About a year and a half ago I had the outstanding opportunity to travel with Dr. Haykin and his PhD student Nigel Wheeler to Britain. We spent three weeks there, touring around doing research and attending conferences that Dr. Haykin spoke at. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life that to this day has had a profound influence on me.
We spent time in Cambridge, Bristol, Glasgow, Oxford and Belfast, with a myriad of cities, towns, villages and hamlets in between. We toured the sites of renowned figures from church history such as Thomas Cranmer, Jane Austen (in Bath), Benjamin Beddome, Anne Dutton, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Andrew Bonar, James Ussher and many more. For a budding church historian, there couldn’t have been a more worthwhile trip to take.
Surely of the various highlights, of which there were many, included the time spent with
Dr. Crawford Gribben. Crawford, at the time, was a research fellow at Trinity College, Dublin. He has authored a number of books dealing significantly with British Renaissance/Reformation church history. One of his primary interests is in the life and thought of Archbishop James Ussher.
Before travelling to Britain, Dr. Haykin had mentioned that we might get to meet Crawford. I was keenly excited about this because I had just read his book The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church. It sparked a great interest in my heart for the plight of the Irish church. I was thankful that I read The Irish Puritans while spending time with Dr. Haykin at
Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. If anyone has seen Joel Beeke’s library, you wouldn’t be surprised that he had the complete works of Ussher. So as I read Crawford’s biography of Ussher at nights, I was reading Ussher’s works by day. Since that time I have had an interest in all things Ussher. I’ve read the standard biography of Ussher by R.B. Knox called James Ussher: Archbishop of Armagh, as well as Crawford’s PhD dissertation The Puritan Millennium: Literature & Theology 1550-1682. In it he had a chapter on Ussher.
Scholarly works on Ussher are few and far between, with only a handful of scholar’s who deal with him in particular (including Crawford). Every book that I have about the church in Ireland shockingly has little to say about this eminent theologian and prolific writer. My hope is that Ussher studies will continue to grow and that I can have a part of that if the Lord wills it.
Meeting Crawford, as I said, was a great highlight. Dr. Haykin, Nigel and I had spent the Lord’s Day at Great Victoria Street Baptist Church in downtown Belfast and were to meet Crawford after the service. At the time I believe he was attending a Reformed Presbyterian church if memory serves correct. He picked us up and drove us to his home in Ballyclare (I believe, there are so many towns with “Bally” at the beginning that it’s easy to confuse). I remember the drive through Belfast well as Crawford explained all of the various areas impacted by “the troubles.” It was an adrenaline rushed drive as we saw various sites of unspeakable violence. Crawford, with his phenomenal gift of story telling and ability to give you every interesting detail, made for an excellent guide.
We spent the afternoon at Crawford’s place, where his lovely wife Pauline prepared excellent food. Although I don’t remember the specific food that we ate, I do remember that it was not traditional Irish fare and that it was terrific. It was something exotic if I recall correctly. The fellowship was great as well. What a privelege to sit with two eminent church historians!
During the course of our time there Crawford suggested that we go with him to Dublin for the day on the following Tuesday. What a thrill! My father’s side of the family are of Irish descent and apparently there is a “Cleary’s” department store in Dublin that is owned by a distant relative. Being in Ireland seemed like such a homecoming, and having the opportunity to go to Dublin was an added bonus. Especially because Crawford worked at Trinity College and was going to give us a tour.
The trip down to Dublin was beautiful. We took a train along the coast of the Irish Sea, across beautiful terrain overlooking the ocean. All of the stereotypes of Ireland, with it’s rolling emerald green hills, are true. It was uncanny.
At the time Crawford was reading quite a bit about various millennial views and had some interesting things to say about the history of millennial interpretation throughout the ages. As Crawford’s book
Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis on the same subject is about to be published, I look forward to reading in print many of the things that Crawford shared with us.
Getting to see Trinity College was a thrill for me. James Ussher was an early graduate from there, and during the Puritan era it functioned much the same as Oxford and Cambridge in that it was a training ground for many excellent Reformed scholars. As well, the renowned
Book of Kells is housed there, one Irish codex among many others that are a sight to behold. Stupidly I tried to take a picture, only to have a security guard dive at me telling me to turn my camera off! I didn’t read the signs saying “no cameras.”
Although Crawford had to work, he did take some time to give us a tour. One building that sticks out in my mind was the one where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, it was beautiful.
Dr. Haykin and I also took the time to tour around the immediate vicinity of Trinity College, including a walk down to Stephen’s Green, a beautiful park in the middle of Dublin.
It truly was a trip to remember and I’m very thankful to Crawford for taking the time to show us around.
Crawford is currently a lecturer in Renaissance literature and culture at the
University of Manchester. Looking at his curriculum vitae is scary considering how young he is. Especially as he is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, visiting lecturer at the University of Lausanne and visiting scholar at Westminster College, Cambridge. Any of his writings that I have read provide the reason why he has such stature as a scholar.
I have taken this time to remember my trip to Ireland and the short time spent with Crawford Gribben to communicate the reason for my excitement that Crawford has joined the blogosphere!
Irish-reformation is now alive and well, and Crawford already has some excellent posts, as well as some pictures (the one of Pauline awaiting Mr. Darcy is particularly telling). So if you have the opportunity, check out Crawford’s blog. Even better, add him to your blog roll. He is sure to stimulate the mind, engage the affections and offer a good dose of entertainment. If you like reading Carl Trueman’s blogging at Reformation 21, you will surely enjoy reading Irish-reformation. Of that I can be sure!

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Filed under books, crawford gribben, friends, ireland, james ussher, me

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