Parenthood, Publications, and Patience: A 2016 Rathel Family Review

I realize it is a bit too early to write a blog post that reviews all of 2016. Still, I am busy with a lot of work at the moment and will leave soon again for the States. This post might be my only chance to write something decent before Christmas. Perhaps April will write a post at some point that explains her perspective on things. Until then, enjoy this one!

Parenthood

The big news for us this year is that we welcomed Sophia Grace Rathel into the world. She was born on June 21, 2016, in Dundee. We are so thankful for her and so proud of her. Although she is only roughly five months old, she already displays an amazing amount of personality. She loves people; specifically, she loves to smile at people. She bursts out laughing at the even the slightest hint that something might be funny. She seems very content and is easy to parent; so far we have taken her to Bath, Durham, San Antonio, and Atlanta with no serious problems. She is a world traveler, and she is not even six months old yet!

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Sophia in Texas

April is doing a fantastic job of being a mother. The UK’s long maternity leave allows her to devote a lot of time to Sophia. Although she is at home with Sophia for much of the day, one benefit of living in St Andrews is the fact that April can interact with other divinity students and their families. I think April is loving her life of pushing a pram through these beautiful streets, visiting coffee shops for conversations with friends, and attending a book club for ladies.

Publications

I am trying my best to juggle all of the demands of Ph.D. life—presence in our theology seminars, research for my thesis, and the production of (hopefully) good material for publication. I know that publication history will matter a lot in the future if I do decide to teach, so I want to make the most of these potentially fruitful years.

In terms of publishing, 2016 has thankfully been my most successful year yet. I received word that my article on John Gill’s soteriology will appear in next month’s Baptist Quarterly. An article that I wrote on Gill’s Baptist catholicity and originally presented at a Baptist history conference in Manchester will receive publication in a 2018 issue of Baptist Quarterly. I have a piece on Gill’s doctrine of the pactum salutis that is currently under review with the Journal of Reformed Theology. Three of my book reviews were also published this year—two in the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry and one in Themelios.

I hope to increase my output in 2017. I am now working on an article on Andrew Fuller’s arguments for religious liberty on behalf of the BMS in India that I would like to submit to a journal at some point if it turns out well. I am scheduled to present it at a conference in Cambridge in January of next year, and I hope that I will receive helpful feedback there. I would also like to send out to a journal a piece that I wrote in the autumn of 2015 on burial practices during the Scottish Reformation (exciting stuff to be sure). Several journals have agreed to accept book reviews from me during 2017: for Southeastern Theological Review I am reviewing David Allen’s book on the atonement; for the Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies I am reviewing the volume Nathan Finn edited on Andrew Fuller’s defense against Sandemanianism; for Regent’s Reviews I am reviewing a book on the English Dissenters; for Baptist Quarterly I am reviewing an introductory book on Baptist history written by Finn, Haykin, and Chute. I have other goals for 2017 as well, but I do not want to get too ahead of myself. My priorities for next year are family life and thesis work, and we’ll see how much time I actually have when life starts moving forward.

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Family Trip to Bath in England

I still have a long way to go to get where I would like to be in terms of publications, but I am thankful for the modest opportunities the Lord has afforded me thus far. They have served to help develop me as a writer and thinker.

Patience

This year April and I have been confronted with the reality that sometimes the thought of staying in pastoral ministry can be quite appealing to us. We are trying to wrestle now whether it is best for me to serve in the academy or the church. If I were to step back into pastoral work, I would want to serve as a pastor-theologian in the model of Andrew Fuller, one of my heroes, and in the sort of role envisioned by the Center for Pastoral Theologians. I hope that we as a family can devote serious time this upcoming year to discerning what is best for us and Christ’s church. At times teaching at a Bible college or seminary is very interesting to me; other times the idea of preaching regularly and ministering to people makes me excited. In the end, we shall see what doors God opens for us. We must persevere and be patient.

