I got to revisit Oxford after over a year and loved it just as much the second time. I was primarily in Oxford because I was attending a Fusion conference called Firebrands from Thursday to Saturday, but since I remembered loving the city last time, I purposefully arrived a day early to walk around a little bit with some friends of mine.
Our bus dropped us off within sight of The Eagle and Child pub, which (you might remember from my previous Oxford post) was the home of the original Rabbit Room, where Tolkien and Lewis and the rest of the Inklings frequently spent time together.
There happened to be a super cute coffee shop right next door which was an essential stop due to our 5am wake up call. (Gotta love 7am buses on the other side of town! Woot!)
We ended up spending a few hours reading in that particular spot because I mentioned to Mollie and Ros that I needed to stop by The Eagle and Child before we left. The pub didn’t open until 11 so we waited for an hour or so next door with books, coffees, and chocolate croissants. Literally the perfect way to chill after a 3-hour bus ride.
You see, my family has been members of The Rabbit Room for several years now, and the community chose a book in The Eagle and Child for other members to sign if they ever found themselves in Oxford, and ever since this hidden gem was mentioned a couple years ago, I knew I wanted to find it.
The previous year I visited Oxford for a day and wasn’t sure which book it was, and I eventually left without finding it. When I heard that the conference I was attending this year was going to be in Oxford, I figured I might have a second shot at finding it. And this year, I did my homework and knew it was going to be a Sherlock Holmes book.
At 11 I ran next door and spotted it on one of the bookshelves above a corner table. Being not far above 5′ made it rather difficult to reach, so I ended up asking the guy behind the bar to bring it down for me. Success! It was super fun reading through the notes of everyone else who had passed through here, and I got contribute another which was super fun and somewhat humbling.
Mollie and Ros were super patient as well (shoutout. y’all are awesome.) and let me wander and take photos and point out super nerdy fun facts about some of the paintings, quotes, and photos scattered around. It’s just a fun place to hang out when you know some of your favorite authors used to hang out there, ya know?
After that we wandered and went around exploring Oxford a bit more, stopping by the Ashmolean Museum and the Tolkien exhibit at the Weston Library.
(Funny story. I was so excited that I genuinely didn’t see the 42 million NO PHOTOS signs everywhere and almost got kicked out. But I think the security guy saw my scared and very repentant face ,and he let me stay and see the rest of the exhibit. Thank you sir!)
We also ran into more friends who were in town for the conference. I ended up having a really nice cream tea at one point (and there were NO RAISINS in the scones, HALLELUJAH).
We ended up spending more time back in the Green Cafe (the coffee shop we started in when we first arrived) before getting a bus to the home we were staying in that night. (Their berry smoothies were delicious.)
On the first day of the conference we actually had some time to wander around some more in the morning, and got to stop by the Radcliffe Camera, see Christ Church College (I was a very happy harry potter fan then), and walk along the Thames.
The conference was beyond amazing. It consisted of three days full of main teaching sessions, smaller group seminars, a variety of speakers, a fantastic worship team, and prayer. These people came from all over Europe (and some from the States) and are passionate about student mission and connecting students on university campuses to local churches, and there is something really special and powerful about praying and worshiping side by side with people who long for Jesus and aren’t afraid to let that show.
We were challenged to take consecration seriously and not let the world define our standards of holiness and being set apart. We were reminded to go back to the basics and keep the cross at the center of all that we do because that is where all power is. We got to learn about the impact small groups make in the lives of students who are a little afraid to try church on Sunday mornings. We prayed to steward Holy Spirit fire well, fanning the flames with praise and prophetic worship.
We were reminded that fear and being self-conscious have no place in our mission. That Dignity is not a currency that Heaven accepts, so there’s no need to go around being so scared of looking a bit silly. We were called to keep the fire alive when we return to our workplaces, to stay set alight, spreading the mission onward. To see lives changed and always keep drawing people in, closer and closer. To introduce them to our King.
There was so much that went on over those days, it would be way too much to type here. And I honestly doubt that I could do it justice anyway. But I can say that God was present and alive and on the move, and I wish the conference had lasted a lot longer than 3 days.
I am so excited to see what all the Firebrands get up to as they scatter all over Europe and set fires blazing.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about Fusion and want to get behind their mission their website is: https://www.fusionmovement.org/
All in all, I’m 100% grateful that I got to spend so many days in Oxford full of amazing teaching, worship, and community, and I wish I could spend every weekend that way!
Did you see the post I wrote about Oxford from my previous visit?