[Today’s post is by John H. Parker, co-author of the newly released book, Abide With Me, published by New Leaf Press. This account is from the travels of John and his co-author/photographer, Paul Seawright.]

One of the phenomena associated with going to world-famous places or the sites of world-famous elements like the great hymns is that when you get there, the place seems so, well, unfamous.

Broadhembury, England

Broadhembury, England

Broadhembury is quaint and charming, but so are a lot of English villages. What make this one famous is its association with Augustus Toplady, composer of “Rock of Ages.”

Broadhembury Church

Broadhembury Church

Somehow you expect the place associated with a hymn you’ve sung all your life to be, well, spectacular somehow. Not so this little church. Augustus may have composed his hymn in the cleft of a rock in nearby Cheddar Gorge. Or it may have been born out of his feud with John Wesley.

Whatever, the whole fame thing is comfortably mollified by a sign on the front of the church :

Welcome to St. Andrews Church, Broadhembury.

Please close the door on entering and leaving.

Birds fly in the Church and cannot get out.

Thank You.

Have a safte journey home.

Most famous people and their homes are pretty ordinary after all.

Broadhembury residence

Broadhembury residence

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[Today’s post is by John H. Parker, co-author of the newly released book, Abide With Me, published by New Leaf Press. This account is from the travels of John and his co-author/photographer, Paul Seawright.]

I like hiking and rocks as much as the next man, so Cheddar Gorge near Broadhembury, County Devon, England is appealing. Look closely and you can see mountain goats with hooves clinging precariously to the sides of near-cliffs. Helmeted rock climbers clamber over ledges, and the whole area looks like the American West’s version of wilderness.

In the midst of all this natural beauty is the most famous rock of all, the one that supposedly Augustus Toplady took shelter in sometime around 1776 when a storm caught him and his horse. The story goes that he found shelter in a slanting cleft in this 100-foot mass of stone during a rain storm. He there related the stone to the reference to Christ as the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) and the cleft to Jesus’ wound from which issued blood and water (John 19:34)) Hence he conceived the idea of his hymn, “Rock of Ages.” Supposedly he found a playing card there on which to jot down his original idea.

The story is questionable, but possible. More likely August conceived “Rock of Ages” as a vehicle for advancing his belief in grace that opposed his antagonist John Wesley. Nonetheless, we enjoy the scene and the ambience. Jill stands by the cleft to give perspective as I take some pictures. Meanwhile Paul is taking the photos that really count. I reflect that preachers and hymn writers of the era were both hardy and original.