Tuesday, December 22, 2009

LMC Christmas Lunch & Holiday Plans

A little update of what I've been up to and my Holiday plans.

The London Mennonite Centre pays for all of the staff of the centre (and Wayne & Lois) to go and have lunch shortly before Christmas.  So we had a nice 3 course meal at a local place & enjoy good fellowship.  The only downside was that Ed & Phyllis Shirk, the host couple of the LMC, were not present because they left the day prior to fly to the States because Phyllis' mother was close to dying.  Instead it was Alastair, Colin, myself (the three members of the Bridge Builders' team), Will (Metanoia manager/IT person/Misc), Kim (Accountant), Jane (part time volunteer), and Wayne & Lois (MMN care workers).  As a part of the meal we brought crackers, which in the UK are basically a toilet paper cardboard roll wrapped with wrapping paper and filled with a paper hat/toy/poor joke.  Two people pull on either end and it explodes hence the "crack" with a bang.  Hadn't experienced it before, but it's quite common for x-mas events here.

Over the weekend I went to a Messiah performance that was held at Albert Royal Hall because Will was singing in the choir.  Fun event, large building, very impressive organ, good singing and orchestra.  I also went ice skating for the first time in about 12 or so years.  I was impressed with how much I enjoyed it.  Might be something I will try again soon and possibly more often if I enjoy it again.  I will plan to skate with Will at some point (he skates regularly) sometime in mid-to-late January once the Holiday time has cooled down a bit.

I saw a Carol service at a local church in Muswell Hill on Sunday evening called St James.  I have been attending their evening services and found their Carol service very enjoyable.  VERY large crowd...from what the ministry assistant told me their carol services and Christmas Eve services are the most people they have in the entire year.  It had multiple "traditional" Christmas carols with a choir and orchestra playing (and congregation joining in as well), although a couple of the songs were "British" versions that I had not heard before.  For example, the tune to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was a little different than I recognised, but still easy to pick up.  A short sketch and a short sermon also accompanied the service.  Felt almost like a Christmas Eve service, but I'll experience one of those later in the week so perhaps they are slightly different or just more of the same.  I don't know where I will go for that yet, but perhaps St Martin-in-the-Field in central London.

We had a bit of snow in London on Monday evening.  Something to the tune of 3-4 inches of slushy snow.  I think it started as snow, changed to rain, and then finished as snow.  Basically shut down a lot of the tube system, virtually all of the bus system for the evening commute.  I helped numerous people push their car's out after they got stuck on our street.  When I went grocery shopping I counted 22 buses parked along a 9/10ths of a mile stretch of road.  Almost seemed like I was downtown with all the people walking on the sidewalks.  I also proceeded to make a couple of snowmen.  I figured how often will I get enough snow in London to do it.  As you can see from my pictures the snowmen fell over :-( by morning.  Still fun to do.

Snowman fell over

LMC w/3-4 inches of slushy snow (morning after so a lot melted)

The green spot is where I rolled my snowman...

Backyard of LMC morning after

Tomorrow (23 December) I am travelling up to Cambridge to see "a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" at King's College Chapel.  It is actually held on Christmas Eve, but tickets are not sold in advance so we (Lois, Wayne, their daughter, another member from Wood Green Mennonite Church, and I) are going to get in line at 7:30 am when it opens and wait in the queue until they let us in at 1:30 pm for the 3 pm service.  It is aired on BBC in the UK and around the world at various times.  Lois and Wayne have always listened to it when in the States so they wanted to go and see it live.  We will take the train up tomorrow afternoon, sightsee Cambridge in the evening, bunker down in a hostel, and then get up early.

Christmas day I will be making egg's benedict for everyone who is at the LMC (7 or 8 of us) as a mid-morning brunch.  At 11 we will be having a Christmas Service for Wood Green Mennonite Church (WGMC) members followed by a "bring and share" at 2pm.  Later I plan to also talk with my parents and Aunt Mary/Uncle Allen via skype after they are done with their Christmas meal in Vermont.

On Boxing Day (day after Christmas), I will be going to Sue & Peter's (Sue is the "Paid Elder" from WGMC & Peter is her husband) to play some games with Peter.  Peter is a resident board game enthusiast whom I have enjoyed playing games with already.  Although we often play with a few more people, it will just be the two of us since others are away over the Holidays.  Never-the-less I look forward to an afternoon/evening of strategy board/card gaming.

The rest of my Holiday break is rather up in the air.  I plan to see Phantom of the Opera or another major show sometime between Boxing Day and New Years.  I will try to get cheaper tickets by showing up on the day of the performance when the box office for the theatre opens (usually 10 am) and ask for tickets for the afternoon/evening shows.  Apparently it's the way to get cheap seats in London, so I'll it and see. If I can't get tickets over the Holiday period I will just get real nose bleed seats sometime later in January.

I also plan on visiting some more of the major museums and Cathedrals while I have the free time.  Westminster Abbey and St Paul's seem to be "calling me" to attend one of their services as opposed to paying the 10 or more pounds it costs to enter as a tourist.

My New Years plans are not set up yet, but if nothing comes up (got an invite to go to Dorset for New Year's Eve. but haven't decided on it yet) I'll head down to the Thames to watch fireworks with Will and his girlfriend.

