TRIP:I’ll Sing On–In England.



JULY 17-30, 2011

John Hall conducts performance
Dr. Parker in Wesley Chapel pulpit

Join other lovers of great hymns to sing on the sites where the great hymns were written in the countryside of England. Trip dates are July 17-20, 2011. Sign up by February 9 with your deposit of $400. The first 30 guests will make up our amazing sojourners.
Tour itinerary contains the main elements of this great book. Tour hosts are John and Jill Parker, who led the hymn site tour for Lipscomb to these places in June 2010. See link section.
Leading the singing will be master choral director John Hall, whose career of performance and study perfectly suits him to lead us along with his wife Freda.
Contacts: John Hall 615-714-8878; Jill Parker 615-373-4462

Dear Lovers of Great Hymns,

John and I are pleased and excited to offer for July of 2011 our second fine journey to sites in England where some of the most favorite hymns of the church were composed.  There have been many hymns written by believers to the glory to the Lord, but only a few hymns have stood the test of a century or more for their exquisite quality and their abiding ability to touch the hearts and souls of worshippers.

On the north coast of England, silhouetted against the gray sky and the dark sea, stand the ruins of Whitby Abbey. There, in the sixth century, a common sheepherder named Caedmon wrote the earliest surviving hymn in English. In the centuries following, men and women devoted to Christ have composed the lyrics of glorious  English hymns that for centuries and even today are sung across the globe. Generation after generation these hymns have inspired, uplifted,  and carried us through the tragedies and triumphs of our lives. Our tour will take us together to the sites of some of the finest of these hymns.

We take pleasure in escorting you, along with our co-hosts John and Freda Hall, to the sites photographed and described in John’s book Abide with Me—A Photographic Journey through Great British Hymns (2009). That title was chosen for the special hymn written at Torbay on the southern coast of England during the afternoon  just after Henry Francis Lyte finished preaching his last sermon. He knew that he would soon leave this  life, and in this hymn he prayed that his Saviour would abide with him at eventide and beyond.  Please come with us to sing his hymn in the very area where he wrote at eventide, and to other fascinating sites where the great hymns were composed.

Now let us tell you about us, your hosts, and describe our guide, our coach, and the excellent hotels we will enjoy. Then we will tell you just some of the highlights of our itinerary.

John and I teach at Lipscomb University where he has taught English for thirty years—notably Shakespeare—and where I am professor of chemistry. John is also an elder of the Granny White church and an interim minister for churches of Christ in our area when they are between regular pulpit preachers. In the summers 2007 and 2008 he joined with Dr. Paul Seawright, one of Britain’s foremost photographers and head of the school of photography at the University of Ulster in Ireland, to travel the width of England researching and photographing the sites of the great hymns. The result was their book Abide with Me: a Photographic Journey Through the Great British Hymns (New Leaf Press, 2009), now in its second printing with distribution of over 16,000 copies in America, Europe, elsewhere.  Subsequently, Lipscomb University chose to sponsor a tour to the hymn sites in 2010 based on the book.

John and Freda Hall are long-time friends of ours from our years at Freed-Hardeman University where my husband John taught from 1969-82 and where we still have many friends and beloved ties. John Hall was the founding conductor of Freed-Hardeman’s A Cappella Chorus and is one of the most experienced and noted choral directors in our Christian universities. In the last few years John has formed I’ll Sing On—, an  organization made up mostly of alumni of Christian university choruses.  Numbering over 300 singers and growing, they are give notable performances at the Schermerhorn in Nashville in 2009 and most recently at the December 2010 benefit dinner at Freed-Hardeman featuring President George W. Bush. John Hall will lead us in singing many of the great English hymns at the sites and churches where their composers lived (perhaps for the pleasure of groups appreciative local people who these days rarely get to hear them), as well as on the bus and wherever else is appropriate. You don’t have to be a veteran chorus member to enjoy this delightful experience, but you will greatly enjoy the singing and listening to the great hymns under John’s direction. Freda is our efficiency and etiquette consultant, having worked in the development office at Freed-Hardeman and conducted classes on etiquette for children and college students.

Your professional guide for the tour is especially good: he is Ian Godfrey, and true English gentleman and one of the senior guides at Westminster Abbey. Ian is a church history specialist and we especially requested him for this tour.  On the coach he will regale us with stories of the kings and queens of England and English history.

One of your best and most comfortable “friends” on your tour will be your modern and very comfortable coach and its friendly, highly-skilled driver. There will be relatively little walking on the tour except where you may choose to walk. In most places our driver will place us very near the old English church or other site we are visiting and call for us near our departure site. In the past some of our guests have been elderly and in delicate health but still enjoyed the trip immensely, almost always staying up with the group unless very rarely choosing to “sit this one out” for a quiet rest on the bus or a park bench. On the other hand, for those who like a brisk walk there are lovely garden, house, and city routes to really stretch your legs on in gorgeous surroundings.

