A Look After

Hello there!

If you haven’t read Andy’s blog post about the Learning Lab yet, do yourself a favor and hit “previous” to take a gander. He did a fantastic job summarizing the goings-on of the week and posted some lovely photos. Shannon encouraged me to share a bit about the Learning Lab as well, which will probably look a lot less succinct and logical than Andy’s update, but let’s be honest: I’m never too succinct or logical anyway! Here’s to attempting.. 😉

There is a phrase that I’ve heard Americans say, but the Brits use a lot more often and kind of out of habit, without too much thought. It’s the phrase “I’ll look after you.” For some reason, it just takes on this new connotation for me when uttered with an English accent, it’s more ardent and warm somehow– It means “I’ll take care of you,” “I’ve got your back,” “You’re safe with me.” I like it because it means these things but technically it implies that someone is looking behind you, following your steps and tracing your path. It is a hospitable phrase, I think. In attempts to trace the path of the Learning Lab, let us take a “look after” some of the highlights and instances of friendship and hospitality:

At the beginning of the Learning Lab, I felt a little bit out of place all of the sudden (Believe it or not, I hadn’t really felt out of place in England much until the Americans arrived and reminded me that I was, in fact, a wanna-be Londoner! :)). You see, there was a group of Matryoshka Haus Londoners, a group of Dallas, Texans… and me. The Alien from Austin (Don’t get me wrong- I’m a proud Austinite and proud of our tendency to be a bit alien). However, it didn’t take long until both groups of people welcomed one another, and we truly became a family (eating lots of meals together tends to encourage this, I think! It’s the Matryoshka Haus way!)

Some personal highlights for me were:

-Hearing Rob Pepper’s lovely spiel on art and sanctuary, and walking the bridge from the Tate Modern (which is free) to St. Paul’s Cathedral (which you have to pay to enter) and discussing how both places can be spiritual sanctuaries. Tim, a Bent Tree member, and I lit candles together at St. Paul’s and prayed for his family at home which was a dear moment for us both. If you are interested in learning more about Rob or his artwork (trust me, you’re interested!), look at his website.

-Discussing media and mission with Matryoshka Haus’ own Liz Clutterbuck, Threads’ Chine Mbubaegbu, and the dynamic Dave Tomlinson (author of “How to be a Bad Christian”).

-Some shameless tourism (at rush hour, mind you!) with two of my new best friends: Jen and Jennifer (Also fondly referred to as “the Jens” with utmost patience). In a mere two hours we covered all of the vitals: Baker Street, Platfrom 9 3/4 to catch the Hogwarts Express, and of course: Abbey Road. The latter was my personal favorite, as I have longed to visit since Day 1 in this great Bealtes-blessed city… And have had it on my bucket list for quite some time. However, it gets better: I didn’t simply want to cross Abbey Road- that would be far too mundane… I needed a better method of travel, one that communicated my utmost jubilee, my joyous gratitude for one of the greatest albums of recorded sound…

So I cartwheeled accross Abbey Road, ladies and gents.

And so it began..

Tahdah!

Tahdah!

The Jens being lovely, behaved Beatles fans!

The Jens being lovely, behaved Beatles fans!

Well, well. Now that that little detail is cartwheeling its way into humiliation… let us move on with haste! The Learning Lab was a glorious experiment in what learning looks like. I would assert that the Bent Tree folks weren’t the only ones to grow from the experience, as many Matryoshka Haus-holders have shared the impact it had on them as well. It was a cultural exchange, a steeping in post-modernity-tea, and a week-long conversation over that tea about purpose and mission in such a context. No matter our backgrounds, we found the world in common with one another- literally! I think we all have found new ways of “looking after” one another, and many new friends and adventures to come.

Back in Action

There’s an ebb and a flow to life in the Matryoshka Haus community: times of busyness and activity and times of rest. After a quieter six months since thanksgiving we are definitely back in action now that Shannon has returned to London.

