Today was an early day. Morning Prayer at 7:30 am, Breakfast at 8:00, out the door by 8:35 am and off to the London Overground [which is like the Underground – or the Tube – only it’s Overground…] to travel to the East End. The East End is the historic working-class area of London, once filled up with factories and dockyards, lower-cost housing, tenements and slums. This area was heavily affected by the London Blitz [bombing] during WWII, so has an interesting collection of buildings – old, brutish sort of modern, new, ramshackle, restored and the like. It’s a wide-ranging community now, very ethnically and economically diverse. Several communities are the most diverse in the world. In one case, more than 100 ethnicities [and their languages] are represented. As you can imagine, it is an area filled with deep challenges and rich possibilities.
Our first stop was St Peter’s Bethnal Green. St Peter’s was one of twelve churches planted in the mid- to late 19th century to serve working-class families in this area. It had a precipitous decline and about 8 years ago only had 20 active, older members. Those members decided that they didn’t want their church to close and chose to work to bring new life to their place. The priest over this time, Adam Atkinson, tells of the challenges that the work of finding new life in their neighborhood entailed. While exciting to talk about, this is not and has not been easy work. Essentially, it has meant meeting the people in the surrounding neighborhood and working to care for issues of the surrounding community. This sort of stuff changes people, places and communities in ways that are not always easy to control.
After lunch and a bit of reflection, we were off to St George in the East and the Center for Theology and Community. St George is an historic church in the East End, built at the beginning of the 18th century. It was hit by a bomb in 1941 and half of the building continues to live on as a shell – a reminder of the war. After near-closure, the congregation has begun to thrive as it has started to serve its neighborhood. The Center for Theology and Community is a group that does demographic and statistical research into what is happening in churches in London in order to understand and bring clarity to the work happening in several places. They also provide work in community organizing and development for the East End.
At the end of a very long day, most of our group were off to the Olympic Village to worship with a church that meets in a restaurant [it has not building of its own] while Luanne and I went for dinner with a London pastor-friend to hear about the work happening in his church as well as that of his wife here in London.
We think of you all quite a bit and reflect on our lives in Fort Wayne and the work of Trinity as we visit and talk with people here. We’re all prepped with an abundance of thoughts and ideas and are anxious to bring back what we’ve thought about.
Peace to you all from London.