Monday, March 26, 2007

Is that Big Ben I hear?

I know there haven't been many posts. My apologies. It has been a rough few months, and although I will write about it soon (I'm sure with many reflective and optimistic comments) but instead I want to share about my MOST AMAZINGLY COOL EVENING! A few weeks ago, my friend Fiona (flatmate of church friends) asked while I was knitting at their flat "who wants to go hear a talk about 'Christians in Parliament?'" Never one to turn down an opportunity to be (a) social, (b) intellectually stimulated (ha) or (c) traveling around the city, I said "Me!" We were meeting at the Westminster tube station, so I had a bit of a hunch I'd actually get to go into Parliament, but I was imagining a lecture type thing in a big room. Instead, it was inside the "Speaker's Apartment" (went looking online to see if I could find a webpage that explains the awesomeness of this space, but pretty much, the Lord Speaker of Parliament (the guy/gal in charge of making sure everything stays "in order" has an "official residence" in the Houses of Parliament, and, well, you can't fault the British for not taking care of their own)). It was a dinner (buffet), hosted by the organization "Christians in Parliament" which is a cross-party group that brings, Christians in Parliament (yes, they do exist). So, I was in a room with a bunch of MPs, Lords, and other important people. And the speaker was the Archbishop of York, who is from Uganda. Throughout the entire time, I kept wishing I had brought my camera, to document this once in a lifetime chance. So, to give a more authentic recap, I will narrate my evening as if, we were going through the pictures of the evening (in my head).
We start out with this shot of me, sitting on a bus on my way to Westminster. You notice, I'm "glowing" a bit. This is because I did a mad-high-school-worthy-track-team-sprint for the bus (was running late from work), but a fabulously kind citizen saw me booking it and took an extremely long time to step onto the bus. I hope to return the favor to another poor soul someday.
Next, is a picture of me and Fiona walking to where we were meeting our host. Notice I am slightly disappointed, this is because we were walking towards Portcullis House (across the street from Houses of Parliament, where the MPs offices really are) and I thought this is where the meeting must be and not in the Parliament building.
This is me with my mouth wide open and trying not to jump up and down in the lobby of the Portcullis House when Fiona told me we would be traveling in an UNDERGROUND WALKWAY to get to the Houses of Parliament.
This is me trying to discreetly skip in the UNDERGROUND WALKWAY to the Houses of Parliament.
This is me walking past all the MPs bicycles.
This bed Fiona and I are standing next to is in a room next to the Speaker's Grand Dining Room. It is the bed that the heir to the throne sleeps in the night before they are crowned (so they have a short walk to Westminster Abby, b/c you know, it would be a bummer to get a blister that day).
This is me and Fiona trying not to laugh after an old man walked past us and informed us that the mattress is actually "quite firm."
These are my eyes getting wide when Fiona informed me that old man was a Lord in the House of Lords.
This is me casually getting in the buffet line behind one of the leading liberal MPs.
This is where the Archbishop of York touched my shoulder when he walked past and I said "thanks for your words tonight."
Ummm, these are the satsumas that I ate.
This is me listening to the Archbishop of York speak. He spoke about law, religion, morality, and justice. And how the four can not be separated. It was really intriguing for me to listen to him, and then hear some of the follow up questions. For the USA, our government (and nation) was practically founded on the tenet of separation of church and state. The UK has a very different history, so it is no wonder there are very different dynamics for these people in power, trying to wrestle with how their faith should influence their lawmaking with integrity.
This is me and Fiona chatting with a leading conservative MP, and the director of Christians in Parliament (Fiona's old supervisor. Fiona spent a year as an intern to an MP, thru an organization that connects young Christians with Christian MPs. Fiona now teaches 14 yr olds. Not sure who she prefers working with =0).
This is Fiona and I raising our eyebrows after a researcher (old British man) told us that thanks to the invention of the atomic bomb, there have been no "serious" wars since. (There was some context leading up to it, but.....yeah.) I believe he referred to it as the "Ultimate Peace Machine." Later on in the evening, he told me that he "loves Americans" and thinks it is shameful how much anti-American sentiment is in London. He told me "keep doing what you're doing over there."
This is me smiling and nodding hesitantly, think he was affirming my work as a sociologist.
This is me on the bus, eyebrows crinkled, realizing that he didn't know anything about me, and was referring to the war in Iraq.
And finally, this is me walking across the Westminster Bridge, absolutely gobsmacked (new British vocab word) about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I just had.

