Monday, October 26, 2009


Since the beginning of October the LMC has been hosting the Christian Peacemaker Teams training for reservist CPTers.  While the LMC has not been providing food or making meals for the trainers/trainees, it has provided lodging for the trainers and space for the trainings which have been occurring virtually 6 days a week from 8 in the morning until 9 or later on most nights.  A pretty intense training to say the least.  The group (most of which has come from various parts of Europe, but there is one Californian in it - except for the trainers who are all from the states as well) has gelled nicely and seems to be getting along very well into their last week of training.  While I don't know everything that they have been dealing with I do sense the intensity of the course and the dedication of the CPTers to their work.  The majority of their training involves issues that are not taken lightly.  

While CPT has been here I got the chance to go up to Bradford for the weekend (Bradford is north of London by about 3 1/2 to 4 hours by car, it is West of Leeds) to visit the Radical Journey unit that is stationed there.  Tim Foley (Mennonite Mission Network Europe/some of Asia Director) invited me since he was going to be in town as well and told me he'd pay my way up and back.  Enough said!  

While there I took the chance to relax in a smaller town (250,000ish) for my first real trip outside of London.  I rode the bus up (took around 4 1/2 - 5 hours) so I could see some of the countryside and just reflect a little.  I found myself feeling that I was in a very small town, which was surprising since I had only been in London for around a little over a month.  While it was nice to get away for the weekend, I was ready to be back to London, which was starting to feel like home.  Pictures are from the Church & home of the minister who gave me a spare room while I was there.  The church was amazingly large on the inside, and I ended up getting introduced right in the bulletin as Tim had given them a heads up that I was coming (and he was preaching as well).  I also got to have a wonderful curry lunch that was made as a welcoming for the Radical Journey unit.        

Side of the church, you'd never know from the outside how freaking big it was...

House of the minister

 Front of the church

Front of the church looking up

Minister's house

Their chickens!!! Very friendly, swarmed all around me and wanted to follow me inside.

Friendly cat who had just lost her other kitty friend in the previous week, so she was a little sad, but was very receptive to me and came up on my lap for at least a half an hour while I pet and held her.

 View in front of the Bradford unit's house


 Another view in front of their house

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rooftop fun

I finally did make it up through the skylight in my room up to the roof. It wasn't necessarily easy, nor could it be done by just anyone (I'm not boasting, just matter of fact). The spot I had to squeeze out of at the top (the skylight didn't naturally hinge open, it only opened as wide as the latch allowed) was barely big enough for me to squeeze in and out. Once out I could open it for someone else behind me, but it wasn't made to do so, and without someone controlling the skylight it could damage the hinge if it was opened completely from the inside, so essentially someone needs to be able to fit through the space I did to get out.

Looking down the ladder

Another shot of down the hatch

The opening I had to squeeze through

Looking up the ladder from below...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wood Green Mennonite Church awayday

So within the first month of being in London I get to experience a retreat day for the Wood Green Mennonite Church. It consisted of heading out to a retreat centre that was outside of London, but still relatively closeby for the day. At the centre we had a chance to contribute a "desert island song" of our choosing to play for the group along with an explanation for why we would choose that song. The essence of a desert island song is that if you could choose one song if you were stranded on a desert island, which song would it be, and why.

I chose "Runnin Down a Dream" by Tom Petty. I chose it because if I were stranded on an island I would want something that was upbeat (in terms of type of music, not necessarily lyrics) and also because it was a song I use to play when driving to and from school when I drove to school in VT (and it provides fond memories of that time). The diversity of the group was pretty evident as others chose anything from Gospel type music (as I went down to the river to pray), pop (the teen of the group), to instrumental or classical. This was a nice way for me to start to get to know church members outside of a general conversation.

Other activities of the day included morning and afternoon tea/coffee breaks, "free time" - which I spent learning how to play a game somewhat like mastermind except with triangles, a worship time, and finally a short information session regarding some ideas regarding reducing the church's carbon footprint.

Overall it was a nice day to have, and coincidently fell soon after I arrived and had just started to get to know a few people. Which on one hand made it easier to know people, but on the other was a retreat in which I might have enjoyed more after knowing people a bit more. Either way it was nice to have.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

About time for a post huh?

Well I figured it was about time for a posting. I've been busy to say the least, figuring out London a bit more and involved in numerous activities since my previous posting. I'll appologise upfront for my "English" spelling for the last time. I'll be spelling things differently over the next few years (and maybe longer once I've left, but who knows), but you should be able to tell what I've written. One note on dates. My format of dates will be in DD/MM/YYYY and time will be in 24 hour clock or "military time." I'll try to write in the North American equivelant when I remember to help, but I may forget. The date format is what I will be using exclusively while I am here so I'm sorry if that confuses people. If I say I went somewhere on 9/10, that it means the 9th of October and not 10th of September. If you don't understand something just ask.

