This week I had the privilege of being away for most of the week to attend a conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. Last year I had to cut my trip short due to pastoral concerns, so this was this was the first time I’ve been able to attend the entire conference.
First, a word about Princeton. I’ve only been able to visit this storied place in recent years, and it is a feast for the eyes. This time I was accompanied by my dear wife, Vickie and our friend of many years, Pam. We decided to take a guided tour, which has always been my practice the first time I’ve been to a place. Self-guided tours are okay, but I prefer a local guide when first I explore a new place.
I have written elsewhere about a time years ago when I persuaded a group of fellow ministers to hire a tour guide of our own city of Birmingham, Alabama. We hired a young man who knew the city well and set out in the church bus to see the place where we lived. It was amazing how many significant places and stories we’d never seen in our own city.
Back to Princeton. I had read some background of the University and through my studies in history and religion of course, knew many of the great names not only of the seminary but of the early days of university itself. I set all that aside and we booked a walking tour with The Princeton Tour Company. As it turned out, we were fortunate to get the owner,Mimi Omiecinski, to walk us through. Mimi is a transplanted Southerner so we all lapsed into our native dialect. What followed was a two hour walking tour of the city and university that was as memorable as any tour I’ve ever taken. We made our way through the history and through the campus and explored its spectacular features. We heard about the people who have been shaped and molded by Princeton University through the years and who have shaped our nation to the present day.
Laughter and insight mingled together for a terrific walking tour of more than two hours. We wove through neighborhoods where some of the greatest names in American life once lived and sometimes still do. We heard about the amazing intellectual resources and mission of the University and the stories of great names–Paul Robeson, Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, and many others. ‘=
Like all good things, it ended too soon for us. We laughed, marveled and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day, entertained with a funny and insightful guide. When we parted we felt as though we had been with a long lost family friend and not a professional tour guide!
Because of the impact of Princeton on American life, culture and politics both past and present, it is worth the trip for any American to see it. That you can see it with a guide who seemed to know everyone in the town and who has made it her family’s home is even more wonderful.
I cannot say enough good things about the Princeton tour company. If you get a chance, take a tour. You’ll be glad you did.