Thursday 2nd August

We left the Big Apple behind us on Tuesday morning and headed south to, well, The South. We took the main east coast interstate that skirted Baltimore and Washington DC to arrive in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States in the Civil War and those dark times still have an impact today. Monument Avenue has a number of statues of Confederate heroes and the city is involved in consultations concerning how to deal with them. The reason that these statues are controversial is that they were not erected in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, in order to honour those who fought. They were commissioned around 60 years later in order to emphasise that blacks still did not have equality with whites. This remains a contentious issue in a state where there have been recent white supremacist demonstrations and in a city which has a large population of blacks and a black mayor.

We visited an almost deserted shopping mall yesterday morning. I came across two fairly elderly couples sitting on comfy chairs in the middle of a concourse. Having struck up a conversation with them, they told me that they are ‘mall walkers’, meaning that before the mall opens they are allowed in to walk around the mall’s lanes to get their daily exercise. I made the assumption because of their age and that we were in the ‘Bible Belt’, that they would be church-goers and asked about their attitude towards politics and faith. One man said that he didn’t talk about such things, but then proceeded to talk about them. My church-going assumption was wrong as he and his wife are Jewish, but he added a new dimension to my sabbatical conversations. After 10 minutes I left them in peace. They were probably wondering why this weird man with a funny accent was asking them all these questions.

I’m now preparing for preaching on Sunday at Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown Kentucky. I’ve found out I’m to preside at communion – always slightly nerve-wracking in a different context, but what could possibly go wrong ….?

Wildlife update: Saw two hummingbirds at a feeder in a friend’s garden. I hadn’t realised how tiny they are: considerably smaller than the sparrows that seem to be abundant over here, as they were in the UK some years ago.