Sophie Clarke || An Update: London Life so Far

 

 

Hey, I’m Sophie, 21, extrovert, lover of Christ and all-round Attenborough enthusiast. So, for those of you that don’t know, I am currently living and working in London for All Souls' Church, Langham Place. My official job title is “Church Assistant” (CA for short) and this involves a plethora of diverse and sometimes totally random daily tasks. Presently, I am four weeks and counting into the London life, in which so much has happened, the good, the bad and the ugly, but ultimately everything that has occurred is to praise God for. 

In the Beginning... 

 The entire dishwasher team.

The entire dishwasher team.

After a rather shaky start, namely, arriving at an apartment with no furniture (literally nothing), and having to stay in different places for the first two evenings. This was an admittedly frustrating event which turned into a blessing as I was able to stay with the sweetest elderly couple from the church family and get to know them more. Two days after my arriving I was off to Cornerstone - the church family holiday in which 360 members made the trek south from London to the countryside of Hampshire to stay in a private boarding school — think posh New Horizon vibes. This is headed up by Portadown’s fanboy Rico Tice; on first meeting him I felt as if I was meeting a minor celebrity. Unfortunately, 3 of the CAs had their visa’s denied and subsequently we were down to half numbers, this also meant that shifts doubled to cover the work. There was a lot of work. This was in the form of dishes - 360 people is a lot to feed and water and even more to clean up after. I can honestly say that I never want to see an industrial washing machine, ever again. Despite the intense work load, it was a very positive week for me as it provided so many opportunities to meet a diverse church family. The All Souls' family exists in many forms, from the very rich to people on the breadline, the very old to new borns and from the very British to individuals from all over the world. It was truly amazing to meet so many different folk with different stories but all with a common cause — to serve Christ, glorify God and build his church. 

Start of the Routine

After the week was over, we were all a bit exhausted and slightly overwhelmed but it was refreshing to get back to London and at this point, I began to feel more comfortable and settled. I arrived back into my flat which now had a bed. Rumour has it this was John Stott’s old bed, weird or wonderful, it’s a pretty cool conversation starter (side note: it does not glow but I’m still hoping for some divine inspiration during my slumbers). For me, this is when things really began. We thankfully had our first Sunday off and could enjoy both services, taking in the Word of God without the worry or distraction of working. It was a brilliant day to see so many familiar faces again and to be greeted with warmth and much affection, as well as beginning to feel part of the All Souls' family.

 The view of the 'back yard' from my window - This is also the All Souls Clubhouse. 

The view of the 'back yard' from my window - This is also the All Souls Clubhouse. 

And so, after 10 days in, normality resumed and training began. It has been great. We are being trained in everything from mundane tasks that keep the church running smoothly to changing the time on the clock tower (manually) and evacuating someone from a lift. The month of August has been entirely training based which has been an incredible opportunity to get to know the church and staff more. An average day starts off with chatting and moving homeless people off the steps, cleaning, stocking up the church, hoovering, checking it's set up correctly for any evening events after lunch it’s specific training for any events, like fire training, health and safety that kind of dull but very important, stuff. August is a nice and quiet time for the church, providing time to reflect on the previous year of church life and plan ahead for the next. There is only one event on during the week, providing for a gentle acclimatisation. When September arrives, everything kicks off in the church, and all the ministries begin. Ministries at All Souls' include: Life Explored, One Student ministry, Aroma for mothers, West One for the elderly, Springboard for new members, work based bible studies and youth events — there is at least one thing on every night, so it’s going to get busy. Not to mention All Souls' have another parish as well as a third building in which regular events run - comfortable trainers are essential when running between the three.

 

 A regular task involves setting out and putting away all the chairs. 

A regular task involves setting out and putting away all the chairs. 

One of my favorite things about working for All Souls is the fellowship and community within the staff team as well as the wider church family. We were provided with a very useful piece of advice about managing our expectations for the year — church is full of broken people, expect to see brokenness. I have been assigned a mentor who is an older (much wiser) member of the church family, she is there for any issues or just a general chat and hopefully, it’ll involve copious amounts of coffee. There are also weekly staff prayer groups in which we get time to bring our prayers and praises to God, this acts as a check-in to see how everyone is doing and a reminder about the work and service we are carrying out each day is for His glory and not our own. On top of this, I am getting taught in-house by the ministers, each week for two hours. During these sessions we will cover important topics like theology and church history which will commence in September and this is something I am really looking forward to. 