So I'll try to start back from September events and work my way to the most recent, so the most recent events will be at the bottom of this post. What I will try to cover will be:

1. Consulting with Church Groups course I was a participant in during September (21-25 Sept or 21/9 - 25/9)
2. Wood Green Mennonite Church awayday
3. Rooftop fun
4. Christian Peacemaker Teams
5. Bradford
6. Prep for Transforming Church Conflict course

With no further adue,

1. Consulting with Church Groups (CCG)

This week long course was my first "real course" experience with Bridge Builders. It is a course that is for people who have already taken their "bread and butter" course (Tranforming Church Conflict) and are looking for further tools toward working with church groups in situations of conflict. So alas I started by taking a course where everyone else already had the prerequisite. Never-the-less I felt able to contribute to group discussions and interactions. I'll mention again that people who are taking the course are church leaders in some capacity, whether that means they are a minister, vicar, lay-leader, it doesn't necessarily matter, but most (but not all) have been ordained.

While I don't want to get into too much detail about specifics in the course, I'll give a brief overview of each day and provide a link for the course brochure. If anyone would like me to expand upon any given idea I'd be happy to do so, just ask. At the onset of the course four different volunteer groups were asked for to help with aspects of the course. A worship group (responsible for worship at various points), a fun group (random 5-10 min break activities), a time keeper group (getting us back to work on time), and a trainer helper group (help the trainers rearrange the room as needed). The format of each day was somewhat similar in the fact that we would start the day with worship at 9:00, have sessions throughout the morning, one fun break at some point, lunch at 13:00 (1pm), sessions then from 14:00 (2pm) until 17:30 (5:30pm) with another fun break sometime in the afternoon. In addition, there would be a morning coffee break and an afternoon tea break. Both of those breaks included biscuits (cookies).

The course consisted of getting information regarding useful theory for working with people in general, role playing a basic "consult with a church group," and working with exercises that could be of use in a consultation as well. The role play asked participants to get "into and out of" role quite often and demanded a lot of certain individuals. As the week played itself out roles became less like the roles that they took on and more of poeple themselves in role. Which provided some challenges, but is natural since it is hard to shake who you are completely for a role (especially if asked to get out of role throughout the day as well).

The basic process that was introduced for the consulting with church groups is as follows: introduction, reference groups/education stage, information gathering stage, healing stage, problem solving stage, closing stage.

Monday topics - family systems theory, character of the consultant, leadership style, Gilmore-Fraleigh style profile review, general systems theory/organisational studies

Tuesday topics - assessment tools, process - introduction, reference groups/education stage, information gathering stage

Wednesday topics - information gathering stage, interim report, case studies, healing stage - samoan circle

Thursday topics - problem solving stage, metaphor exercise, problem solving stage/cultural differences

Friday topics - closing stage, ethical issues, developing one's own approach, self-care & spiritual disciplines

As you can see MANY different topics were discussed, and although it may seem like less was covered as the week went on (less topics on given days) that wasn't necessarily the case. Certain stages just took that much longer to cover.

Picture of the CCG participants - those differnet coloured things around our necks are our Gilmore-Fraleigh style profile cards. They are an assessment of your conflict style in "calm" and "storm." As with any assessment it isn't perfect and no one fits into their category completely, but it can be useful in finding out a little more about yourself or others.

The course in itself was very useful in terms of the tools we gained (specifically a strategy for working with church groups and various exercises/assessments which we worked with in our role play), but left a daunting task ahead for many. Most of the participants there had some severe conflict within their own congregation and would be then trying to adapt what they've learned from Bridge Builders. As we discussed in our last two days the cultural aspects and denominational differences would change how things were handled quite a bit, making each situation a whole new can of worms in itself. However, people's excitement and enthusiasm for learning new ways to work within situations of conflict was rewarding to see.

While I was called a "participant" for this course, I did get to sit in on Colin and Alastair's debriefing sessions each day (morning and night), mainly for my own benefit of seeing how they worked together outside of the context of having course participants around. Normally Alastair and Colin, while director and assistant director respectively, are not together in person since Colin has the "northern office" - a space in his attic and Alastair has the "southern office" - here at the London Mennonite Centre, they have been together for courses. This however is about to change as from now on each will be the "lead instructor" and other trainers, who I have not met, will be assisting them, and after I will have taken a course as a participant, I will be assisting as well. This will be new for Bridge Builders (not having Alastair and Colin leading all of the courses together) so it will be interesting to see how it plays itself out.

My highlight for the course was getting to meet the other course members, learning a little about the struggles they are dealing with, and seeing how they then hope to apply some of what they've learned from the course to the congregations.

The hardest part of the course was going in and out of role - some of the roles were "precast" in the sense that there were certain characters that needed to be played and they had a role somewhat defined for them, while the rest of us (myself in that bunch) had to cast ourselves on one side of the conflict, the other, or somewhere in between. This was difficult for me in the sense that I wanted to be authentic to a role, but it was often hard to differentuate myself and my own knowledge/personality from that role, especially since I didn't have as many guidelines and could sort of make it up as I went.

Well, if there are any questions (feel free to have many) - please do ask. I am in the process of revising the current manual for the course (only around 80 pages double sided) so it's all information I have readily available if not in my brain already.

Well since this post is rather long I'll put each of the points I previously stated would be at the bottom of this post in new posts entirely. So next will be...2. Wood Green Mennonite Church awayday