In conclusion, thanks for your continued company on this journey with us. We love you all and wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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From the Outer Hebrides to Central Europe: One Crazy, Busy Time in the Life of the Rathel Family

*As always, I combined text and pictures. On some browsers you will have to be intentional about scrolling down to see everything.

The last few weeks have been very busy for the both of us. We were invited to spend the weekend of Easter on North Uist, an island off of Scotland’s western coast. April and I both have tremendous affection for North Uist and its people. The scenery there is gorgeous, and the people are amazingly hospitable and caring. I preached a series of worship services that led up to Easter Sunday. In between those meetings we met with different members of the congregation and took in some of the island’s beautiful beaches. We even took a ferry ride over to the neighboring islands of Harris and Lewis!

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Our ferry ride to North Uist

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The church at which we minister 

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North Uist’s beautiful landscape

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On the beach!

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A traffic jam on the island!

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Beautiful sunset on North Uist

 

After the conclusion of the worship meetings, we rushed back home to wash and pack our clothes again. We had to fly out the very next day on a trip to Poland and the Czech Republic! We were able to spend a little over two days in Poland. Highlights of our time there included a trip—if one could call this a highlight—to Auschwitz and Auschwitz -Birkenau, a guided tour through Krakow’s Jewish District and Old Town, and a brief stop at the former factory of Oskar Schindler.

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Polish food is good!

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Desk of Schindler

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A terrible place to be sure 

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Krakow is beautiful. This was near our hotel. 

We the left Krakow at night by train. We were able to reserve a sleeping car, and this fact was actually quite fascinating to me because our room reminded me of all of the James Bond films in which Bond fought Jaws in the sleeper cars of European trains (yes, I am a cultured individual ;).

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Fortunately Jaws was not on our train. Mr. Bond could not say the same. 

 

Our train took us to Prague, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I believe we must have walked over almost every square inch of that city, taking in its beautiful buildings, magnificent cathedrals, and stunning sunsets.

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Fascinating building in Prague 

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This is a picture of a urinal in—of all places—a church bell tower. During the Cold War, the Soviets closed the church and sent spies to live in the bell tower so as to observe the nearby American embassy. 

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A beautiful view of Prague from the Charles Bridge. 

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April held up extremely well on the trip. She is now 29 weeks pregnant, but she occasionally wore me out with her zest for exploration. At one point in Prague she even climbed over 210 stairs in order to see the view from atop a cathedral!

We are grateful we had the opportunity to make these trips. We were so happy to see our friends on North Uist again, and it is always a privledge to preach the Gospel in a series of worship meetings. In addition, both Prague and Krakow are lovely. I will remember the Prague skyline forever; and the memories we made in those trips will surely be with us after we return to the States. The trip to Europe in particular was our “babymoon,” our last bout of exploration before our baby girl is born. This fact means that in the near future you can expect us to swamp this blog with baby pictures!

Chocolate, Evangelism, and Monasticism in Pittenweem

April and I traveled to Pittenweem this week for her work. Pittenweem is a small coastal village known for its active harbor and simple beauty. We went to attend a coffee club at Coastline Community Church, a fairly new church replant that serves much of East Neuk. Though they are not as popular as they once were, coffee clubs are a means of outreach here in the UK. They are opportunities for people to invite their friends and neighbors to an event that features coffee, conversation, and an interesting speaker.

April and I were the “interesting speakers” on this day. I was to talk about my research and what brought us to Scotland; she was to talk about her work within the local schools. When we arrived, the host of the event told us to not be shy about explaining the role that our Christian faith plays in our lives and to explain openly how a person can become a Christian. She even spoke of the need for people to become “born again,” language commonly used here in connection with the Evangelical Revival.

We did our best to present the Christian Gospel in a respectful and accessible way. We discussed our time in Scotland—particularly the work we are trying to do and some of our reflections on the country and its people—and also explained how each of us became a Christian and why Christianity is important to us

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We felt a tremendous sense of encouragement when we left the meeting. It was wonderful to see people older than us still working to bring their friends and neighbors to Christ. Also, the people there were so friendly—they promised to pray for us and expressed genuine concern in the work we are doing. They took particular interest in April’s job with Scripture Union and even made a flower arrangement to celebrate her and her labors! As you will see below, the uniform is that worn by the school children here, the Bible represents April helping the pupils to explore Scripture, and the floral arrangement is an assortment of American and Scottish flowers to show the union between the two countries (there is even a small American flag!).

