Even the cold and drizzle of a February afternoon weren’t enough to dampen Ben’s passion and enthusiasm for his topic as he led us from St Paul’s Cathedral to the church where Newton preached, to the place where Wesley’s heart was ‘strangely warmed’ and he discovered the difference between a gospel of works and the gospel of grace.
I’d been on a similar tour before, and I know those streets and their stories reasonably well, but in the hands of a Virgo they took on a vibrance that made them fresh and compelling in a whole new way.
I went with two friends, and we each resonated with a different theme of the stories. For one it was the theme of the ‘river’ of faith that has flowed from the earliest times through believer after believer – one hero of the faith looking to another and he or she to another for examples and encouragement in the challenges of their day.
For my other companion, the strongest lesson was that though many of the men and women we learned about changed the world, that wasn’t what they set out to do. They simply dug deep, deep roots into God and their relationship with him, and through that, and their obedience to do their little bit, the task he put before them, God was able to bring incredible fruit. But it was always about relationship – they sought God and his glory, not great outcomes.
The thing that struck me – perhaps because it has been a theme of my thinking for the past year or so – was that this devotion to God, digging deep into him, always led to care for the poor, the sick, the prisoner and the outcast, whether in large ways or small. From St Bartholomew’s church and hospital to Elizabeth Fry to Lord Shaftesbury, loving God meant loving ‘the least of these’. Though again, the order is important – their hearts were captivated by God, and then they joyfully did what their hands found to do.
If you’re going to be in London and have a couple of hours to spare, I can’t recommend the tours highly enough. You need to book in advance, via the Christian Heritage Tours website. Other guides besides Ben are available, but I can’t vouch for their passion or their sense of drama!
This post first appeared on Think Theology.