Post-Learning Lab Reflections

Hello all,

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post! A lot has has been happening here in London, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect that it’s been a year since the Learning Lab. One year since I first left the United States and came to London. Oh, and what a year it has been!

For anyone reading the blog that doesn’t know, the Learning Lab was a short project that Matryoshka Haus ran for a week last summer in partnership with Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, an evangelical church in Dallas. The goal of the Learning Lab was essentially to share Matryoshka Haus knowledge and experience about postmodern culture, while also conveying the core values that make Matryoshka Haus flow and function as an organisation and community. I was one of the fourteen Americans that came over as a member of the Bent Tree team.

Learning Lab, one year ago.

Learning Lab, one year ago.

Looking back on the past year, I can hardly believe how much my life has changed. I originally came over to the UK having almost no idea what to expect, and now I’m living in London and am a part of Matryoshka Haus. I mean, I can still remember deciding to come do an internship, and still not really fully understanding how Matryoshka Haus works off paper. The irony is that even though I now understand how everything works, in the process of getting there I’m no longer sure I can accurately and concisely explain it to another person… That’ll be an exercise for another blog post!

But in comparison to other years of my life, it seems like a disproportionately large amount has happened since the Learning Lab. When I think back to who was with me on the Learning Lab and where we all were at that time, it feels like it was ages and ages ago, even though not that much time has actually passed. So while I could talk about how much the Learning Lab as a week-long experience has influenced my life, that blog post feels like it’s about ten months too late, given how much has happened since then. Really the Learning Lab served me more as a kind of launch pad for growth in the past year, also obviously leading into my internship with Matryoshka Haus.

For one, the experience of moving to London and being a part of Matryoshka Haus has really helped me grow in my faith & walk with God. Obviously the act of trying to establish myself in a new city/country is cause for change in and of itself, but I’ve definitely had to review how I value everything compared to the States – most notably with respect to church and the community that is Matryoshka Haus London. By far one of the best things about my time in London has been getting to know all the awesome people from Matryoshka Haus, whether that is during a community meal, over coffee, or during a project meeting. I also love how I’ve been able to apply my abilities & passions to Matryoshka Haus projects like the Transformational Index, given how the field of interactive media is so narrow and broad at the same time.

Community Meal

Overall, much like trying to explain Matryoshka Haus, talking about my time in London on the blog is equally as difficult. I feel I am either radically understating the breadth and depth of what goes on, or I’m rambling and the meaning of what I’m saying is somehow 90% lost.  Hopefully one of our next projects will change all that! 🙂

More to come soon™

Brenden

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.