Being Boffin and Geek when we arrived at the Rock, one of us spoke from the rock while the other carefully tested the acoustics in the surrounding area. The basin under the rock forms a remarkable natural amphitheatre. From the top the sound carries with clarity and ease in a wide semi-circle.
But today I saw for myself that the physical terrain provided all the amplification that a person could want. I felt slightly cheated by my grandmother. The worst of it was when I stood on Pulpit Rock faced with a true opportunity for authentic re-enactment I couldn’t think of anything to say. I stood there tongue-tied and anxious, imagining Whitefield in his white wig and black attire with his hand in the air full of eloquence. I felt a great deal more comfortable standing under the rock and imagining myself listening!
From Pulpit Rock (there is definitely a rock theme on this trip) we headed to Newburyport. There we saw the church where Whitefield is buried. He died in the parsonage next door at the age of 55. The Church is as unassuming as Pulpit Rock. Having inhabited the Wesley Room as my office during my days at Lincoln College and having spent many hours imagining the Oxford of Wesley and Whitefield’s day, I couldn’t help thinking about the faith it must have taken to voyage to such a distant place and preach with confidence and boldness. An obscure wood is a far cry from the linen-fold paneling of 18th century Oxford. Whitefield did not know what America would become but he played his part in forming the nation.
I was inspired and awed today. Whitefield headed off the beaten track and we followed him. Perhaps obscurity is a necessary part of pilgrimage?