a Methodist pastor from the States?’ They’ll think I’m a hick.”
“You are a hick,” she said.
I made my way over to two Salvation Army officers who were engaged in a conversation about sausages. ”Hi,” I said, “I’m a Methodist pastor from the States and was wondering about your gathering here.”
“A Methodist you say!” one of the gentlemen said beaming. ”What a blessing! This is our annual service of consecration,” he explained, ”And we’ve got thirty right snappy candidates this year.”
“These would be people to be ordained then?” I asked.
“Oh, well, I do suppose you Methodists would call it that,” the other fellow said jovially.
Later, I attempted to join the procession of Salvation Army officers as they entered for worship, but was denied at the door because I didn’t have a badge.
I returned the following morning, a Sunday, and had my photo taken standing beside a life-size statue of John Wesley inside the foyer of the Methodist Hall. Wesley, by the way, just happened to be a wee little man. But then, he was a spiritual giant.
The following day, again purely by happenstance, I enjoyed a conversation with a Londoner who noted that Methodists were regarded as “those kind, gentle people of England who do so much good.” She also pointed out a small garden that stood adjacent to Saint Paul’s Cathedral (second largest church building in the world, St. Peter’s in Rome being the largest). Here, in this garden was another statue of Wesley and a plaque recognizing the contributions of John and Charles Wesley to the spiritual legacy of England.
Finally, a few hours later, as I was walking through the streets of London with my wife looking for a decent pub that served fish and chips, I happened to look up and noted that I was walking down Aldersgate Street. Then it began to rain. Typical London weather, perhaps – but warming.
I never did write any romantic poetry in London, but I did feel a bit closer to my own heritage there. And I did feel a sense of pride and connection when that one Londoner told me that Methodists were regarded as those “kind and gentle people who do so much good.”
I hope you and I can do all the good we can, to as many as we can, in as many ways as we can, for as long as ever we can in our own communities. I think Mr. Wesley would be proud of those efforts. Even in America.
Todd Outcalt is the author of thirty books, including Where in the World We Meet (poems), Husband’s Guide to Breast Cancer, and his latest title, The Other Jesus. He also contributes regularly to Preaching, YouthWorker, and Midwest Outdoors magazines and has more than 500 photographs of his adorable wife standing beside statues in Ireland, London, Venice, Florence, Rome and the Isle of Capri. Wanna see ‘em?