I had set up a meeting with a woman whom the people at the Sheffield Center put me in contact with. I knew that she was also from Texas and has been living here for a couple of years, but that was about it. I think the main reason I was put in contact with her was the Texas connection.
I got into London and met her at a Tube station, and we walked over to a park that was right next to a street flower market. She told me all about her move to the UK and what she was involved in on both sides of the ocean. She has not exactly planted a church here or worked within any churches, but she has been a part of several missional projects that connect with people through several avenues including art, social justice, and the market scene.
It was really interesting hearing what she does since structurally it is very different from church work. But at the base, what she is doing in building relationships where people are is very much in line with the ethos of emerging groups. She mentioned that she sees church as a verb, meaning that she does church rather than go to a church.
After a while, a couple of her friends showed up and we had a nice picnic. It was really interesting to see how well connected and networked they all were with the other people I have been in contact with. We got to check out the market while we were there, which was kind of crazy, and then went back to her place to talk some more. I had another meeting on the other side of London to get to that evening, so I had to go soon and check into my hotel for the night.
I made my way through the city and out to Ealing. There are some of these emerging churches that have become somewhat famous within the conversation. I knew going into this that Grace (in photo left) was one of these. I also knew that this would be one of the smaller services they do, but I was still excited to see what it would really be like.
I got to the church they meet in, and it took me a while to find them tucked into a room in the back of the church. There were about 7 other people gathered, and we went through a laid-back topical discussion/meditation about life journeys. We listened to a couple of songs and discussed some pre-determined questions with each other and ended with some time of prayer.
They also spend time hanging out at the pub after the service, so I accompanied them and got to have some really interesting conversations about some of the alternative worship stuff they have done in the past and a general history of the group. It was also good to just get to know these people better. The leader of the group was not there this week, but it was nice to see how well things carry on through the community. I do plan to come back for what would normally be their big service in a couple of weeks (and I think it will also involve a barbecue).
I got back into Sheffield on Monday evening and relaxed. I started my Wimbledon watching this night, which has continued as much as possible (at least on the radio) up to the past couple of days. I walked around Sheffield some more and continued to soak up British culture by going out to get a curry. (In photo right: Flowers in Queen Mary’s Garden.)
Then, on Wednesday I decided to take a little trip. I realized that this would be as northerly as I would get in my time in England, and it was my best chance to jump on over to Scotland. I have never been, so I decided to take a day trip into Edinburgh.
It worked out great and I got to spend half the day in the city, and half just outside it on some hilly parkland overlooking the city.
Although I am not a huge fan of the whole tourist thing, I found walking around the city to be very enjoyable. (In photo left: Edinburgh)
Back to work
On Thursday, I had plans to go back to Telford and visit a group that meets there. The community is called Safe Space, and they met for dinner and some time of reflection and worship. It was a good evening with a lot of good conversations even just while we were eating.
After some time of communion, meditation, and prayer we all just continued our dinner table fellowship. It all seemed very organic and comfortable. The conversation slowly got more interesting throughout the night and went from some serious conversation about church and what they do there to an overview of British comedy. All turned out to be fairly helpful to me, I think. I learned a lot this night (and a lot that was not expected).
I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with more people I had contacted, and I had many informal conversations about what different people do and what they think about what they do. It was all very helpful and much of it unexpected.
On Sunday, I traveled back into London to visit another one of the more well-known and longer-lasting emerging communities. It is called Moot, and they currently meet in a really interesting church called St. Mary Woolnoth (which I believe is mentioned in a T.S. Eliot poem). (Photo right: In London overlooking the Thames River, with view of London Tower)
This service was much more scripted through the middle than most I have been to, but still had that very strong element of raw community. There were some stories and poems read, some music listened to, some responsive meditation participated in, and some prayers shared.
I got to talk to a lot of the people in the community, especially since their leader is currently sick and was not there. They, too, went to the pub after the service, and I got to sit and talk a little more before running (literally) to catch my train. I also look forward to going back to visit this group as they do something slightly different on Wednesdays.
My weeks seem to get busier and busier as I meet more people and get connected in new and exciting ways, but don’t have the time to meet with everyone. Nevertheless, I look forward to the last couple of weeks I have here.