A note here also  related to the coach. We will have a full-size coach with plenty of room and a good number of extra  seats. This is because we are limiting the tour to 26-28 guests, plus hosts and guide. We do this to provide plenty of comfort on the coach and to keep the group small so that we can move easily both at the sites and on the coach.  On our tour we travel to the real old England, which means country-side byways and quaint English churches and churchyards hundreds of years old. We take a relatively small group each time so that we can visit these quiet places efficiently and in good time. We received several compliments on this feature last year and will follow this policy again. So, please decide with your spouse or good friend to register early so that you will join with us!

The hotels are quite nice. Truth is, Jill and I rarely stay in hotels on this high a level when we travel on our own: but tour groups like ours receive exceptionally good rates, which allow us to reserve rooms in these fine hotels and still keep the price of the our down. Full English breakfast in the morning: do eat heartily, because usually we don’t stop at lunch for a sit-down meal: we grab a sandwich or other favorite carry-out meal in order to take full advantage of our time to enjoy the hymn sites and the lovely English countryside or to spend shopping. But in the evening about six, we arrive at one of these four-star hotels and enjoy a very fine dinner and a relaxing evening.

And now our itinerary. This is subject to some change and perhaps an occasional addition, but basically we will visit the following highly important hymn sites.

Day 1 Sunday, July 17

In the afternoon, following worship services, we fly out of Nashville overnight to Heathrow. (Please try to sleep,  because the next day, our first touring day, is full and exciting.)

Day 2, Monday, July 18

At Heathrow we meet Ian Godfrey and leave the airport about noon. We drive about sixty miles west to Hursley and All Saints Church, where if he is able we will met by vicar William Prescott.  All Saints is the church of John Keble (1792-1866), prominent Anglican priest, leader in the religious event called the Oxford Movement, and famed hymn writer who in 1820 wrote “Sun of My Soul.” We will gather around his grave near the door of the church to sing this hymn together—our first of many such events in our pilgrimage.

Then on to Winchester, eleven miles from Hursley, where we meet my friend Suzanne Foster, archivist at Winchester College, a 600-year-old school for boys which in many ways remains unchanged and is open to tours only carefully made arrangement. But Suzanne will personally take us in and give us her tour of what is a walk back in time. In important ways little has changed here in six centuries of careful education for the sons of British aristocracy. If you saw the Harry Potter movies you will feel like you are there. In the dining hall you will see the portrait of courageous preacher Thomas Ken, who was first a student and later a teacher at the school and was the author of the beloved “Doxology” (1673). An hour’s drive takes us to Southampton and a deluxe Southampton hotel for dinner and an early bedtime for our sleepy but  happy group at the end of a day at two major hymn sites.

Day 3, Tuesday, July 19

Southampton is one of this island’s most important ports for shipbuilding and departure. It was from here that the Mayflower sailed for America in 1620, and from here that on April the Titanic glided forth on its momentous voyage. In the city center park stands the statue of its most famous citizen, Isaac Watts, perhaps the greatest  of English hymnwriters. Four times a day chimes ring out across the city playing his hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past.” Most sites associated with Watts are gone now, but we will drive by the street on which he lived and while here sing for the first time what may be the greatest of English hymns, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

From Southampton we drive west to Lewtrenchard, the elegant mansion of the Baring-Gould family for centuries located in Devon near Dartmoor. Here lived Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), writer of “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Now the Day is Over.”  Please Google “Lewtrenchard” or see my book to get an idea of how sumptuous this country house is, now the equivalent of a five-star hotel. Here we will not only tour the house, but we will enjoy a genuine afternoon Devon cream tea in the grand style.

Next, on to Brixham on the Tor Bay off the English Channel. Here, after preaching the last sermon of his life, Henry Lyte walked by the ocean and watched the sunset as he had for twenty-seven years.  He then composed “Abide with Me”, a prayer for God’s presence as “the darkness deepens” and a hope for the time when “Heavn’s morning breaks.” We will stand on that same shore at sunset and sing together this favorite hymn of hope. We will spend the night in the hotel Berry Head, formerly Lyte’s personal home.

Day 4, Wednesday, July 20

This morning we drive through scenic Cheddar Gorge and visit the huge rock that is the traditional site of “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Toplady (1740-1748), singing that favorite of Christian hymns on the site. We also visit Cheddar, the producer of the famous brand of cheese. Then we’re to Bristol to tour the New Room, the headquarters of John Wesley. Here his brother Charles, along with Isaac Watts the greatest of England’s hymn writers, introduced many of his hymns, such as “Joy to the World!” and “Soldiers of Christ Arise”.  This evening  we drive north to Stourport.

Day 5, Thursday, July 21

 This morning we visit Astley church, the ministry of the father of Frances Havergal (1836-79), one of the most prolific and personal of women hymn writers. A fine musician and pianist and a devoted evangelist, she wrote “Take my Life and Let it Be” and “I Gave my Life for Thee.” We will be welcomed there by Rector Alan Norkett.

