Every October my brother and I make a bit of a pilgrimage to London for the day. The cause for our heading to England's capital is the Evangelist's Conference, organised by The Good Book Company, and hosted at All Souls Langham Place. Each year we have been impressed by the organisation and calibre of this conference, and have been left inspired by speakers such as Christopher Ash and Tim Keller.
We caught the 615am flight from Belfast to Stansted, and having caught the train to Liverpool Street, we grabbed a bite of breakfast in The Royal Exchange. This is a fascinating building, whose history can be found here. The food wasn't as costly as the surroundings suggested and we felt well fueled for the morning ahead. One of the amazing features on the front of this great building was an inscription from Psalm 24. How many places of commerce built today would carry this text, even in the face of the humbling 'credit crisis' which is being faced right across the country?
We arrived in All Souls just in time for the beginning of the conference. Rico Tice spoke in his introduction of the sufficiency of God's Word for God's work, and then introduced the speaker, Ian Garrett of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The theme was 'Outrageous Grace' and the speaker took Romans as a model for evangelism. Without getting into a detailed critique of the message or the messenger we were quite disappointed in the content of what was shared.
Feeling underwhelmed by what we had heard in the early stages of the conference, we made a joint decision to head into London and follow up another couple of interests which we had hoped to enjoy in the afternoon after the morning sessions. Having grabbed some refreshments we caught the Tube to Baker Street and went to the Evangelical Library in Chiltern Street. This is a location which I have wanted to visit for some time, and my interest had been further kindled over the past few months while reading the second volume of Iain H. Murray's biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (a review of which will appear here in the near future). The library is located on the top floor of a fairly old building, and the stairwell was populated by a mass of Australian painters who were engaged in what looked like an endless task of painting every square inch of wall. They were remarkably cheerful men who obligingly descended their ladders to let us pass. The library carried all of the dusty charm that I had hoped it would. Having deposited our bags and signed in on the visitors book we allowed more than an hour to slip by while we browsed the shelves of what seemed like an endless catalogue of Christian literature. Most moving of all were the volumes located in the reference sections, with titles dating back to the 17th century. We spent some time looking at a volume of farewell sermons preached by those caught up in the Great Ejection of 1662 - expository, personal, and steeped in pathos. As I walked through the library I thought of the humble beginnings of the library's work, and the tremendous encouragement that it has proven to be to more than a generation of Gospel workers. I'm now pondering the workability of making use of the library while in Peru. Our overwhelming conviction on leaving the library was how great a spiritual heritage we possess within the Protestant tradition, and how untapped this largely is within modern evangelicalism.
Our journey through London then passed from the sublime to the ridiculous, as we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at (you guessed it) 221B Baker Street. Both my brother and I are huge fans of Conan Doyle's fictional detective, and it was a really enjoyable experience to peruse the vast (and vastly overpriced) memorabilia for sale in the museum shop, followed by a tour of a faux Sherlock Holmes home.
Having enjoyed lunch we headed to Waterstones Picadilly and were astounded at the sheer range of books and quantity of stock. This was promptly followed by a quick Tube ride to Harrods, where we got some treats for our daughters. We then made a valiant attempt to find the Protestant Truth Society's bookshop on Fleet Street (admittedly we even failed to find Fleet Street!), before making a death or glory run for our train (which we missed) and then for our flight (which we only just caught).
This was a special day, given the fact that this is the last time in a long time that my brother and I will make this pilgrimage. While the conference was a serious disappointment, everything else about the day was enriching and a blessing.