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After leaving the coffee club, we went to the Cocoa Tree, a restaurant that specializes in making homemade chocolate. I think I need to say nothing else—that fact alone reveals that the place is fantastic.

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After a chocolate heavy lunch, we walked to St Fillan’s Cave near the Pittenweem harbor. Legend claims that a monk named Fillan lived in this cave during the eight century. It also claims that he spent much of his time in the cave reading and writing and that his arm glowed—presumably by the power of the Spirit—to assist him so that he could see in the dark. The cave today contains a memorial to St Fillan and a running stream.

On our return home we stopped at one of my favorite spots—the hill on the Crail road that overlooks St Andrews. There we were able to capture St Andrews in all her beauty—her beaches and harbor, the ancient buildings that shoot up into her skyline, and even the snow covered hills that presently surround her (click on the pictures to enlarge them).

It was a great day, and we express gratitude to all of you who help to make our time here possible.

 

 

 

 

The University of Oxford, Dwight Yoakam, and Count Dracula: A Rathel Family Trip

David Rathel

This past week April and I traveled to the University of Oxford so that I could conduct research for my PhD thesis. Regent’s Park College, a Permanent Private Hall at the University of Oxford, houses the Angus Library and Archive, an institution that possesses over 70,000 items related to Baptist history. I spent four days at the Angus reading manuscripts related to John Gill and Andrew Fuller; April spent her time working for her job from her Macbook at various coffee shops. We had a fun trip down to Oxford and back, and I am grateful April’s employers granted her time away from her office so that she could travel with me. I haven’t updated this blog in some time, and I thought it would be fun to share some pictures from our trip and tell a few anecdotes. I’ll discuss here Oxford, Count Dracula, and Dwight Yoakam. Hang in there with me.

Oxord

The town and the university are everything people boast that they are—and more. Though I spent the bulk of my time researching, I was able to attend Evensong services at both the chapel at New College and the cathedral at Christ Church. Both buildings were stunning. They services were quite moving, too. I was also able to snap a few pictures of various buildings as I walked to and from the Angus every day. A particular highlight for me was the opportunity to eat in The Eagle and Child, the pub in which C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings met to discuss literature. Here are some pictures from Oxford that I find particularly interesting.

April in Christ Church Cathedral

April in Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Looking out at All Souls College

Looking out at All Souls College

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

April in The Eagle and Child

April in The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child

Chapel in Exeter College

Chapel in Exeter College

Dining Hall in Exeter College

Dining Hall in Exeter College

Bodleian Library, Oxford

Bodleian Library, Oxford

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Count Dracula

April has been reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for a book club that meets here in St Andrews. Stoker apparently received inspiration for parts of his novel from the English town of Whitby. On our trip back to St Andrews we spent an afternoon in Whitby, mainly so that April could see the “home” of Dracula. We were both amazed at the beauty of the place. It is a seaside down with a gorgeous harbor that is surprisingly active. While we were the there the sun began to set, and it filled the entire town with a magical yellow glow. Here are a few pictures though they will not do the place justice.

Whitby Abbey, mentioned in Dracula

Whitby Abbey, mentioned in Dracula

April on the bench Bram Stoker sat on when he received inspiration for Dracula

April on the bench Bram Stoker sat on when he received inspiration for Dracula

Whitby Harbor

Whitby Harbor

Inside the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby

Inside the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby

Inside the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby

Inside the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby

Whitby

Whitby

April in Whitby

April in Whitby

Whitby

Whitby

The graveyard at the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby, a scene mentioned in Dracula

The graveyard at the Church of Saint Mary, Whitby, a scene mentioned in Dracula

Dwight Yoakam

We made our trip from Whitby to St Andrews at night, and we needed something to occupy our time and keep us awake. For some reason I began to reminisce about country music from the 1990s. I do not like today’s country—to be honest, I find it annoying—but I feel differently about the country music of the ’90s. I am certain that nostalgia is partly to blame, but I really think the country from that time was astonishingly good; in many ways I think it marks a golden era for the genre.

