Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


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Update from Me and LJW

Wow…My first term in England is almost over, Thanksgiving has gone, Christmas is just around the corner, and as I knew would happen, it has been a long time since there has been a post on here. There have been lots of posts in my head, but none have been finished. I blame the quick succession of papers, presentations, and long conversations in the common room over cups and cups of tea. So, what I thought I would do is to give an overview of the past few weeks through a massive Little John Wesley update. LJW is a very helpful companion, because if I don’t do fun things every now and then, he gets rather cross with me. I know what you are thinking: How can his stitched smile look scary? Trust me. It does. So, here it is

LJW and a Monk

LJW and a Monk

Right after All Saints Day, The Methodist students all took a retreat to the monastery at Ampleforth Abby. It was a great time together. We focused on the “I AM…” sayings in the Gospel of John with brief devotions throughout the day followed by longer periods of personal reflection and rest. After a busy few weeks, it was a very welcome break! It was also very nice to be at an Abby and participate with the monastic order of prayer. Monastic worship has been meaningful to me for a long time and sitting in the choir with the monks was beautiful as their chants and prayers washed over us. After five long weeks of getting used to England, classes, and each other, to be able to get away from college, and gel as a community was more welcome than many of us realized. The one downside was that our Anglican friends were not there. They had a retreat for themselves, but sharing stories when we returned helped to bridge the gap.

LJW visits Whitby

LJW visits Whitby

The week after Reading Week was my birthday! Birthdays are one of those times of the year when you can throw a party and invite your closest friends and family and have a good time. This year was the big quarter century mark, which makes me feel rather old. As I thought about how to celebrate my birthday, I decided that I wanted a distinctly English experience. Which means that it needed to include Fish and Chips. This was also significant because my birthday was also my two month anniversary in England, so a Chip shop needed to happen. After much research I discovered that the town of Whitby has one of the best Fish and Chips in the country (as well as the best Mushy peas! Don’t curl your nose up. They are my favorite English side dish after the Yorkshire pudding). We woke up kinda early,went to McDonalds for Breakfast (“American” Style), and then off to the beach. It was VERY cold and very cool. Whitby is where Dracula was set, as well as beautiful lighthouses, and a ruined monastery. Kayla, who is my fellow Americah came along for the fun as well as two of our friends who are Anglican ordinands. Road Trips are always exciting, so it was good to have fun people to spend the day with.

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

LJW enjoys a Thanksgiving Meal

The next exciting holiday was Thanksgiving! If you ever want to feel out of place,try explaining Thanksgiving to someone in England. I was surprised how many people had very little idea of what the holiday was all about, so it was fun sharing the story of pilgrims, Indians, massive feasts and subsequent oppression and unrest. To celebrate Kayla and I taught some of our fellow students how to draw hand turkeys. For me one of the highlights were all of our British friends wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving. It represented the hospitality which I have received time and time again since I have been in this country. Here was a very American holiday which could have been entirely depressing and a stark reminder of how far away from home I was. However, with each cheery greeting I was reminded that the heart of the holiday is the love of family and friends. Therefore, as much as I missed home, at the end of the day, I was thankful for the new friends that I have made and the community we have created. This was brought to the foreground even more over the weekend when Kayla and I forgot about our pending papers and spend 15 hours in the kitchen of some friends’ house cooking up a “proper” Thanksgiving meal. It included all the fixin’s from both of our families. There is nothing like a post-Turkey coma to remind you of home :).

So, there it is. Next week is our last normal week of classes. Following that is a week-long intensive class followed by a four week break. There is more to come, but I hope that this will appease those of you who have been checking and not seeing any changes. Here is a gallery of more pictures from the past month. Click through and enjoy!

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Sorted

Sort•ed: (past participle) To have everything in their proper place, to have something figured out or under control.

Of all the British words I have learned in my two weeks in this country, this is the one has been almost a theme for me. I really don’t like to move. There is something disconcerting about taking all of your possessions and moving them to another place, unpacking it all, getting settled only to do it all again in a few months. I know that this is an unfortunate feeling for a future United Methodist minister committed to itinerancy, but I think that living in five different places in the past five months has been about four too many. I like having roots. There is a deep sense of comfort to having a home, a community, friends and family nearby and meaningful work to do. That is one of the main reasons it has been so strange to pack up one suitcase full of clothes, books, and some other essential items; board a plane; and arrive in another country with an ocean separating you from all of those roots you love.

When I stepped off the airplane at Heathrow all I had with me was my luggage, camera, and $100 (which quickly turned into £51.29). What I also had was a promise that at 9:00 a young man bearing a sign with my name on it would pick me up from the airport and take me to his house to stay for a week. It was this promise which would be the beginning to what was a fantastic week.

How I met the Logans is a long story, but they were such a means of grace for me in my first week in Great Britain. They welcomed me into their family helped me get oriented  to not just the city of London, but also British Methodism and British culture. Because of them I had a fantastic week in London and Cambridge. There are so many stories from this week that I cannot fit them all into one post, however, I do hope to post some of them in the future. Suffice it to say when I boarded the train for Durham I took with me not only my luggage, but an English phone, a large stack of pamphlets from all over London, 1,000 pictures, and the beginnings of a new community in this country.

When I left the safe comforts of London and the Logans and entered Durham I once again became uprooted. Now I had to navigate a University bureaucracy in which I as an exchange student operating outside the conventional structures for international students was was utterly clueless. Again though I boarded the train with the promise that at the station, Debs, one of the British students who had studied at Duke last year, would meet me at the station. With her help and that of the persistant and patient administration I managed to get my room, my ID card, my finalized schedule, and a vague understanding of how this year was going to work.

Do I have everything figured out? No. Are there still many things which are up in the air? Of course. However, as we begin our induction week (orientation), and I meet my fellow students who will be on this journey with me over the next year I can’t help but come back to my (already messy) room and, for the first time in a long while begin to feel sorted.

P.S If you would like to see some of my best pictures from London check out my Flickr photo stream here.