Though Monday was officially the start of my sabbatical, I arrived in London on Friday. I have mixed feelings about being here. I am grateful for and excited about starting my sabbatical. At the same time, it seems that in the last week a number of folks in the church have come down with COVID. And I am worried about them and the congregation. But part of the point of being on sabbatical is that I am supposed to let go my pastoral duties and focus instead on my scholarship. So, even though I am concerned I have been trying to focus on being here rather than there and trust that First Houston’s capable staff and Board have matters in hand.
I am in Oxford. My studies begin tomorrow with a trip to the Bodleian Library to get a reader’s card and then a visit to the Tate Library, of Harris Manchester College, where I will be spending most of the next two weeks. Since my research interest is in contemporary Unitarian theology, I am going to begin by reviewing the last couple of decades worth of the Inquirer, the major publication of the British Unitarians.
I spent my first couple of days in London, getting used to the time difference and decompressing. This mostly consisted of taking two very long walks through the city: one along the Regent’s Canal down to Spitalfields and the other up through Highgate Cemetery, East (where I visited the graves of Karl Marx, Eric Hobsbawm, and James Martineau) and then all around Hampstead Heath. Along the way I ate dinner at a favorite restaurant, St. John, and a pastry shop, Louise Patisserie, that I grew up going to.
Today, I attended the service at the Rosslyn Hill Chapel where I got to hear Helen Mason preach (she’s the Director of the Unitarian College) and then had lunch with two of the trustees from the Hibbert Trust. After that I caught the train to Oxford and well, that brings me to the present.
I will be updating this blog at least once a week with reflections on my studies and travels. One of my sabbatical projects is to make progress on my backlog of unposted sermons so I will also be posting several of them from time-to-time.