Country singers from the ’90s filled my childhood. I heard them during my ride to school, we discussed them in my classes at school, and I even saw a few of them in concert. During my youth, country music was probably the most powerful cultural force in the Deep South—outside of Southern Baptist churches, of course. April and I started to play old country songs from our childhood through Apple Music while we were traveling home, and it was so much fun to hear Mark Chesnutt, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, and Alan Jackson for the first time in probably twenty years.

As we listed out the names of various country stars from our childhood one name inevitably came up, the name of Dwight Yoakam. I stated to April that as a child I hated the music of Yoakam; I thought his voice was too strong and his songs were too confusing. I further explained, though, that as I grew older I developed a deep appreciation for the man and his work. I have become convinced that Yoakam is one of the most significant singers—not just country singers—of recent memory. April said she too remembered hating the music of Yoakam as a child, and she begrudgingly let me play a few of his tunes.

Then it happened. She had a revelation, a revelation that I hope many will have. She looked at me and said, “You know, he really is quite interesting.” Indeed he is. Johnny Cash, by any measure the greatest country singer of all time, once proclaimed Yoakam one of his favorites. So have a host of other musicians, including many singers in the punk rock genre. Yoakam’s story deserves to be told.

Yoakam tried to enter the country scene when it was at a low point (much like today). At a time when record companies were interested in producing “urban cowboy music” (what is that, anyway?), Yoakam rode into Nashville packing what he described as hillbilly music. This music had attitude. It was rebellious. It featured loud guitars and spoke of fast cars, reckless living, love, grief, and loss. It was a return to the great country music of old. It was an assault on the way the country music establishment was crafting its tunes. Nashville hated it.

Yoakam left Nashville as something of a reject and toured California, playing with several punk rock bands. Interestingly, his music soon found a following among the punk rock crowd. He crafted a country album—he actually financed it himself!—based on the encouragement he received from the punk scene. It was this album that opened the door for his eventual success in the country market.

I can only liken his reception into the country music of the 1980s and 1990s to something of an ad fontes. Garth Brooks, clearly the most powerful figure of 1990s country, played James Taylor-eqsue tunes designed for the radio. Yoakam steadfastly stuck to his hillbilly music. The music of Brooks, as much as I like it, did represent something of a transplant; it was the ingrafting of the 1970s singer/songwriter style into the country genre. Yoakam’s music, by contrast, desired to resurrect the ghost of Hank Williams. It was the more authentic.

I say all of this because good music is important to me. Country music is (still) important to me. Honestly, I am surprised by how important it is to me given the fact that I so rarely listen to it now. I suppose Southern roots are hard to shake. In the end I hope that many people will grow in their appreciation of Yoakam—and Cash!—so that country music will return to songs about love, loss, God, the devil, death, and darkness (and not sexy tractors or hedonistic moonshine parties, whatever those things are). So, fire up Yoakam on your next road trip as we did. You might be surprised.

Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

Celebrating St. Andrew’s Day in St. Andrews

I’ve uploaded several paragraphs; please be sure to scroll all the way down!

April and I live in St. Andrews, Scotland, a town named after Andrew, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Legend states that the bones of Andrew were brought here in the eighth century by St. Regulus. A monastery associated with Andrew’s relics soon arose, and this was followed by St. Regulus Church in the eleventh century and, in the twelfth century, the famous St. Andrews Cathedral.

