Our first excursion in London was to the prime meridian (left) and then on a boat ride down the Thames (right and below). Regulations require that certain historic and significant buildings retain a clear line of sight to the river, so a boat ride is a perfect way to see it all and determine what more you'd like to explore further. At right is the Tower Bridge, and below is the Tower of London, Big Ben and Parliament, the London Eye, and, fourth below, Big Ben and Parliament yet again.
We next took in some sights on land such as Buckingham Palace (left), the National Gallery (right), and British royal guards (first below). The first two nights in London we were fortunate to stay with my friend Adrian Warnock, a Christian speaker and blogger. Staying with his wonderful family in a traditional London suburb was a blessing (pictured 3rd and 4th below). They were a treasure trove of British hospitality and offered a lot of deep insight into British culture.
Eventually we made our way to the crown jewel of British churches - Westminster Abbey. Since the coronations in 1066 of both King Harold and William the Conqueror, virtually every English and British monarch has been coronated here, and a significant number have been buried there as well. Here, as in all churches we visited, I could not get past the striking reality that these elaborate, beautiful houses of Christian worship now resided in a largely cynical, non-believing land. 62% do not believe in God.
Why do Britain and America differ so much on fundamental matters of faith when we are so closely aligned on so much else? Many will point to humanity's perversion of the Christian faith which is evident everywhere in Britain - worshipping man-made ideas, corruption, egotism, and countless interfaith wars in the name of Christ.
Yet I think, perhaps, that part of the divide stems from the legal establishment of religion. In America churches compete for adherents in a free market. In Britain, however, the crown and government has mandated the official church and beliefs. Over time church leaders focused less on God and more on power, status and tradition. In essence, the official church took God out of the equation. As Adrian Warnock noted, if the pastor doesn't really believe what he's preaching, why bother going to church?
Carson's friend Garth, a fellow Hoosier who now teaches in London, introduced us to his friend Josh, and together they were kind enough to act as tour guides at the British Museum, a few local bars, and on a walk along diplomatic mansions in the St. James's district in the West End of London. The museum had incredibly interesting pieces, in part because of Britain's tendency to simply take what it wanted from occupied or defeated countries during the height of its empire.
The next day we once again met up with friends, this time Maggie and Ella and their group of friends. Carson and I first made the acquaintance of Maggie and Ella, both medical students, in Zanzibar during our African Adventure last fall and have kept in touch ever since. Carson kicked off the evening with a gool ol' American country song, and then we set out for supper, the bars, and dance clubs, all pictured left, right and below. Of course, we shared some drinking games, too.
We ended our stint in London with another stroll through various parts of the city. The first and second pictures below were taken inside the Tower of London, which houses the royal crown jewels. The third picture features Shakespeare's famous Globe Theatre, and in the fourth picture the Millenium Bridge stretches toward the Tate Modern Museum.
London, of course, is a wonderful city and we enjoyed it. But our time there would soon come to end, Carson would head back to the States, and Rick and I would fly up to Scotland. Click here for more on our Scottish excursions.