I traveled back to London on Monday, July 13, to get ready for my final week of interviews, observations and fun running around the country. It was nice to finally have a little time to breathe and relax and get my thoughts in order.
In the vineyard
On Tuesday I went out to a borough of London called Surrey to meet with a guy I had been put in touch with several weeks ago. This man is named Jason, and he has planted a church through the Vineyard denomination/network. He was also a big part of the Emergent UK project several years ago, which involved some conferences for leaders and other programs to help people get involved and become knowledgeable about the whole emergent thing.
It was good to talk to him, since he again shed a whole new light on things. Coming from within an established, evangelical denomination, his views on the way to do church were slightly different than many of the people I have met. But he is in an interesting position in bridging a gap between people who are skeptical of the emerging mindset and people on the other side of the spectrum who are skeptical of any institutional denomination. It is also interesting, because he is not working out of an Anglican background, which is where this collision more commonly takes place.
After picking his brain, I returned to where I have been staying for another relaxing night. Part of me wanted to go into London and try to find some crazy Harry Potter stuff (this being opening night). But I resisted that temptation.
Back to Moot
The next day I did go back into London to visit Moot again. The last service I went to was on Sunday evening, but they also do stuff on Wednesdays. So, I went to check that out.
I got into town with plenty of time before it started so that I could check out the Victoria & Albert Museum (in photo, left). I am very glad I did this, because even though I was not in a museum mood, it turned out to be my favorite so far (besides the Tate Modern, which I visited the first week. It was also nice to have the building as a refuge from the rain that was starting to come down. I spent a couple of hours here, but it closed before I had time to explore everything.
So, I moved on to Moot. This service is a meditation service, which when I went really clicked, because they are situated right in the middle of the banking area of the city (right) with a lot of business people everywhere who are constantly stressed out. They have just started doing this recently, but already there were people coming in off the streets because of the promise of a relaxing meditation. And it was just that.
Ian, the enabler of the group and its official minister, led us in learning a little about meditation and then putting it into practice with a 25-minute silent meditation. Afterward, we talked some more.
After all this, the Moot community broke up into small groups that meet all over the city. I tagged along with Ian to the one he is a part of and got to be a part of this intimate gathering. After this we went and talked informally about the community and all sorts of stuff.
Then, the next day, I returned to formally interview Ian. I’d seen a lot of him in a short time, but it was very enjoyable and well worth it. He was very insightful and encouraging and even offered me a way to present/publish my final paper for this project on a website that is sort of a hub of emerging church activity (or at least has been in the past). They are trying to breathe some new life into the site, and he said they would gladly put up what I write, to which I was overjoyed.
I walked away with a few more books, an exciting opportunity, and a lot to think about that came up in the interview. But, I also knew that this would be my last day in the middle of London, so I tried to make the most of it. I walked all over the place, covering my tracks to see if there was anything interesting I missed as I have walked through and lived in the city. I got a couple more shots of the sights of London and ate at a place suggested to me by an old teacher.
But soon it was time to leave the city for good. It was sad to know that I may not come back (although London was not my favorite place), but a good day to end on.
Since I was relatively close by and still had not gone out to see the iconic sight, I spent all of Friday traveling out to Salisbury and Stonehenge. It was a rainy day, but that did not keep me and hundreds of other people from coming to explore the mystery of the big stones.
I got the fancy tour bus that tells you about the city (Salisbury) and the area around Stonehenge and learned a lot. Then I stayed out looking at the site until I was completely soaked. There are more rocks there than I thought, but it was a very interesting trip.
I also stopped by the site of Old Sarum, the original center of the city of what is now Salisbury. It had some ruins of a castle and cathedral, which were interesting because they were so accessible. You could literally walk and climb all over them.
But, it continued to rain, so I went to take refuge in the city. I got to see Salisbury cathedral and the Magna Carta that it houses. I enjoyed my whole trip and spent some more time walking around the city before heading back.
A day of rest(lessness)
I spent my last day just resting at the house. I knew that it would be an early, long flight the next day, so I didn’t want to be running around. I got all packed up and watched a considerable amount of the cricket competition that is going on right now (the Ashes). It was nice to rest and relax and spend some more time with the guy, Graham, who has housed me for 3 of the 8 weeks of my trip. However, I was very restless knowing that this was my last day and that I would soon be all the way on the other side of the ocean. Also, just not having anything to do or anywhere to be was an unusual feeling for this trip.
I know I have been very busy, but it has been worth it. I have not seriously regretted any part of this wonderful opportunity.
Yesterday, I spent about 9 and a half hours on a plane to get back home, which was even more a change in pace. It is good to be back, though, and to begin to solidify my memories of my time in England. But the research and the project have really just begun.
I also hope that the relationships and conversations I have started the past eight weeks have just begun. I really do feel that this is the beginning of a whole new stage in my life; that this trip has propelled me into new and fascinating things to think about and eventually do.
I am ever grateful to everyone who has had a part in making this unbelievable trip a reality – from those who have gone before me and made the process feasible to those who were there to help me first spark the idea all the way to those I have recently met with and even the pilot who got me back safe.
I realize that I am only one small part in all that is going on in worldwide research and in the specific area of emerging churches that I have been studying. But I hope that whatever comes of this (or has already come) may be helpful and in some way inspiring.