This afternoon we drive on to one of the most beautiful estates in England, Hodnet Hall. The Heber family has live here for almost a thousand years, and it was here that Reginald Heber (1783-1826) served as a minister for the church and wrote many hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  Rev. Charmine Beech will welcome us to the church where we will sing this and other hymns by Heber.  Our visit here will include the stunning forty-acre gardens of Hodnet Hall, among the finest in England.

Late in the afternoon we head due north into the Lake District to our hotel.

Day 6, Friday, July 22

The Lake District with its lakes and mountains presents of the most beautiful country in the world. Our first delightful visit is to the home of Beatrix Potter, creator of the Peter Rabbit stories. Today we see the best of the Lake District country, taking a short sail on Lake Windermere.  After singing here we will shop in the charming nearby village of Ambleside and spend a second night in the Lake District.

Day 7, Saturday, July 23

Today we ride to the community of Brathay and meet Janet Martindale of the Holy Trinity church. Here Dorothy Gurney (1858-1932) wrote a hymn for her sister’s wedding, “O Perfect Love,” which became the most popular wedding song in England and America for half a century.  Next we will visit Rydal Mount, home of poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy.  Then it’s on back south to Harrogate,  one of the region’s most handsome cities and home of the very fine Crown Hotel, our lodging for the next two nights.

Day 8, Sunday, July 24

This morning we have our worship service in a room of the Crown Hotel.  Then it’s a short drive  to ancient and scenic old York (namesake of our own New York).  Those who wish may attend the morning service in the magnificent cathedral, one of Britain’s finest and known for its beautiful stained glass windows. After lunch we tour the quaint and friendly town where you will have wide and fascinating choice of shops to explore and search for treasure to take back home. We return to the Crown for our second night there.

Day 9, Monday, July 25

On our way further south we stop at Northampton and visit Castle Hill church, the ministry of Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), a dissenting preacher and tireless worker who wrote a hymn for each Sunday sermon. One of these was “O Happy Day”. We hope to be met there by the pastor, Philip Morrison. Our next destination is one of the most famous of hymn sites, Olney in the Cotswold’s region. Here lived John Newton (1725-1807), writer of perhaps the most famous English hymn of all, “Amazing Grace”. Near his vicarage lived William Cowper ((1731-1800), writer of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”. We will tour the Cowper-Newton Museum, which occupies the house where Cowper lived, and have time to visit Newton’s church, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and Newton’s grave. This evening we travel to the university town of Oxford to stay the first of two nights at the Barcelo Hotel.

Day 10, Tuesday, July 26

Today we visit the Cotswold’s, the region famous for its sheep country and honey-colored stone houses. We will stop at Bourton-on-the-Water, one of the most charming of the countryside and the home of Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795), writer of “God is the Fountain Whence”. We will visit his church and grave, before our stimulating visit to Oxford and Lincoln College where Charles Wesley attended. We will have time for individual jaunts about Oxford and brief shopping (perhaps to the largest bookstore around, the famous Blackwell’s) and return to the Barcelo for the night.

Day 11, Wednesday, July 27

As we approach London we stop for a tour of Windsor, the fabulous castle residence of Queen Elizabeth II and many of her predecessors, to view its royal rooms and treasures. Many of the kings and queens are buried in the chapel here.  Then to London, one of the most famous and interesting cities of the world. We lodge for the next three nights at the Copthorne Tara in South Kensington. Those with energy left can enjoy walking through London’s famous streets and past world-famous sites, or perhaps even taking one of the guided night walks, ghosts or Jack the Ripper, take your choice.

Day 12, Thursday, July 28

Today we take a tour of London on our own coach. Ian, a senior guide at Westminster Abbey, will guide us through that matchless church where many monarchs have been crowned, married, and buried. William and Katherine will have had there April 29 wedding there just three months before our arrival. We will also visit the massive British Museum and also the British Library, which houses two of the three oldest manuscripts of the Bible. As one of the culminating joys of our tour, we will see a famous London musical tonight.

Day 13, Friday, July 29

Today is a free day for you to see London: sightsee, shop, walk past Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, or go to any of the other sights. We will offer advice on the most popular, and John and I will escort groups to selected places, such as art museums (National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate), the Tower of London,  or Hampton Court, country home of Henry VIII and other kinds on the outskirts of London. Tonight, if we are lucky, we may have tickets for the most energetic of us to attend Keeping of the Keys ceremony at late in the evening at the Tower.

Day 14, Saturday, July 30

Having visited many of the sites of the great Christian hymns we cherish so much, and having traveled over much of the most scenic, beautiful, and famous parts of England, we return home. We hope that you who are reading this letter will have been one of our group! Thank you for your interest. Please e-mail or call us with any questions. Most of all, bring you spouse or find a friend and come with us on this truly unique tour!


Jill Parker

Hall Parker Hymn Sites

Itinerary Hymn Site Trip 2011