Monday, June 18, 2012

Saints Alive!

When we first arrived in England, we were told that one of our responsibilities would  be to attend a different ward within the London Temple district boundaries each week. While we won't be traveling to Limerick, Ireland or Lille, France or Amman, Jordan (all within our temple district), we will be heading out into many areas of the southern half of England. It is one way we can get the word out to people about coming the Visitors' Centre and remind them about bringing their friends and families with them when they come to the temple.

For the first month or so, we stayed pretty close to home because we weren't very sure of our driving and navigational skills, but as the months have progressed, we have ventured out of the area, and now we are beginning to receive invitations to speak in different ward Sacrament meetings spread out over the southern half of England. What fun! We are excited to meet the people in the different wards we will be attending and to see some of England's magnificent countryside as we travel. We've attended ward meetings in the Crawley, Wandsworth, Maidstone, St. Albans, Hyde Park, and Staines stakes. We have already set dates to travel to wards in the Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Norwich, and Cardiff (Wales) stakes. We'll be covering a lot of miles; we'll be concentrating on getting there and back safely.  And we'll be looking forward to making some new friends and letting them know what the Visitors' Centre has for them.

As we travel on Sundays, we are finding that different wards have different personalities. It's been interesting to observe. Some wards are gregarious and friendly and we find ourselves being greeted by nearly everyone we see. Other wards are not as outgoing and don't really notice that someone new has come through the door. While we always enjoy the meetings that we attend and the lessons that are taught, our experiences have compelled us to reflect on the way we have welcomed visitors in the wards we've lived in. Have we helped them to feel comfortable and welcome? Have we taken time to show them where the Primary or the Relief Society or the Priesthood meet? Have we gotten to know something about them? We so appreciate those who make us feel welcome as we walk into a new ward each week.

One thing we have found that we look forward to everywhere we go is the singing!  We love to sing the hymns with the saints in England! We love the sound of that proper British accent! And there is just something about joining your voice with everyone in a chapel, large or small, and feeling the unity of purpose and the power of shared testimony as you sing together. A few weeks ago, we attended the Stake Conference of the Crawley Stake, within whose borders the temple resides. We have come to know many good people in the stake through their visits to the temple grounds  and our work with them. As we all joined our voices together that Sunday morning, we felt very much at home and very much a part of the stake. It almost sounded like heavenly voices were joining in the joyous song of the saints that morning. The chapel and cultural hall were filled with the beautiful sounds of Onward, Christian Soldiers and I Know That My Redeemer Lives. We felt surrounded by faith and love. It felt like home.

We don't usually remember to take our camera with us as we attend church each Sunday (maybe we'll start), but here are a few photos of chapels and places we've visited:

Epsom Ward

Haywards Heath Ward

Eastbourne Ward - on the coast. We believe this may be the only
 LDS Church in the world with a cross on the front. It is a remodeled
Church of England school.  The inside of this building is delightful!

Another view of the Eastbourne Ward

The English Channel at Eastbourne.

The coastline at Eastbourne

Looking east from Eastbourne

The meetinghouse in Brighton - on a busy street corner

Just a random note:  now that summer has arrived, we've had a major increase in the number of planes coming in low over the temple grounds as they approach Gatwick airport. They can be heard at all times of the day or night. Often they are only a minute or two apart. So many people coming to London! We're only about a month from the opening of the Summer Olympics!

We've heard some planes use the temple as a beacon.

They must be getting a great close-up view
of the beautiful temple grounds!
It's going to be a really busy week around here this week. The entire England London South Mission will converge on the temple grounds over the next two days for our final Zone Conferences with President and Sister Shamo before they return home. (We are so sad to see them go. They have been such a blessing to us in our work.) We are excited, however, that we finally have a senior missionary couple coming from the Provo MTC to work with us at the Visitors' Centre during the next 18 months. They arrive tomorrow!!  We'll keep you posted.                ~Pat~

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