My most favorite moment, throughout all of this, was when I was in conversation with the Director of the program, and an African woman came up and started speaking with him. As she walked away, he said, "see you at the prayer meeting!" He then turned to us and explained that a few months ago, they realized that a large percentage of the support staff in Parliament (cleaners, caterers, etc.) were Christians, but were unable to attend the weekly prayer meetings and Bible studies because there were scheduled in the middle of the day (I guess there are specific times during the week that are blocked out for MPs and Lords, so it works well for them to have Bible study then) and during those times, the support staff was working. So, those attending the meetings (mainly MPs and such) made an intentional decision to move their meetings earlier and later in the day, so the support staff would be more able to make it. And so now, there are MPs praying with cleaners and cooks. How cool is that? He then told us, there are many cleaners who, as they go through each office of MPs and Lords to vacuum and such, they pray for each individual leader and the work they do. "That probably has a whole lot more influence than the dinner parties we throw up here!" He said.

More to come. Lots of love.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Well played, God.....

Once in a while, I get stuck in my head. It's kinda hard to explain, but I just get down and a gang of emotions start to play racquetball in my head (must have a good court in there, because anxiety and frustration come to play quite often). It mainly just feels like a looped soundtrack of "Everything is going wrong." and "You can't fix it." Church didn't pull me out of it this morning, and usually the worst thing I can do is hole up in my room (life sucking force, I'm telling you) because it isolates me further and makes the voices that much more audible. So, I called up a church friend who let me come over. She did some work and knitting, while I knitted/watched a ridiculous Owen Wilson/Eddie Murphy spy movie with her boyfriend. I believe it prevented me from going completely manic, but as I was taking the bus home, I still felt the weight. Back in the room where hope cannot exist, I begun the one task that never fails to cheer me up - cleaning and reorganizing my room. First thing was to finally take down the three empty plastic jugs of bottled water to the recycling. I don't take my key, because the door to our apartment doesn't close on it's own, but I always have to take my entry card, because the door at the end of the stairs does close on it's own. (I know...I know....snore, just establishing background!) But as I exited my flat in a coma of drudgery, I automatically closed the door behind me. As soon as I heard the bolt click, I knew I had done it. It's 6:30 on a Sunday night, I don't know who is home. After dumping the bottles I push our buzzer....then I push it again....and again and again. Either one of two things are happening - none of my six flatmates are home, or they do what I do if I hear the buzzer, if I'm not expecting anyone, I ignore it. More buzzing. Nothing. And at that moment, my cloud of gloom breaks. Here I am, at the base of my flat, locked out, in the rain.... and the world didn't fall apart. In the face of something actually going wrong, I have to laugh at my anticipation of doom, all day long. For what felt like eternity, but was probably only a minute and a half, I stare up at my flat windows, hoping someone who lives in the rooms facing the courtyard are home. I catch sight of one, and I wave frantically.....she was always a bit spacey. As I consider looking for something to throw at her window, the flatmate above opens her window to light a cigarette (we are a "non-smoking" flat, after all) and she clearly wonders why I am looking up at her window in adoration. Instead of breaking into a Shakespearean soliloquy, I ask her to come let me in.
It's funny, I get so hung up on my feelings of inadequacy - that I am struggling so hard to get everything in it's place and God locks me out of my own flat to make me realize that it's not the point right now. My life didn't crumble as I was stranded in the rain, nor will it cease to be significant if my proverbial ducks aren't lined up in a row...maybe I should look into getting real ducks. Or penguins, I think they move slower and look much cooler. As I walked back into my room, I could only laugh at my self and say "Well played, God. Well played."

PS For those of you who are wondering, why doesn't she just go do some studying (right, Dad?), I would have, but apparently the fees department at Goldsmiths feels like I owe them some money. But, instead of sending me a letter, email, or give me a call, they shut down my campus account - which includes my campus email and library entry. I've always heard the British are passive aggressive, but, seriously. Wouldn't have been too traumatic, except I didn't discover this until 4:00 on Friday afternoon (go ahead, ask me what I was doing at the library on a Friday night) and the office closes at 3:30 on Fridays, because you know, they have better things to do. I feel like Sandra Bullock in The Net. You know, the one where she discovers this web-conspiracy and then goes on vacation to Mexico and they steal her wallet and steal her identity with this creepy inter-connected thing called the internet. If I come home from work tomorrow and there is someone else living in my dorm room....well, they can have it, but I'm taking my stuffed hippo!