Members who attend ESU Annual Conferences are urged to bring what they experience back to the leadership and members of their own Branches. At the 2013 Seattle conference, former Lexington Branch President and National Board Member Joy Harris went way beyond this admonition. She invited the Conference's main Speaker, The Rev. Dr. John Hall, Dean of Westminster, to include Lexington, VA in his next US tour to present his richly illustrated talk about Westminster Abbey's past and future to the Branch members. Branch President Rose Gordon enthusiastically seconded the invitation and, working with Joy and Valerie Humphrey, the Director of the Westminster Abbey Foundation, they planned a March 18 program and reception at Moody Hall on the Campus of Virginia Military Institute (VMI). More than 100 members and guests attended the event to hear Dean Hall and to meet ESU Chairman Josiah Bunting and his wife, Diana, who had been invited to return to Lexington for the event. An alumnus of VMI and former Superintendent, Mr. Bunting was pleased to come back to the community that had been so pivotal in his own life. Author and educator, Mr. Bunting mused that the English professors who had sparked in him a lifelong interest in the written and spoken language might be surprised that their earnest student was returning as the head of one of the most important and prestigious guardians of the language, the English-Speaking Union. Mr. Bunting's visit to Lexington was one of many Branch and Regional visits since his election in June to meet ESU members and share his vision of the ESU's future.
Dean Hall regaled members with stories of Westminster Abbey's place in the life of Britain since 960. As a 'Royal Peculiar,' the Abbey is responsible directly to the Sovereign, exempt from ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and exists to serve as a place of worship and education, to serve the Sovereign and to offer a warm welcome to more than a million visitors and pilgrims each year. The Abbey has been the site of every coronation since William the Conqueror in 1066 and of sixteen royal weddings, most recently, of course, the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Its 3000 tombs and 600 memorial monuments comprise a pantheon of Britain's cultural, political and scientific history. Since becoming Dean in 2006, Dr. Hall has initiated projects that will help the Abbey serve its mission more effectively starting with the building of an education center. In the next year, the Abbey's first major addition since 1745 will get underway: the re-purposing of the Abbey's triforium level, a huge medieval space 70 feet above the Abbey's nave floor, into the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The space features magnificent views into the Abbey itself as well as London and the Houses of Parliament and will provide extensive exhibition space for treasures from the Abbey's collections that have never been displayed before. Lead funding for the project is from the American Fund for Westminster Abbey and more information is available on the project: Click Here
Dean Hall's presentation was a huge success, providing Lexington Branch members with an insider's view of the place that has been host to the living pageant of British history for over a thousand years. The event showcased the ESU to a number of potential members and generated a full page story in the local paper highlighting the Branch's educational and cultural activities.
The event drew members, guests and the media. Click Here to read the article in the The Weekender.
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