Cathers introducing the group to the week ahead

Cathers introducing the group to the week ahead

Nothing has show that quite as much as this last week: the inaugural Matryoshka Haus Learning Lab. Fourteen Americans from Bent Tree Church in Dallas, Tx came to hear about London as a post-Christian urban culture and what that might mean for the future of mission in the US.

Bent Tree-ers brainstorming reflections at Host Cafe

Bent Tree-ers brainstorming reflections at Host Cafe

This was a true Matryoshka Haus experience: an immersive, intensive week where the venue of the teaching and the people experiencing it with you are as important as the content. Where meals together with members of the Matryoshka Haus community is a crucial part of the week, giving the American’s the opportunity to ask questions and bounce ideas off the ordinary Londoner!

Shannon teaching the group in the FARM:Shop polytunnel

Shannon teaching the group in the FARM:Shop polytunnel

If there has been any doubt that the Matryoshka Haus community has held together over the last year, the Learning Lab dispelled it. Twenty different members of our London crew volunteered to help out this week: taking Americans to church or Sunday lunch, to curry, to coffee, to the pub or even entertaining them in their homes. At our ‘Celebration Evening’ on Saturday night there was a genuine warmth of feeling expressed by both groups – yet again a disparate bunch of Americans and Brits had become friends while working and exploring life together.

[Interested in what the Learning Lab was? You can read more of Bent Tree Church’s adventures at the Learning Lab blog.]

Learning Lab Literature (for all alliterative limerick lovers)

Hello from the Learning Lab!

It is paramount to announce before you venture further: I solemnly swear that I do not intend on making the Matryoshka Haus blog suddenly a sub-par poetry blog (or giving it a reputation for terrible blog post titles.. yikes)!

But the fantastic conversations and adventures this week have inspired so much thought within everyone, and I thought it might be nice to share some of the product of that dialogue instead of trying to summarize all of it (if that makes sense?). So, without further ado, more sub-par poetry from yours truly… This one inspired by the Learning Lab and all the sweet people involved with it. (By the way, the lovely Bentry folks are posting on the Learning Lab blog over yonder: www.learning-lab.m-haus.org)

 

London                   is to                   the world                  as 

doll house               is to                   a mansion.

(It has all of the parts, just more concentrated and a bit more wee)

Every day I am encountering a new bit of the Doll House that I haven’t experienced in the Mansion yet.

I am having to wrestle with the Mansion and the Owner of it as a result of my time in the Doll House.

And I am asking lots of questions (mostly over coffee and curry)

and hearing lots of them               (mostly over coffee and curry)

And answers are not manufactured on billboards

with red letter urgency,

but I am sitting in the Doll House garden

by a monument of                   John Wesley’s life

just round the corner from a          Banksy          street-art piece,

and they both seem to say to me:

 

“If we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike.”

 

And so, with the Jesus bead-bracelet of a sincere child round my wrist,

I will unclench these fists and and I will raise these hands                                                    to hail a Doll-sized taxi to explore the unwalked streets with unknown perspectives;        and I will

choose to listen,                                                                                                                choose to see,                                                                                                                  choose to ask:

 

Q: “What all lies underneath?”

A: And it is not just the tube station that rattlesdown below                                              (and gets both the rich and the poor to where they need to go)

But it is the ground and the magma even further beneath                                                  that we are just a bit too small to touch or to see

but we can feel it moving beneath our feet                                                                         and we can boil a pot and in the truth we can steep.

So what do you say, fellow dolls with mansion dreams?

Together let us share with a spot of tea.

A Poem Involving Sheep… I must be in Devon!

Greetings one and all! Lauren reporting to you here from Devon, one of the most stunning pockets of the world I have ever seen. I’m here with the Transformational Index team, as they seek and discern what the next steps are for the TI tool, and it has been a lovely two days spent meeting, praying, and exploring the countryside.

 

Jacob riding in style on the beach!

