Summary: This sermon was given on the radio in Manningtree, England as a conclusion to the year I spent in ministry there in the Methodist Church. It speaks of the experience of living in a foreign country and how that is similar to becoming a Christian...having
Good morning. I am Rev. Curtis Goforth, and I am currently serving as the minister of Manningtree Methodist Church. As my accent doubtless betrays, I am not from Essex. I am from just outside the city of Charlotte in the state of North Carolina in the US. North Carolina is located on the southeast coast of the US, about midway between Atlanta and Washington D.C. My wife Jennifer and I have been in Manningtree for just under a year, and as you can imagine there are many differences between life in North Carolina and life in Manningtree.
As an American Methodist minister living and serving five rural Methodist churches here in the Manningtree area, I have encountered a number of strange and wonderful customs. Most notably, it seems that everyone drives on the wrong side of the road here. I haven’t had the time or the avenue to tell everyone about their terrible mistake, but so long as everybody drives on the wrong side, I guess we will all be OK. The Methodist circuit has provided me with a wonderful car to use during this past year and I feel as though the car and I have become good friends, after a slightly shaky start. You see, I was accustomed to driving much larger vehicles that have automatic transmissions; so I not only had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car, but I also had to learn to drive a manual transmission. So I would like to take this time to apologize to everyone on the roads who ever got stuck behind a white Volvo that I just couldn’t seem to make move. And, I think just to make my new life in England more difficult, someone invented these crazy things called roundabouts. This is pure conjecture, but are they named “roundabouts” because the road designers were all sitting in a pub somewhere and came up with the idea after round-a-bout 7 pints of IPA?
Well, after losing about a stone from all the walking I did since I couldn’t drive the car, I thought the new things I would have to adjust to were over; that is, until I was invited over to someone’s home for a meal. We had a lovely roast dinner and for the pudding our host brought out a large bowl full of something called “sherry trifle.” If the British had sent sherry trifle to Boston harbor instead of tea, there may have never been a Revolutionary War. Sherry trifle is just outstanding. So, after consuming every last bit of the portion I was given, I had to ask what was in it and how it was made. I was told that you soak a sponge in sherry. I had no idea that a particular type of cake was called sponge cake, so I assumed that “sponge” was the material one uses to assist in the washing up. Luckily I never tried to make sherry trifle myself out of alcohol-soaked washing up sponges.
Well, driving and food out of the way, I thought that it would be easy sailing from here on out and that I would have no problem adjusting to living in my English house. I had been in the house for about two weeks when I realized that the grass was getting a little tall and needed mowing. So, I went to the garage to find the lawn mower. I searched the garage over, but I couldn’t find anything that looked like a lawn mower. So, I called Graham Potter, the circuit steward, and he told me that I actually had two in the garage. I went back out to have one last look before pronouncing him mad, and I still saw no lawn mower. I told Graham that there were no lawn mowers but for some odd reason it looked as though there was an orange floor buffer. I never thought I would see an electric hover mower that had no wheels and didn’t use petrol! I have never had such a good time mowing grass before.
However, by far the hardest thing to get my mind around while living here has been the change of currency from dollars to pounds. During the eight years I spent in school to be a minister, I had put on a few pounds. And, since there are so many wonderful public footpaths around, Jennifer and I would take our dog Brodie on regular walks. I had hoped these walks would help me shed a few of the pounds I had accumulated over the years. In fact, I was getting very serious about losing some weight. I had even started praying about it. I had asked God to help me to lose the pounds and God answered my prayer. I learned that prayer really works…however, I also learned that when you ask God for things in prayer, you have to be very specific. I lost several pounds, just none from my body, the pounds I lost all came quickly off my current account. Everything here is so expensive if you convert the price from pounds to dollars. Nonetheless, I soon learned a different value for my money. I just had to learn to think about the value of my money differently.