German Travel Blog
Ken Humphrey and Roy Searle usually make a trip on behalf of the Northumbria Community at this time of the year. For the last nine years, since the establishing of the partnership with the IBTS Seminary in Prague, they’ve usually been part of a team that has gone to the CzechRepublic to lead the group, to teach or facilitate workshops. This year, with the relocation of the seminary to Amsterdam, there is no Northumbrian Week in Prague. However, they are outward bound to Germany via Belgium for a week of speaking engagements, meetings and no doubt some serendipity moments. They are briefly going to sign in each day with a kind of ‘thought for the day’ as they journey. Here’s an introduction to their trip.
Companions on the Road
Travelling anywhere holds challenges and opportunities and whenever you travel on behalf of the Community, it nearly always affords the opportunity of some adventure. Journeying for the love of Christ is more of a pilgrimage than a route march. The outward journey simply providing the context for the inward journey as travelling experiences, journeying to different places and meeting people are all used by God to effect the work of inner transformation. Ken and Roy have known each other for many years and the opportunity to travel together is a privilege they look forward to and don’t take for granted. Days will be spent sharing driving, conversation, meals, accommodation and work responsibilities. Talk will be deep and meaningful, frivolous and peppered with much humour. They will ponder together the mystery and paradoxes of faith, agonise over the complexities they recognise in their own lives and the world in which we live. They will debate politics and wonder where the voice of socialism might be heard again in the land, they will sort out everybody else’s problems at local, national and international level and might find the time to proffer a few suggestions for their own. Two companions, deeply covenanted friends, who’ve laughed and cried together, prayed and served together, the sharing of hearts and minds deeply embedding a profound sense of companionship. They will abstain from tea and coffee as a Lenten discipline but partake of good Belgium and German beer and, in order to enter into the cultures in which they will be staying, they will leave the land of pre-packaged foods and takeaways and taste local delicacies. They will make poor attempts to speak French and German, trigger much merriment and hopefully through their time together carry something of the Community’s story in their hearts and lives in such a way as to bring hope and encouragement to those who they meet; friend and stranger. We pray that their apostolic and prophetic callings will create and provoke inspiration, illumination and insight. They will meet with believers and unbelievers and talk with Companions, Friends, hosts, waiters and shop assistants. They will “look for Christ in a stranger’s guise” and pray that he may be in the heart of each to whom they speak. They will observe, reflect together what they see and hear, feel and experience as they journey. They will guard one another’s hearts, watch each other’s backs. Today, St. Patrick’s Day, they will remember the influence not only of the man whom God called away from his homeland to live in Ireland to become its ground breaker and pioneer for the kingdom of God, but also with thanksgiving recall the impact of the Irish Saints upon Europe. As they walk, (or travel in a Skoda Yeti) across the ancient paths through France, Belgium and Germany, we pray that God will guide, direct and protect them and bring them home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown them.
Church: Relevant or Irrelevant?
I suppose we get most of our understanding on the condition of the church in England from big picture media. By radio, newspaper and television we are informed that the church is eccentric, off message with culture and essentially irrelevant. One can accept the insinuation that the church has had its day. Last night though we sat around the table of John and Sue Richardson, John is a vicar in Margate. They spoke of 172 volunteers and 25 staff at the church, many of whom are providing welcoming and helpful spaces and service for damaged, broken and struggling people from the nearby disadvantaged housing estate. Compassion and creativity appear to be at the core of this provision. Is the church marginalised from national infrastructure but locally vibrant, or is Trinity Margate exceptional?
Café Le Roy
We met the delightful Robin for lunch in La Grande Place, Brussels. In Café Le Roy(!) we listened to him tell of the twisted weave of his cultural and religious background and of the many featured paths of his attempt to follow the way of Jesus. A Greek Cypriot, he has committed himself to sacrificial youthwork, mission and reconciling in Britain, Spain and now Belgium. We were joined by Carlton and Shannon who work alongside him in Serve The City which pours love upon the homeless and street dwellers of Brussels and many other cities throughout the world and with their friends, Jay and Terry, the ensuring conversation threw up a tapestry of shared values and people known in common. Strange but not a surprise that Northumbria’s resources were already part of the lives of some who we were meeting for the first time.
Jay portrayed the Community as a mountain providing a refuge of reflection and support for people who may not even be able to get to the mountain but knowing it was there was a great source of strength and inspiration. The invitation to Northumbria to have a role in the life of the worshipping community here in Brussels, at the heart of Europe was offered. Our lunch was secretly paid for, and we went out into the chilly grandier of La Grande Place with newly found kindred spirits.