I must admit that whilest doing aforementioned exploring, I may have made the inevitable comment to poor souls around me that I have felt a bit like I’m ambling through a Jane Austen novel… (Surely Mr. Darcy will pop by soon, eh?) And just to be even more sappy and typical about it all, in the land of dairy, I have written a poem inspired by sheep. Yes, I know.. It’s a bit unreal how cheesy (ah, dairy!) this is getting. But I daresay you would fall prey to the rolling hills and charming little creatures yourselves if you were here, and soon enough you’d be pretending to be Elizabeth Bennett right alongside of me!

So whilest marveling in the glory of our location today, I felt very much like Psalm 23 in the Bible was written just for me: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want/He makes me rest in fields of green, by quiet streams…” You see, in the midst of talking TI, we’ve been thinking a lot about big questions and big issues, and other quite business-y things like that. Which is such a beautiful and necessary thing! However, I mentioned to Becca on the team earlier today, I feel like Devon is the perfect place to have these intense planning sessions and analytical conversations, because we’re in such a peaceful and natural environment, away from the business and buzz of London… So the temptation to try to make things perfect or becomed stressed is tempered with the simplicity of sheep, if you will! And it’s in that very English, sheepy environment that I felt at home in Psalm 23, that I was being made to rest in fields of green, and I jotted down a little diddy I thought I would share:

My purpose is unknown, and yet I love all that I see

I’m one of the sheep grazing aimlessly in a pasture of most vivid green

and it’s then that I hear His voice; so gentle, sure, and unique-

And He tells me that today is today, and that is all I need.

He tells me that the sun will rise, whether I’m awake or whether I’m asleep

and He asks me to sing Him a song and simply sit and be.

I cannot convey the joy He gives, my Shepherd sweetly tending to me

Just to hear Him say, “Be here today” somehow sets my whole life free.

Radical Hospitality

Well hello again! This is my second weekend in London folks, and I must say she is a beauty. I’m thrilled to be going to Devon this week to see even more of this lovely, varied country.

Something that seems to be a theme for me already is the act of hospitality. This word usually connotes a very feminine, pale pink, spotless house in my mind (I’m sure that’s quite normal?! Maybe not..) however I’ve encountered it through much less glamorous scenes, and I think perhaps much more human ones.

I’ve encountered it through dozens of cups of tea from the entire community, sleeping on the best air mattress this side of the Thames courtesy of Rachel J. and Shannon, sharing some mind-bendingly good curry with several lovely ladies, Andy and T serving an incredible meal out of their kitchen which is still being completely reworked, being spontaneously invited into vulnerable conversation and prayer with Rachel N, and the beautiful and inimitable person of Sveta, who I’m renting my room from (She welcomed me with chocolate and a blanket/cape from Iceland- seriously the coolest)!

I couldn’t be more thankful for the hospitality I have received, and for everyday opportunities to give it. Shannon is currently lending me a book called “Radical Hospitality” which highlights the monastic Benedictine perspective on what it means to serve and welcome another. While I am certainly not a monk (though I do enjoy some good reading!) I have found it to be incredibly relevant to my spiritual journey and everyday life. Here’s a bit to tickle your fancy:

“It is our own failures to love that we have to deal with when we talk of hospitality… It is costly. It is fatiguing. It is not some warm, fuzzy feeling Benedict wants us to conjure up; he wants the strength of respect and reverence to beat in the hearts of his monks.”

In this great book called The Bible, there’s this wonderful word that sometimes gets used in different places. It’s “tabernacle.” It means “tent” or “divine dwelling place.” The Israelites would often set up portable tabernacles to encounter the presence of God, no matter where they traveled. The most ultimate form of hospitality for me is embodied in the person of Jesus, who left his galactic throne to tabernacle with us on this wild dot of blue called earth, and make a bit of home for us. Here’s to the tabernacle, and here’s to hospitality.

Just a pot of tea on the Thames! A bit of communal hospitality in the midst of shifting sands, perhaps..

Just a pot of tea on the Thames! A bit of communal hospitality in the midst of shifting sands, perhaps..