St. Andrews Cathedral With Moon

St. Andrews Cathedral With Moon

St. Andrew's Cathedral with St. Rule's Tower

St. Andrews Cathedral with St. Rule’s Tower (old portion of St. Regulus Church)

St. Andrew plays an important role in Scottish culture. He is the patron saint of Scotland, and the Scottish flag bears the mark of his cross, the saltire. Also, on November 30th, Scotland celebrates St. Andrew’s Day. April and I were fortunate to participate in many of the day’s celebrations this year.

Google changed their homepage to the saltire in honor of St. Andrews Day

Google changed their page to the saltire in honor of St. Andrew’s Day

Our day began, though, not with a celebration of St. Andrew but of Advent. Our university chapel offered an early Advent service that featured songs from the university choir as well as Scripture reading and prayer from several of our friends. The BBC broadcasted the service live throughout the entire UK, and it was interesting to play a (small) part in the experience. Our university chapel is beautiful, and it truly provides a feeling of transcendence.

St. Salvator's, our university chapel

St. Salvator’s, our university chapel

Prior to the Advent service

Prior to the Advent service

BBC vans in front of St. Salvator's

BBC vans in front of St. Salvator’s

After the chapel service April and I went to our home church, St. Andrews Baptist, for worship. April had to go to work after the church service, so I went out to explore St. Andrews on my own. I first wandered into the historic Royal and Ancient Golf Club on the 18th hole of the Old Course. St. Andrews is the home of golf, and the Old Course is the one you have most likely seen on television.

St. Andrews viewed from the Old Course

St. Andrews viewed from the Old Course

Inside the Royal and Ancient Golf Club

Inside the Royal and Ancient Golf Club

I also took advantage of the local Masonic Lodge’s open house in order to snap a few pictures of the historic Lodge No. 25. I am not a Mason, but the building was stunning.

Lodge No. 25

 

Lodge No. 25

Lodge No. 25

April returned home from work late in the afternoon, and we closed out the day together by attending the town’s St. Andrew’s Day celebration on South Street. It featured local musicians and artists, as well a ceilidh, a Scottish dance that looks amazingly fun. The dance took place right in the street, and both students and townspeople participated. I’ve heard that when Pope Benedict XIII authorized the University of St. Andrews in 1413 that nearly the entire town went into the streets to dance with joy. I can only imagine what that dance must have been like, but I can say that tonight’s dance was pretty spectacular. There were two bands—a live band on stage and a marching band that played bagpipes—and both blasted out joyful tunes on a street that was illuminated almost solely by Christmas lights (called fairy lights here).

Bagpipes in the streets

Bagpipes in the streets

Dancing in the streets

Dancing in the streets

Dancing on South Street

Dancing on South Street

Of course, no great day is complete without good food, and April and I did go to Costa for a quick snack. Normally a coffee shop does not merit much attention, especially when it is a nondescript chain restaurant. However, Costa is so shockingly superior to Starbucks that it merits special mention. Behold the glory of Black Forest Hot Chocolate:

Costa

Costa

I’ve included a few more pictures from today’s outing in St. Andrews. Notice the beautiful St. Andrews Castle below.

St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

Sea

Sea

A Beautiful Walk Up A Ben

Today April and I went to Pitlochry to climb Ben Vrackie. At 2,759 feet, the mountain provides spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, including the impressive Loch a’ Choire.  With us on our journey was Rebekah Earnshaw, our friend from Australia. Rebekah is a PhD student at St. Mary’s who is researching John Calvin’s understanding of creation and providence. She is a wonderful person, and, like us, she was involved in local church ministry before she came to St. Andrews.

Our trip was over eight kilometers long—it felt much longer!—and according to our iPhones we climbed over 196 floors. However, the tough walk to the top was worth it; the view was absolutely spectacular! Also, just as we were leaving, a cloud came across the top of the mountain and covered us in a dense mist. It looked surreal, like something out of a movie.

I have attached some of today’s photos. Enjoy!

The Mountain Viewed From Across the Lake (loch)

The Mountain (ben) Viewed From Across the Lake (loch)

The Loch

The Loch

The View From the Top

The View From the Top

Hiking Partners

Hiking Partners

The Ben

The Ben

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Journey Down

Journey Down