Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Oxford Institute Day 5-Look Kids, Big Ben, Parliament

Can't help but say it every time I see Westminster. Hey look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!

That said, there is a heck of a lot inside. We had a fascinating tour of the Parliament building. Beginning the Westminster Hall which is just an amazing place (you know they have found tennis balls in the rafters dating from Henry VIII!). We took the tour of the House of Lords, were shut out of the House of Commons due to some commotion. But we did meet a member of the House of Lords (his line..."You ever met a Lord before"...the response of one of my Baptist friends (tongue fully in cheek)..."Certainly, I know my Lord").

In so doing it was further brought home the folly of Charles the First, who thought his positional authority would simply give him leadership. So he stormed into the Parliament hall (House of Commons) and demanded the heads of five members. Luckily for them, they had sailed down the river to safer environs. Charles threw down the speaker of the house, who then rose up and, citing the Magna Carta, told Charles he had no place there and needed to back down.

Confronted, the bully did back down. Ran off to Oxford and eventually was brought back to Westminster by Cromwell, tried in Westminster Hall and ultimately beheaded in 1649. As a result, since that day, the Queen or any other Sovereign ruler of the UK is not permitted to go any farther than the House of Lords. The followers spoke up and the leaders were changed. Good example of Followership on display. After the tour and our meeting with the Lord (who actually is part of a trend, he started in the House of Commons and was appointed a Lord later. The House of Lords is being systematically depleted in membership overtime to make room for more commoners as England grows and modernizers) we headed over for some touring of Westminster Abby.

What a beautiful church. But basically a graveyard inside. What a sad place in so many ways for Kate and William to be married. Unless of course, you consider the role of tradition and position in the royal line and that sense of being part of something greater than yourself. When you are in a building, begun in 1065, that has been the site of every coronation since 1065 in the British Realm, you are humbled. While certainly monarchy revolves around the concept of the Great Man, it also is an authentic part of the British identity and the sense of who they are. Authentic Leadership requires this clear self-assurance.

No photos are allowed in Parliament or the Westminster Abby, so I leave it to you to Google some if you are interested. However, a couple high points for me (other than all the graves of the monarchs, you know what I think of royalty) were...
1) the grave of William Wilberforce, great advocate against the slave trade.
2) the grave of Charles Darwin, not the enemy of religion many think, but a great inquisitive mind.
3) the temporary grave of George Peabody, a native of Danvers, MA. Not a Harvard man in the pure sense, but a great philanthropist of the natural sciences, including the Peabody Museum and the Peabody hotel in Memphis is named for him. Interred briefly in Westminster before returned to Danvers via the HMS Monarch. He was also a Unitarian for those scoring at home.
4) the memorial to Florence Nightengale in which her husband is attempting to beat back the coming scourge of death from this young mother.
5) The grave of Elizabeth the First who is buried with her half-sister Mary the First. Divided by faith in this life, they have been put to rest together with this inscription on their tomb. "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection."
6) and finally, on the west entrance, the statues of the martyrs of the 20th century. I must admit, I don't know all their stories, but I do now and so should you...
 Of course for me, the most profound of these stories are the ones I know. Clumped together as they are. Dr. King, Bishop Romero and Dr. Bonhoeffer. All three champions of the faith in the midst of oppression and violence. Undeterred in their work. Certainly deeply flawed leaders. Yet, they are rightly remembered in this place and in this prominent place. Millions pass by these statues each year. I can only hope they take the time to learn these stories as I pray you will.
From Westminster we headed over to the Churchill Museum. This is housed in the War Rooms under a government building near Parliament. It was here, in this fortified room that Churchill and his staff worked throughout the Blitz from Sep. 1940-May 1941. They prepared for an invasion, kept the spirits of the people alive by casting a Vision of success and hope in the midst of trial. Below is the meeting room in which they held over 150 meetings during the blitz.

Below is a picture of Churchill and a quote of his which I think is important for leadership, especially authentic spiritual leadership. You must know who you are, but you also must hope that you can be used for great things, that you might glow with a light. Churchill was not a religious man per se. But I believe he understood that he was gifted for this time and place and he, warts and all, worm and all, was to glow with light.

This so contrasts with the theology of "being a worm" that I remember hearing in seminary from some of my colleagues. The "I am a worm quote" from Psalm 22 being twisted into a sort of pseudo humility and frankly, used as an excuse for mediocrity. Instead, we should claim that we are that, but that the light of God in us calls us to glow, and glow brightly!!! Thanks be to God that Churchill stood firm and cast his visionary leadership in the midst of darkness.
 The day ended on a fun note. We took the rail into Paddington Station (again, why no rail in the states! 125 mph we went today, less than an hour from London to Oxford, argh!!!). And of course in Paddington station there is a shop about a certain bear from Peru who was once found there. I think a little toddler in the states might be meeting such a bear soon. I hope we have enough Marmalade in the house. We shall see...

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