SAM_1669.jpg Today we visited St. Mary Woolnoth Church in Central London for our first lecture on our common reading novel, “Amazing Grace” by Eric Metaxas. The novel deals with William Wilberforce and his campaign to end slavery in England during the 1800s.

The church has been an integral part of London for almost 300 years. John Newton, the songwriter behind “Amazing Grace,” penned the universal hymn at St. Mary Woolnoth.

Our lecture was given by the director of the SMU-in-London program and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Rita Kirk.

SAM_1674.jpg She reminded us of the vast history within the walls of the church we were sitting in. How the exact man we are reading about came here to worship and have discourse with John Newton. Wilberforce was only a college student when he first addressed slavery in an essay contest and 21 years of age when he first took office.

Wilberforce took on the institution of slavery, which has never been completely abolished throughout the world. Dr. Kirk cited numbers of present-day slavery that elicited a sense of trauma in all of us. During Wilberforce’s time, slavery was amplified much more, yet he still chose to bring down the immoral establishment.

Dr. Kirk reminded us to take intellectual responsibility of the precious time we have in the historical city of London, as we are the world’s cream of the crop. Only 4 percent of the world has a college degree, so we must use our experience to its full potential.

An amazing way to start our lectures on the common reading novel, and an even more invigorating way to appreciate our education.