Living in London

On top of working in London, there is also living and experiencing the phenomenal city of London. This has been amazing. There are so many things to do, so many opportunities to see different things, the famous saying by Samuel Johnson sums it up well: ‘when a man [or woman] is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ I am blessed with many occasions this year to see amazing things and that is something I do not take for granted. I have been privileged with many opportunities for continued fellowship and community outside the church to see a show with colleagues, a play with friends and be a general tourist every day. I have also had the fantastic opportunity of friends paying a visit, it really is great to see familiar faces and received a checkup from our very own Gilly Carson which was of course, just wonderful. They even witnessed the rare sight of me actually working (true story). 

IMG_7314.JPG

Prayer Points

I would appreciate prayer in general but there are a few specific prayer points I would like to share. Firstly, for the rest of the team, there are currently only 3 CAs, All Souls' has re-advertised the job(s) to fill the very much needed roles. Pray that the right persons will accept the role and God will open up doors for these individuals with a desire to serve the church in a very practical way. Also pray for my two colleagues as they begin to settle into their time here, that they and myself will not see this as a routine job but as an act of service to Christ’s church, that we will remind ourselves that He gave Himself so freely to us and thus we must give ourselves just as freely to others. Keller's brilliant book, 'Every Good Endeavour' has encouraged me of this and he sums it up well by saying, ‘all work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely; and by extension a way to love our neighbour, now we may work simply to love God and our neighbours.’ Secondly, pray for the commencement of all the ministries and the boom in the activity that will begin in September. Pray that we can keep up with this increase in pace, to feel revived and refreshed each day to serve and work for each of the different ministerial groups, to the best of our abilities. Finally, pray for the ongoing service and outreach of All Souls itself, that the community will continue to grow and opportunities will be presented in different areas of the church to reach the city communities. Pray that the light of the gospel will reach more people in the city of London, that they will view the church as a place to seek refuge, love, and forgiveness and that Christ will continue to move through His Holy Spirit within the city.

 

As my time here moves on there are so many things to be thankful to God for - His care and provision throughout the last four weeks have been so incredibly evident, e.g. the safety He has provided for myself and the team with the opportunity to worship openly in an international community who love the Lord. This is a constant reminder that God is good. Always. I have been reminded particularly, that even though circumstances may not go the way I want them to, our God is in control and all things work together for our good. There’s a particular hymn that has become very popular in All Souls, it is something that I take great joy and encouragement from:

 

When I fear my faith will fail

Christ will hold me fast

When the tempter would prevail

He will hold me fast

I could never keep my hold

Through life’s fearful path

For my love is often cold

He must hold me fast

 

He will hold me fast

He will hold me fast

For my Savior loves me so

He will hold me fast

 

Those He saves are His delight

Christ will hold me fast

Precious in His holy sight

He will hold me fast

He’ll not let my soul be lost

His promises shall last

Bought by Him at such a cost

He will hold me fast

 

For my life He bled and died

Christ will hold me fast

Justice has been satisfied

He will hold me fast

Raised with Him to endless life

He will hold me fast

Till our faith is turned to sight

When he comes at last

Conclusion

As I finish today and get up bright and early for work tomorrow, I will go to sleep in the knowledge that I live in the promise of Christ's redeeming love and I pray throughout this year I will get to know and fall in love with him even more. Praise God. Thank you for all your prayers and support so far — it is so very much appreciated. I do miss you all and miss the CE fellowship and guaranteed banter. Do not take it for granted, 250 young people meeting on a Saturday night to worship God, CE is a miracle by the grace of God. My prayer for you is that you will continue to be moved by the Gospel centred teaching within CE and that hearts and minds will be opened and challenged by the Word and above all that Jesus will be at the centre of CE. I leave you with a verse from 1 Peter 4:8-11:

 

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

 

IMG_7311.JPG