It’s been six weeks since I came to London from Germany, to begin my summer internship at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. For some, six weeks might be a long time, and for others it might be a very short time. For me it’s been a bit of both! It has been a long time, because there has been a lot of space for many different experiences; and it has been a short time only because it passed so quickly. I still have two weeks here, but these will probably pass very quickly, too.
I didn’t come to London with many expectations, because I did not really know what I could expect at all. What I knew already was that Bloomsbury is a traditional, social-minded, and centrally located church community. I was excited to see how they wanted to cope with the (almost impossible) balancing act between tradition and modernity, young and old, poor and rich. Above all I was eager to meet and work with the many homeless people who come through the church, and also to begin to address my own thoughts on the LGBTQ+ theme, because I hadn’t any experience in this area.
Now I can say that I have been challenged in each of these topics, and will continue to be so; it won’t end with the internship. Also, many things will probably only become clear to me once I am back home and have let everything settle down.
But one thing that gives me courage in all of these challenges is that deep divides can be overcome: Bloomsbury is both traditional and modern. On the one hand they are traditional, with the worship consisting of a liturgy and hymns, something I wasn’t used to. On the other hand they are revolutionary when it comes to the LGBTQ + topic, and they have been marrying same-sex couples for a while.
All these "differences" are challenging, and they give me courage that not everything has to be the same. Changes are possible, even for a long-standing community, and there is not always a wrong and right, a ‘false’ or a ‘true’ church; but there is one body in Christ. One in all its diversity. I can only say that this is very enriching, if you broaden your horizon and get to know new things.
Another thing I will take home with me is the awareness that church doesn’t have to be only a church. Church can be a place of encounter, help, and acceptance. Why run only a service on Sunday? Why not meet the people exactly in their needs? Why not in their guilt? Or it could be that we are called to meet them in their financial debt as well! Or to create for mothers and fathers a place to meet and play with their children… Church can be so much more than only the Sunday service and other ‘internal’ events. Why not do more for the other people in the district, and do something good for them? Church should be a place for the people in the nearby environment as well, and not only a place for church members. This is a possibility to be salt and light for all people.
In the end I have yet another insight: Making a change or a difference can only be done through relationship! So if I want to make a difference for the person who lives on the street, then I should start by remembering their name. And the same is true for all those people who come ‘by accident’ through the Bloomsbury door. Church needs relationships, because otherwise the whole program is somehow ‘empty’. And I know that I am still a learner, and that for me the journey just begun, and that I won’t arrive at the final destination any time soon.