Feature: VDS Student Jonathan Edward Carle

Every two years, Dr. Douglas Meeks leads students on an immersion trip to England. The trip involves extended stays in Oxford, Bristol and London and is concentrated on the Wesley historical sites. British church historians and church leaders lecture on Wesleyan and Methodist history and the group visits sites of contemporary British Methodist ministries to the poor. This immersion experience can be used for academic credit, either as United Methodist Worship (with some additional coursework) or as a Global Immersion and used for Field Education. The England trip is open to all students interested in Wesleyan heritage.

2013 England Trip by Jonathan Edward Carle

Jonathan at the martyrs memorial in Oxford which commemorates the execution of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, by Queen Mary.

England was a place I had heard about and dreamed about my whole life. Growing up in Canada, which was still “The Dominion of Canada” until 1867, England occupied my imagination. To go to England and experience not just the culture of the Church but the culture at large was an extremely interesting and moving experience. When one touches ground in a foreign country, there is always the discrepancy between what one has dreamed and the reality. This trip exceeded my imagination.

Sarum College in Salisbury was our base of operations and where we spent the bulk of our trip. Some might not think that being in residence in one spot is the best way of visiting a country, but it allows a rich encounter with the daily rhythm of life in a particular place. Salisbury is admittedly nothing like Oxford or London, and does not give a broad perspective of life in England, but for the sake of our trip, remaining in Salisbury over the course of a week provided a profound historical perspective on the cultural, agricultural, religious, architectural, and culinary identity of a country deeply connected to its past.

This is perhaps the single most remarkable thing to me, coming to Great Britain as a North American: the city where we were staying was nearly four times older than the United States of America. The relative youth of our own country was highlighted by a sense of the communal memory of a people who have been working, living, and worshipping in the same place since the early thirteenth century. I was struck by the fact that regardless of whether I take it upon myself to become aware of it or not, I would not be working and living and worshiping where I do today if these people had not been here.

Thinking liturgically for a moment, the Sarum rite of the Cathedral in Salisbury in the late thirteenth century is the basis for the Eucharistic service that Thomas Cranmer uses in his Book of the Common Prayer, 1549. The 1662 version of this volume is what John and Charles Wesley—and the whole Church of England—would have said, sung, and heard on a weekly basis at the local parish. This liturgy is still used by my own congregation, West End United Methodist. As we say the prayers and gather for the Sacrament the same way our spiritual forebears have been doing for eight hundred years, I experience a potent sense of identity and a hopeful, exhilarating feeling that we, after all these centuries, are keeping the faith.

On the surface, the few sights, sounds, and smells of a ten-day trip may seem quite ordinary when compared with the wonders of human civilization, but the daily prayer and sacramental celebration of the Church is at the very heart of the civilization that has formed my identity and imagination. There is no greater richness or realization than to have an experience which teaches me to understand who I am, and that I, like Brother Kenneth, Father Ed, Reverend Doctor Meeks, Reverend Wesley, Archbishop Cranmer—and all the others through the ages—even I may offer myself with gladness and rejoicing to the ethical mission and sacramental life of the Apostolic Church, confident that God’s reign of mercy and justice is indeed coming upon the earth. The feelings that linger from my brief encounter with England, the Church, and her people, is one of gratitude, recognition, and, above all, doxology:

We Thy saints do praise Thee
While the night is falling,
As at dawning so at even,
Drawn to our high calling.

Simple speech at sunset,
Quiet prayer together:
Thou our cov’ring be til morning,
Thou our life forever.

Be this night an ending
Or rest deeply given,
All in all Thy grace sustains us
On earth as in heaven.

Truth is in Thy mercy;
Mercy crowns Thy Being.
May this truth reign under starlight
Til we wake from sleeping.

“Evening Hymn”
Sarum College, 20 May 2013

View of Salisbury Cathedral from the West entrance the whole length of the building to the Eastern wall (blue windows)
Salisbury Cathedral from the lawn of Sarum College