If anything else exciting happens I'll try to remember to post it.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!  Here's to 2010!!!  


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Wave

So at least 20,000 people (according to the BBC) BBC Article, but that was the police estimates, so it could be higher than that.  Some people around here have said maybe 50,000 or more.  So what was "the wave"???  Well I'll just post the link to the website to make it easier for people to understand The Wave Website, basically it was a march to push for more aggressive action regarding climate change.  People were encouraged to wear blue in any shape or fashion.  I had a blue sweatshirt, blue jeans, and ended up getting some blue paint on my face as well. 

It hit the climax by encircling parliament at 3pm where everyone waved at parliament.  Very kid friendly, lots of parents & children marched along, lots of banners from multiple types of organisations.  I went with other members of Wood Green Mennonite Church.  I took out most of my blurry photo, but I left a photo of the Wood Green banner in, even though it isn't great.  Peter is in full motion!

Neat experience to have & makes me hopeful for the future regarding issues surrounding the climate.  Checked for news in the US if there were any similar marches, but sadly there were none...

Photos from the march.  (and the dragon at the end was actually in a news article, so I managed to get near something that got on the news, but I wasn't near it when they got in)...the picture of me is just proof that I was there.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving in London (on Saturday not Thursday...)

So since the UK doesn't celebrate US Thanksgiving we had our Thanksgiving meal on Saturday instead of Thursday.  The Radical Journey unit from Bradford came down from Wednesday until Sunday and joined us for the meal.  All in all we had more than enough food.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn casserole, salad, cranberry sauce, sweet potato salad, spicy olives, poppy seed bread, banana bread, and apple pie.  The only thing that was missing was seeing a game of American football after I am fully stuffed of food and wanting to relax a little.  Instead we took a walk down to Crouch End (neighbourhood just down the road) and back looping around.

Pictures are of the food and mealtime.

Others were taking pictures as well...Lois on the left & Ed on the right

Everyone but me (I had the empty chair on the right)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reflection Day

For my reflection day (once a month I am suppose to spend a day outside of the LMC reflecting/recharging myself), I took off for the British Library.

Big Ben - closer than I had been before
What I'm in a picture???

Now that I've gotten to actually posting my reflection day stuff I realise that these pictures are around a month old...I just got a haircut and my hair is pretty short now.  First time I've had a "real" haircut in two and a half years.  Real meaning one I paid for...and probably 6 and a half years since getting one from a "professional" and not just a friend in college for $5.  My new hair below...or just a lot less of my old hair.  It'll be a couple of weeks before new hair seems to appear.

So what have I been up to over the last month or so?

A lot... two courses from Bridge Builders - their foundation course, Transforming Church Conflict and a follow up course, Training of Trainers.  The Transforming Church Conflict course took me up to Bawtry (small town near Doncaster) north in England (but not THAT far north).  It took place over the third week of October.  The Training of Trainers course happened this last week from Tuesday to Thursday.

The Transforming Church Conflict course (TCC) focused on our own perceptions of conflict, our preferred conflict "styles" through the Gilmore-Fraleigh profile, and little bits here and there of ways to deal with conflict a little more effectively.  It was very self-focused and is meant as a foundation course to build off of for the future whether or not someone takes another course from Bridge Builders.

Overall, it was a very tiring course.  A lot of information to process as well as self processing.  Beyond the course itself I also was a part of briefing and debriefing each day to give me a flavour of what it will be like as a trainer.  This added with setting everything up on Sunday (course ran Monday to Friday with a meal on Sunday) and taking everything down Friday, travel 3-4 hours up 5-6 hours back (we hit traffic...lots of it), led to an exhausting week.

That being said it was well worth it.  I learned a lot more about myself than I thought I would even though some of the material/concepts were not new to me as I had learned many of them through my time at Goshen College.  However, being a little older, having a little more life experience, and processing the information for a different reason made it a very worthwhile experience.

The Training of Trainers course that I participated in this last week was very exciting for me.  It basically is a course that teaches people how to run a one-day workshop using Bridge Builders concepts and material.  It gave me a bit of an idea of what I will be doing during courses in the future since it was training me on using some of the material that we used during the other courses.  Not only did it prepare me a little for being a Bridge Builders' trainer, but also prepared me for doing such a workshop when I get back to the States at some point.

The material, while presented over 3 days was broken up so that we were presented it, got a chance to try part of the presentation ourselves, and then debriefed each experience afterwards.  If it was going to be really run as a one-day workshop it would need a very special group of people (i.e. VERY very quick learners).   It would be easy to divide the material into a couple of days/workshops.

Now that I've given a summary of some of the work I've been doing I guess I should let everyone know of some of the fun stuff I've done...on to some pictures!!

The following pictures are of Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath and around in the Heath on a wonderfully sunny fall day.


  The next photos are sort of random...one in front of Chinatown, a couple of a church at night, the Thames at night (not a clear shot but the water looks neat), outside a pub on the Southside of the Thames w/the flame/light things...

The next photos are from the fireworks celebrating Guy Fawkes day.  The link for what the day is from wikipedia is below here.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Day It's basically celebrating the burning of a guy who tried to blow up Parliament with a TON of fireworks.  The pictures don't do the show justice, but they're interesting enough.