SO – seeing as it is nearly Sunday again, I figured I should all update you on what happened LAST Sunday (as I promised).
Well, in order for you to get the full story I should provide a little background, yeah?
So back on the 20th of November 2014 I found out that I was accepted to both the Rome and the London spring study abroad programs for Creative Writing and Literature respectively. In fact, I had been personally contacted from the director of the Rome program – before I got the official acceptance – with this email:
Seeing as 1. I was personally welcomed into the program and sought after 2. I am intending upon pursuing Creative Writing within the English major 3. I HAVE been to London and have NOT been to Rome — it would have possibly behooved me to choose Rome over London.
I spent a lot of time thinking on my own and discussing my options with people I trust have my best interest at heart. I only had about a week to choose between the two and though Rome seemed the obvious choice to many, I’ve obviously picked London.
Well for starters, I ABSOLUTELY ADORE LONDON and will spend the rest of my life finding any opportunity to get back here. I truly fell in love with the city and the people here last summer – it’s so different from home, and I don’t have to drive anywhere – HALLELUJAH! London has played a large part in my life in making me more independent, more self-sufficient and at the same time more completely reliant upon God and his provision.
However, those reasons weren’t the only things to sway me – in the end, I spent a lot of time praying and was inspired to pick London due to the realization that I didn’t want to be separated from the church though I would be separated from my own church back home during my time away. You see, I KNEW that I had a church in London that I loved and that I felt at home in. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a good church in Rome and I knew that going nearly 3 months without attending church was not going to be a viable option – I’ve spent time away from the church before and it has never led me anywhere good! When I’m not surrounded by people who love the Lord, it’s easy to slip, to make decisions I normally wouldn’t, to live a lazier life, and to compromise myself.
Here in London I knew I had Hillsong church – and better than just attending a church, I knew that I would be WELCOMED right in and growing in my walk with God, with other believers, and I wouldn’t allow myself the opportunity to just take a break from church for a few months.
So, with my decision finally made, I told myself – and many others at home – that my first Sunday in London I would walk straight into Hillsong and get connected immediately.
Great idea right? Let me tell you, it was easier said than done.
I DID go to Hillsong on Sunday. Yep. I walked right in those doors and with purpose walked right PAST the connection desk. Ha. So much for confidence, right?
I passed by multiple people with smiling faces saying “Welcome to church!” – literally at least 6 people looked me directly in the eye and said that to me as I worked my way to the front of the Dominion Theater, and found an usher to help me find a seat (just for 1) in what was basically the front row — the actual front row was filled with pastors/pastors wives and such – like you’ll find in most churches.
So there I was – 10 minutes to start time, sitting in a lively church, feeling simultaneously totally welcomed, totally at home, and totally annoyed with myself. I had become my only set back – deciding to try and blend in rather than being BOLD like I had told myself (and others) I would.
The worship was so fun – everybody was singing and dancing and jumping and clapping and praising the Lord together. The service was amazing: Charles Nieman from El Paso, Texas preached a great word on how God uses humble beginnings – exemplified by the life of David.
And then it was over and I walked with purpose into the lobby, knowing full well where the connection desks were and confidently went straight…. OUT THE DOOR TO THE STARBUCKS NEARBY.
Confidence: 0. Cowardice: 2.
After sitting there with my white mocha and diminished self-confidence for about 3 minutes, I left the Starbucks and walked back to Hillsong….. straight through the front doors…. past the throng of people once again smiling with a hearty “Welcome to church!”…… all the way into…… the auditorium. I decided “hey, maybe if I sit through the service again I can garner enough confidence to actually get connected.”
Within 30 seconds though, silly and self-conscious me took a step back and my rational side finally took over. I did a big loop through the theater, BACK OUT into the lobby for the FOURTH time and finally walked up to a “Connection Point” where I stood without saying anything to anyone for a good minute or so.
Confidence: 1/2. Cowardice: 4.
Eventually, I turned toward two friendly looking guys at the connection point and asked to be put into a community group. After chatting for a while one of the guys said “hey you’ll be living kind of close to my leader, we’re going out to lunch right now, would you like to join us?” to which I emphatically said,
So finally after all of that struggle and silliness there I was, invited out to lunch with the greeting and connection teams from Hillsong London. At lunch (at a delicious Brazilian restaurant) I met several really great people, talked for a few hours and got at least 4 phone numbers of some people my age and a few leaders! Looking back at all my failed attempts I realized it was, in the end, better that I had waited – otherwise that lunch would have never happened and I wouldn’t have met Jenifa, Chloe, Catherine, or the other people from Hillsong that had welcomed me with open arms.
AND THAT WASN’T EVEN THE BEST PART OF MY DAY.
I went home (to Putney) because we were planning on just having a chill night in and it would be one of my last two or three days staying with Laura, Kirsty and James.
When I arrived home – shortly after the others – they asked me about my day and I got to tell them all about how kind and cool the people at Hillsong were and Kirsty perked up when I mentioned the church and asked me to play their music for James.
[I had played my Hillsong Young & Free album for Kirsty my first day in London and she really loved it – saying it was not at all what she expected of “church music”]
The rest of the day, Hillsong music was blasting through the house. James, Kirsty and Laura all liked it, deciding as a group that it was most definitely unexpected and after I showed them some photos of the theater where church was held and told them about how worship is basically a fun concert where people are jumping and clapping and all singing together they said they’d like to give it a shot with me one of these weekends.
It got me thinking (and posting to twitter) a lot:
It’s no secret that only around 4% of the population in the UK goes to church. And of that 4% most are elderly and in “traditional churches” in old, small buildings with organ music and choirs and hymnals and the like. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is not exactly appealing to people – particularly young people.
The problem I’ve noticed in London in particular is that NOBODY KNOWS that there are churches like Hillsong which are fun, and full of youth. Now I know, “having fun and meeting cool young people” is not the primary reason why a person should go to church. BUT if it is a thing that will GET people to church in the first place, it at least provides them with the opportunity to have God’s heart and Word revealed to them – a revelation that will never happen if they think churches are only for old people who like organ music.
Now I’m under no illusion that I’ve changed my friends lives by introducing them to Hillsong music, and I’m not going to PUSH them to go to church. I AM however praying that if (when) they do attend Hillsong with me that they’ll have a good time and maybe be interested in going once more.
I never anticipated that I would be taking people to church WITH me – I just assumed I’d be going on my own for the next 11 weeks but maybe God has a different plan than the one I’ve come up with on my own.
I’d love it if you’d all pray for me for the next few weeks. Also, please pray for the hearts of all the young people in London that don’t know the beauty of grace and love that is found in Jesus and the community/family that is found in His church. I ask that you’d pray for Hillsong London and the work that they are doing in this beautiful city. Thanks xxx
“GO EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND TELL THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.” -MARK 16:15