To Hull and Back
We’d happily answer, “Oxford, London, Nottingham and Hull.”
“Hull?!” the questioning response came with faces that ranged from contorted disgust to sincere concern for our mental well being.
Some of our favorite responses were:
“That’s only one letter away from Hell.”
“Why on Earth would you go to Hull?!”
…and my personal favorite from an iconic older proper British woman,
“Hull?!… Well you’ll have a lovely time in Oxford.”
For all who expressed concern about our plans, I’m happy to report we’ve lived through Hull.
I must say (now that I’ve lived through Hull), I’d encourage all of the naysayers to simply, “Go to Hull!”
(To her credit we did find one enthusiastic Hull advocate. Lois, a well-spoken primary school girl, had taken a field trip to the Aquarium in Hull and was a particular fan of the large bridge which she assured us would remind us of the Titanic – this wasn’t exactly a selling point as we’d need to use said, “Titanic Bridge” to cross a large body of water and enter Hull – “from the mouth of babes”).
From all these reactions, we were bracing ourselves to enter one of the “cities we’ll never see on screen” Lorde sings about. A few clicks online told us that it had a long history as a working class, military, and fishing city. The fishing industry had tanked and was followed by the signs of generational poverty and addiction.
As we drove in, Lois, Hull’s sole advocate, was right – the Bridge is striking! The water too! Then came the less striking signs of suburbia – Staples, Fast Food, big boxes of all kinds… But with one turn off the main road we seemed to step back in time as we entered the Old Town to meet our friend and Pioneer Missioner, Ben Norton. We walked through a side door and were immediately greeted with a vibrant community meeting in the vast beautiful relic of Holy Trinity Hull, England’s largest parish church building. It’s full of beautiful history but is currently undergoing a major and thoughtful renovation to not only preserve its history but more importantly to engage and serve the community of Hull today in relevant ways by adding a café and outdoor concert area and throw open the doors to become a cultural hub as well as a place of worship.
Holy Trinity Hull was just the beginning. We spent three days in Hull and were surprised and delighted at every turn. We witnessed hope, passion, creativity, a variety of Fresh Expressions and many times the undeniable signature of the Holy Spirit.
My fellow pilgrims were so impressed that we decided to join Lois and become advocates for Hull upon our return to the U.S. We experimented with many hashtags to encourage visiting Hull. Ultimately my favourite was #HullYes. It’s the perfect answer to many of the questions you may have while planning your upcoming visit.
I’ve put some of those questions into call and response form below. We’ll start with an easy one for practice:
Hull Advocate: Would I go to Hull again?
Will I be able to find “American Style” stuffed crust pizza and an all you can eat sundae bar with sprinkles?
Will I see Jesus?
Will I find the most amazing and innovative school run by the Church of England focusing on the whole child?
Can I see the largest parish church in England?
Is that also the church that contains the baptismal font used on William Wilberforce?
#HullYes it is
Will I see that same church turning outward and creatively reimagining its use for the benefit if the whole community?
Can I find faithful people living deeply into a challenging neighborhood for 20 years, learning how to love their neighbors, consistently feeding children, and demonstrating Christ to the community after the church building has closed and sits empty?
Can I find Christian anarchists occupying an abandoned vicarage with Brazilian artists who paint things like “The Last Cuppa” (Jesus having his last tea with his disciples)?
Will I see families finding a fresh opportunity to experience church in a way that makes sense to them?
What more can I say? Hull was certainly a highlight of our pilgrimage. We were warmly welcomed and inspired over and over again. I could tell story after story to encourage you, but I’ll simply offer one last recommendation:
Go to Hull!
Shortly after our return Hull made the news for an upcoming cultural event. If you’re looking for an excuse to go, maybe this is it