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Church exchange chance to learn and grow for all

Trading spaces and swapping cultures isn’t a reality show for the Rev. Jane Kempster of St. Luke’s Episcopal and the Rev. Arthur Harris of Salisbury Cathedral Close in England.
“The great advantage of exchanging through the channel of the church, as opposed to just going somewhere on holiday, is the fellowship of the church itself,” said Harris, retired Church of England priest.
“We can exchange our own homes, too, with confidence and the trust involved makes for friendship.”
Kempster and her husband, Norman, will leave for England later this month on a summer exchange with Harris, who will then come to Lincolnton.
“There’s a creme tea waiting for me there,” Kempster said.
Kempster met Harris and his wife at a Diocese gathering at Lake Logan in western North Carolina.
While in England, Kempster will stay a month in the Harris’ home in Salisbury, England.
“We will be staying on the Close,” Kempster said. “Which surrounds the cathedral.”
The Salisbury Cathedral is the largest in Britain and stands with the world’s tallest spire.
The cathedral possesses numerous interesting medieval facts and holds the original copy of the Magna Carta.
Kempster will have the perfect view of this medieval marvel in the front yard of her temporary home on the Close.
“We hope to see some cathedrals that we haven’t seen yet,” Kempster said. “We have taken many trips to England and seen a lot of the cathedrals already.”
While in England, she will attend classes at Sarum College as part of a continuing education requirement.
“It’s to keep you inspired and refreshed, so you don’t teach on what you learned ten years ago,” Kempster said. “It’s a requirement, to do something once a year.”
In the past, Kempster has taken guided trips to Israel and has also attended classes to fulfill the requirement.
Sarum College possesses much of the Celtic Christianity that Kempster hopes to learn about.
“They’re the ones who maintained the scriptures when other cathedrals were being burned,” she said. “There is a lot of Celtic Christianity that saved scriptures and ruins.”
Along with fulfilling her requirement, Kempster will also enjoy the beautiful scenery with fellow classmates.
“As part of the summer class, there will be field trips,” Kempster said. “There are a lot of things around there to see.”
Kempster hopes to return from England with inspiration and wisdom.
“I hope to come back with a better understanding of Anglicanism,” she said. She also hopes to come back with more knowledge about the Celtic history of the church and new ideas for teaching and preaching.”
Some of the courses offered at the college will include: Religion as a Cause of Conflict; Theology of Government; and How to Give God Glory in an Age of Violence.
“There’s a variety of things centered on the English history of the area,” Kempster said. “Also, Celtic history with the cathedral and Biblical courses.”
Kempster, a native of California, became ordained ten years ago after attending Virginia Theology Seminary. This is her third year serving St. Luke’s in Lincolnton.
“Before I came here I served in West Virginia in Harper’s Ferry,” she said.
Kempster and her husband, also lived in Jerusalem for four years while her husband covered foreign policy for the Los Angeles Times.
While Kempster resides a month in England, Harris will lead the Sunday services at St. Luke’s while she is away.
Harris has many hopes for himself and the community, including a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the respective countries.
He and his wife have traded places with other American priests before as a way to see the United States.
“American people are known for their welcome and hospitality and the bond we share in church life just adds to that,” Harris said.
“There is nothing like living in a country for really understanding our similarities and differences.”
Harris first came to the United States in 1998 during an exchange with the rector of a Wilkesboro Episcopal church.
“With a Salisbury Cathedral Close address I was fortunate enough to be the one selected,” said Harris of his selection by the Wilkesboro church. “From then on, it grew by word of mouth and personal contacts.”
Born in Durham, England, Harris attended school in Wales and studied physics at a university.
He later served as an education officer in the army before serving in ministry.
Having three children and five grandchildren, Harris and his wife retired in Salisbury, England, where he donates his time to the needs of the cathedral and surrounding village churches.
Harris will reside the month in Kempster’s home in Lincolnton.
“My wife Hazel has been an eager accomplice in our journeys and particularly enjoys getting to know the people we meet,” Harris said. “We hope we will comfortably survive the heat and humidity.”
by Maribeth Kiser

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