Wesley Foundation Students Sing at Wesley’s London Chapel
Students from Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin’s Wesley Foundations spent Spring Break on a Wesleyan Heritage Tour.
Not many college students can top a Spring Break story that involves providing special music in the historic John Wesley Chapel in London. Twenty-three current and former students from SFA and Texas A&M traveled with campus ministers Rev. Tom Teekell and Rev. Max Mertz for eight fast-paced days that began in London. “Students sang several songs in the John Wesley Chapel,” notes Tom, “which involved looking out on a very diverse audience, much more so than we typically see in United Methodist churches in America.”
According to Max, TAMU has been leading a trip to England every four years so that every Wesley Foundation student has the opportunity to go during their college years. Stops include tourist sites and those important to Methodist heritage including Aldersgate, Oxford University where John Wesley did his undergraduate work, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Some of the students’ favorite stops included Warwick Castle, Coventry Cathedral, and the London Eye Ferris Wheel on the banks of the Thames River. Notes Tom, “The students particularly enjoyed exploring the towers and structure of Warwick Castle.”
“We saw Stonehenge and went to Bristol to visit the birthplace of the Wesley Methodist Society,” shares Tom, “where the meeting house originated, and we also went to London where John Wesley spent his last few years preaching.” Additionally, the group visited Charles Wesley’s house and Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed by the Germans and rebuilt next to the original bombed-out structure. Adds Tom, “We also visited the home of Charles Wesley and attended a Wednesday night service at Central Methodist Church. One of the highlights for me was visiting the Eagle & Child Pub where Oxford professors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien sat and discussed literary ideas.”
Ben Sinclair, a Texas A&M former student and now Wesley staff member, recalls the trip to England his sophomore year and learning about John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. “I was inspired to see how Wesley and his ministry transformed into a ministry and lifestyle of fervor and zeal for spreading the gospel after the realization of an absence of a personal relationship with Christ in his own life.” Austin Caver, a Texas A&M sophomore and Civil Engineering major, particularly enjoyed the bus trips. “The places we went were really nifty. I liked the cathedrals a lot, but my favorite part was definitely traveling with everyone on the bus. We sang goofy songs, and really got to know each other when we were just hanging out.”
Shelby Slacalek, a sophomore theatre major from Stephen F. Austin University shares, “My experience in England was an absolute dream! God allowed this trip to help me learn so much about my faith and grow in my relationship with Him. Every aspect held a glimpse into our Heavenly Father's world. Being inside St. Paul's Cathedral left me pondering how great God's kingdom will be if this is simply our pale, human representation of His glory. I loved getting to be where Charles Wesley wrote so many of his hymns, and the idea that as Methodists we sing our theology as much as read it, fills my heart with an overwhelming joy because of my love of music.” Adds Shelby, ”By far my favorite part of the journey was traveling to Oxford, and getting to eat at C.S. Lewis' favorite pub and stand beneath his window where he finally accepted Christ. His books have impacted my faith and allowed me to grow closer to my Creator in ways I cannot describe, and for that blessing I will always be thankful. This trip came at the perfect time in my life, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for me next."
Fellow traveler Kaylea Fleming, SFA Senior Music Education major, calls the Wesley Heritage Tour an “incredible experience.” “Learning more about the founding of Methodism and visiting the places where John and Charles Wesley lived and worked made me feel more connected to the early church leaders whose work influences so many people today. Seeing these places gave me a much better understanding of who they were and the challenges they faced. By the end of the trip, I really felt the “great cloud of witnesses” from the past that run the race with us. The trip definitely reinvigorated my faith and solidified my connection to the Methodist church."
Adds Tom, “Shelby and Kaylea are attending the Candidacy Summit this summer to explore ordained ministry, and Kaylea will be a participant in the Conference Pastoral Internship Program this summer as well. Kaylea is currently the chairperson of the Wesley Foundation and our Prayer & Care Intern. Shelby is the worship chairperson at the Wesley Foundation and will be our Prayer & Care Intern starting in the fall because Kaylea is graduating.”
Days and evenings were packed full. Adds Tom, “Not a day went by that we didn’t see something related to our Methodist heritage.”