WT grad shares experiences from 'across the pond'
By Mike Haynes
Stonework in the 11th century building rises to support heavy wooden beams of the ceiling of St. Aldate’s Church, less than a quarter-mile from High Street and Oxford University.
Floral carvings decorate the arches that flank the nave, or central area, of the sanctuary. And attached to stone columns are flat video screens, audio speakers and spotlights. Instead of a raised pulpit and wooden pews, this Church of England parish church features a modern stage, often filled with guitars, drums and keyboards sending contemporary Christian music through its audiovisual system.
|St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford, England, whose nave and chancel were|
built in the 1100s, now features modern worship aids such as video
screens and an audiovisual system. (Photo by Hannah Dye)
It makes a young woman from Canyon, Texas, feel right at home.
Since last September Hannah Dye, then 22 and a recent West Texas A&M University graduate, has lived in Oxford, England, extending her extensive piano education with a private teacher. One of her first objectives after arriving in the United Kingdom was finding a church.
She had a good idea of what she was looking for; her dad, Darren Dye, is pastor of Freedom Fellowship Church of Canyon. She and her mom, Monica Dye, and younger brother, Josiah Dye, all are active in the church.
Before leaving Texas last fall, Hannah had Googled Oxford churches, and upon arriving across the pond, she started visiting. She attended one congregation with her father, who helped her settle in as a guest with an English family.
“We both liked the church, but it was very traditional, and I am not used to that style,” she recalled. “He encouraged me to continue to try out different ones until I found one I could call home.
“Some of the churches here are more about the tradition of church rather than building a
Hannah Dye, right, and her father, Darren Dye, of Canyon,
pose at the Globe Theatre in September 2019 on the day
they arrived in London for Hannah’s adventure of living
and taking piano lessons in Oxford, England.
(Photo courtesy of Hannah Dye)
Even though Oxford was home to professors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both committed Christians, the university city’s overall atmosphere is secular. But Hannah said she attended several churches “that were passionate about God.”
“I chose St. Aldate’s because their teaching is truly grounded in the Bible and bringing people to Christ, because their style of worship is similar to what I grew up with and because they had a postgrads ministry where I was immediately able to plug in and make friends,” she said.
As England has been shut down amid the virus pandemic, Hannah said the hardest part has been being sheltered away from her church and her postgraduate group. “We are still able to meet virtually, but I need time with my friends face-to-face,” she said. “A lot of the international postgrads have gone back to their host countries, but those of us still here are trying to keep in touch throughout the week through texts.”
She said she has become particularly close to three friends. “We hang out whenever we get the chance, whether it is cooking together, taking walks, shopping or just talking,” she said before the virus shutdown. “All three of them are strong Christians, so they have been such an encouragement and foundation for me here in England.”
Hannah and some friends had planned to travel in England, Scotland and Ireland during Oxford’s Easter break, but the pandemic nixed that idea. She lives with a family, though, so she isn’t alone.
She has played piano since age 7 and has taught lessons herself since just after her freshman year at Canyon High. At WTAMU, she studied music under Dr. Denise Parr-Scanlin. At a conference in New York in 2017, she heard Charlotte Tomlinson, a performance coach and pianist from Oxford, talk about performance anxiety.
Hannah received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy at WT in May 2019 and decided to postpone a master’s if she were able to study with Tomlinson first. “She told me to come on over,” she said. So a week after her WT senior recital, the girl from the Panhandle moved to England.
She said Tomlinson “is an incredible teacher in that she challenges me beyond my comfort zone. She has opened up my eyes to my potential in ways I had never imagined before.
This photo of central Oxford, England, shows a busy intersection, but Canyon’s
Hannah Dye said that since the pandemic lockdown, the city is like a ghost town.
(Photo by Hannah Dye)
She hopes to return to Canyon for the summer and fly back to England in the fall, but of course, her plans depend on the status of travel restrictions.
Hannah has a blog (https://anamericaninoxford.wixsite.com/blog) with creative descriptions and photos of her overseas experience. In her April 14 blog, she listed some “bright sides” to the lockdown:
“Over these last few weeks, I have seen people come together (not physically) in a new way. People are more keen on helping each other out. I personally have volunteered through my church as a runner for a local assistance-living place if they need people to get groceries or necessary items for the elderly. Also, once a week, the government calls for everyone to come outside (on their porches only) and clap for the NHS (National Health Service) to show support for everything they are doing. The first week it happened, everyone on our block came out and cheered for the NHS. It was incredibly moving.”
Hannah ends each blog post with a “British thing I learned.” This time, she learned that “‘Loo roll’ is toilet paper.”