Postcards to Oxford: Hello from the Isle of Wight
June 11, 2012
Postcards to Oxford is an occasional series on this website, highlighting the research and professional development of Oxford faculty during the summer break. Here Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace describes his trip in May to the Isle of Wight, where he once served as pastor and where he was invited to preach and participate in events at an ecumenical center. Here is his postcard to Oxford:
I was the minister for five churches on the Ventnor section of the East Wight Circuit on the Isle of Wight (IOW) for one year, from 2002-2003. The program was a partnership between the British Methodist Church and the Methodist seminaries in the US. I was chosen to participate through a competitive selection process. I served Methodist churches in the villages of Ventnor, Niton, Godshill, Sanford, and Wroxall. Godshill Methodist Church is one of the oldest churches on the island, dating from 1790.
The IOW is about 13 miles from north to south and 26 miles east to west, with a population of about 130,000. It is a popular holiday spot for the British every summer-the population doubles in the summer, so tourism is a primary industry there. There's a world famous sailing event there every year in early August in the town of Cowes - called Cowes Week. The movie director Anthony Minghella is from the IOW and his family owns a famous ice cream place there. The IOW was Queen Victoria's summer home, a huge place called Osbourne House that one can tour. The queen loved it there, and it was here that she actually died. Her frequent presence there drew some famous people to the IOW to do their writing, people like Dickens and certainly Alfred Lord Tennyson. He wrote a lot of his works while walking along one of the downs on the island. It is named for him today, and a cross has been erected there in his memory. The Island also has Carisbooke Castle where Charles I was imprisoned during the English Civil War in the mid 1600s - when Oliver Cromwell ruled the country.
On this trip, I was invited to preach at the Priory, a place I had preached a couple of times when I lived there for my year. The Priory is an ecumenical House of Prayer for Christian Healing - sort of like a retreat center for the Isle of Wight. It has been around since the early 1990s and draws folks from all walks of life to it for various reasons. A lot of regular church folks will go, but it also draws many folks who won't dare enter a church for whatever reason. Every Thursday they hold an ecumenical worship service at noon followed by lunch. I had been invited to preach that Thursday service while there and on the day I preached, the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight (the Queen's representative for the IOW) was there - not for me but for other reasons. The Priory is staffed by a chaplain and then a couple of wardens who tend to the grounds and the building itself. After lunch on that day, Ami and I were able to sit and have tea with about 30-40 of my former church members. They caught us up on their lives, and we did the same. Ami and I were not together when I served there, so this was the first time for them to meet her and vice versa. And, of course, we got to share our big news with them too, which thrilled those Brits to no end!
The rest of trip was vacation - half the time on the IOW and the other half in London with friends. In London, I met with a former clergy colleague with whom I served on the IOW - he now pastors in East London.
Being back on the Isle of Wight, the place where I started my full-time ministry a decade ago, was special for me. It was even more important to introduce the place and the people to my wife Ami. It is a sacred place for me.