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July 12-14, 2002

Subject: England Trip - Letter #5
For Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 12-14, 2002
Dear friends,
I must say that these past three days have continued to make my trip here so very incredible. A new high point of my trip has been to meet my friend of several years, John Birch and his lovely wife of almost 30 years, Deirdre. We have become amazingly good friends via email. Just for a little background on the facts, John contacted me about three years ago via our church web site, because of what we said about music and worship. He inquired if St. Gabriel's might be in a position to help their parish financially sponsor a service of praise that they were organizing in Cape Town, South Africa. John is a church musician, organist and was the director of music at a parish church in Cape Town. He also taught music in school there for over 20 years. Rob, our rector at St. Gabriel's, was very supportive of this request and we verified his legitimacy through a church in the London area and happily wired some money to assist in the hiring of orchestral musicians for the service.
The praise service went very well and John sent me a recording of the music and I replicated CDs for many of you who wanted a copy. John has composed many pieces of music for Christian worship including hymn accompaniments, orchestral works, and choral works. He specifically dedicated a beautiful choral work to me and the choir at St. Gabriel's, which we have sung several times in the past three years. We continued to correspond and share many things from our lives. What we discovered is that we had many things in common, yet had never met each other. Toward the end of 2001 he and his wife came to the UK for a season of rest and long-range planning for their lives. Two of their daughters now live in southern England. Their 24 year old son, David, now lives just north of Miami and works in the information technology industry.
When I began writing John about a possible trip to England, he invited me (and Jill) to come and stay with them for a few days, so that we could become better acquainted. Jill did not make the trip over, but I looked forward to meeting them with great anticipation. On Friday I boarded the train to Bournemouth. (You have to call it "burn-muth" or the railroad ticket agent will have no idea where you wish to go, trust me.) John his wife and Kathryn (one of his daughters) met me at the train station. We then drove back to where they are staying in Ringwood. It is a lovely rural home that is being made available to them for some time at a modest cost through a friend. It is this home, Brambleside, where we have been together.
Friday evening was spent talking and talking and talking. Saturday morning we continued to talk but also went to the beach at Swanage. It was beautiful and had large white cliffs in the distance (much like the white cliffs of Dover fame). We toured around the area and rode an early British Rail steam locomotive for a distance of about 25 miles each way. There were real coal ashes and smoke as well as beautiful scenery. We could see them stoke the engine and for 99 pounds sterling one could have a turn "driving" the engine. I was not a taker of the offer this time. That evening we came back to their home and went to the little Methodist church just about 50 feet from their home. There, John played a number of his original pieces on their digital piano. He and I also played quite a few of my original compositions. It was fun to see some of the tunes that we both knew and some that only one of us knew. For example, John had no familiarity with "Coronation", the tune that we sing for All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name. He knew neither the tune nor the text. He also had a different tune for Holy, Holy, Holy. It was about 11pm and we headed off to sleep for the night.

Salisbury Cathedral taken from the North looking South
Here is a long shot of Salisbury Cathedral taken from the North looking South.
Today, Sunday was spent primarily at Salisbury. We drove about 17 miles up there and made it just in time for the 10am Choral Eucharist. Following that we stayed for another service of remembrance of those in the military that were serving from the area. It was a service that lasted from 11:30 until about 12:45. We then walked around the Cathedral grounds for some time. I viewed one of the three originals of the Magna Carta that is in residence here at the Salisbury Cathedral. It was signed in 1225 that granted certain rights to the citizens. We then walked to a lovely English Pub and had a great lunch of beef, authentic Yorkshire pudding and vegetables for a very reasonable price (about half of what it would have cost in London). The building that housed the pub was rather old by our standards in the US. It was constructed in the 15th century - mid 1400s before Columbus sailed over the pond. The ceilings were low as were the doors. I noticed that when you order food at a pub, they seem to want payment at the time or order, even before the order is carried to the kitchen.

John and Larry in front of the cathedral
John and Larry in front of the cathedral
At 2pm, John needed to return to the car to pick up our basket so that we could sit on the cathedral grounds and have some tea. If you did not know it, tea is THE drink here. They do mean hot strong tea. You cannot order iced tea very many places. After several days here of not having any, I began asking and restaurants seem to not know why anyone would want such a vile drink. I even stooped to enter McDonalds, confident that I could get it there. The lady seemed quite shocked that I would ask and assured me that they have no such beverage available. Anyway, we set down on the beautiful lawn in front of the Salisbury Cathedral and enjoyed some cookies and very hot tea. They left me, while I finished my cup and went into the cathedral at 2:45pm to secure good seats for us in the "quire" (choir) where we could be at the heart of Evensong worship. All three services were distinctive and wonderful. The first two had a choir of seven men and 18 young ladies that ranged from approximately 10-12 years of age. The evensong choir was the same seven men and boys that ranged from approximately 7-12 years of age. The choirs were distinctive and both absolutely amazing to hear. Their diction was just as clear as could be and their tone was equally beautiful There is nothing like cathedral music played and sung in such acoustics. The large Father Willis organ at Salisbury has those full principal stops and has that distinctively English character. The cathedral was constructed much more quickly than most. Construction began in 1220 and the eastern portion was finished that year. The balance of the entire cathedral was finished in 1258 - 38 years rather than the typical 200-400 years.
I was especially moved by the third sermon that I heard today. It was presented by the Dean of the Cathedral (senior pastor and generally the boss of the place). He preached on the importance of listening to God and that we could learn from all branches of Christianity. No one church has all the truth. I must say that was so refreshing to hear and I commented to John that he was, as we would say, "preaching to the choir." I think that much of my Christian teaching was focused so much on telling and proclaiming that I have missed golden opportunities to learn by listening to others. This certainly is an area where I desire to grow. I sometimes find ideas contrasting my ideas to be threatening, but want to be secure enough to be able to look into them and deepen my understanding of faith. Clearly we cannot embrace everything, but no idea should bring fear of missing the truth just for our examining it.
This evening we came back to their home and watched Songs of Praise on BBC4. This is a weekly television program of Christian music. It is recorded around the country in parishes of all sizes. Following that, we enjoyed sitting and visiting about many different subjects from life in South Africa to life plans for the future. I feel that meeting

John and Deirdre has been a great personal encouragement. As we have shared over the years our spiritual journey, it was wonderful to be able to interact in person and move quickly from parenting, music ministry, music composition, marriage lessons, personal theology and even to share some other very personal things. Deirdre is also a great person. She is both so very supportive of John and his music strengths and at the same time is her very own self with her own ideas. (Of course this sounds like someone that you all know who remains in Denver, working hard in her kitchen business and managing a household alone for two weeks.) I certainly could not be here without her unselfish sacrifices and support.
What a blessing to be with a family that has prayed for our music ministry and my family for several years. They wanted to know about all the major stress issues that we have faced over the past few years. To have the privilege of meeting them in person has only deepened our friendship for the rest of our lives.

Larry by the Charles Wesley organ at the Wesley Chapel in London.
Larry by the Charles Wesley organ at the Wesley Chapel in London.
Tomorrow I will return to London for next week and resume my composing as well as probably take in some of the better know seats of interest. I am glad to be able to send you these photo directly. I am on long-distance call back to the SoftWright office from John's home, which allows me to have much better internet email access than through the web café in London.
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