We hated to leave York and talked about returning some day.
At Wilberforce House we expected to find a tribute to William Wilberforce.
Instead, we found a very large house with very little about Wilberforce. Most of the house was filled with exhibits designed to convince of the evils of slavery—as if we needed convincing.
There was little if anything about what motivated Wilberforce to devote his life to putting an end to this evil. Nor was there anything of substance about Wilberforce’s Clapham Group of world-changers who encouraged one another to live as Christian professionals, politicians, and businessmen and reform a corrupt culture.
From Hull, we drove to Durham. Durham’s city centre is a medieval remnant of Durham. Her streets lead away from an ancient church at the city centre. One street winds its way up a steep hill to a large open green upon which sits Durham Cathedral, our reason for coming to Durham.
On the drive from Hull to Durham The Wife had been reading to us from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. Bede told us about St. Cuthbert, King Oswald, and Lindisfarne monastery, and others who had shaped English history.
If it were not for Bede’s obedience to the Lord we would not know much of what we know about God’s hand in English history and the expansion of the kingdom of God there in the first seven centuries following the resurrection of King Jesus.
Within the cathedral we found the object of our pilgrimage, the tomb of our post-humous tour guide, the Venerable Bede. While we were talking about the tomb, one of the curators, with a badge denominating him a “Bedesman,” reminded us that this was a place of prayer and that people come from long distances to pray at the tomb of Bede.
“No,” I thought, “we are here for the history.” We are not spiritually disabled; we do not require a tomb, relic, or icon to inspire us to talk to God. We can pray wherever we are. And as venerable as Bede may have been he is not as venerable as Jesus, through whom we have access to the Father. However, I restrained my iconoclast, Puritan, reformed impulse to pick up a rock and break a stained glass window and instead politely nodded.
Before we left Durham Cathedral, we found Cuthbert’s tomb at the other end of the cathedral. Cuthbert’s tomb was the historical travel journal equivalent of a K-Mart blue-light special because Cuthbert’s tomb contained not only Cuthbert’s bones but King Oswald’s skull, or so we were told by a young Bedesman nearby. I chose to believe.