Crystal Palace Ward

Janice and I went to a new ward Sunday. We are in London with one of BYU’s Study Abroad Groups. The local stake presidencies assign the students and faculty to various wards in the two London stakes while they are here, and we, with two of the women in the program, drew the Crystal Palace ward in South London.

Getting there was no small feat. We took the tube to London Bridge rail station, the train to Anerley, and walked to the ward, taking about 2 hours each way to make the trip. Since then we’ve found a shorter way, but it will still be long, no less than about one and a half hours going and two hours coming back because of the timing of the train. That is approximately seven hours for church each Sunday, and we are in neither the bishopric nor the stake presidency. It was very hot Sunday, so we sweated a lot making the trip, unable to replenish what we lost to sweat because it was Fast Sunday. We whined then and then later at dinner. I think we whined more today.

The ward is small. About fifty people in the congregation each Sunday, they said, including a couple who are on a Church Educational System mission, a couple on a proselyting mission, and four proselyting younger missionaries. The members range in skin color from deep black to lily white, and I think they are all converts, except some of the children. In age, they are predominantly elderly or rather young. We meet in a rented elementary school.

As we walked up to the door of the building, we were immediately met by the first counselor. The bishop was ill, but Brother Melvy took everything in stride, immediately taking us into the bishopric office for interviews and to make callings. Janice is a teacher in the Relief Society. One of the young women teaches the youth in Sunday School, and the other teaches in Young Women. I’m the High Priest group instructor.

A teenaged boy named “Lehi,” one of five beautiful children in his family, bore his testimony today and said “I’ve been in the Church almost my whole life.” Everyone laughed. All we met were very good people, very friendly and very faithful. But they seem not to have a lot of experience. A lot of desire, a lot of humility, a lot of love and faith, but not a lot of experience.

The pianist who played much of the prelude music for Sacrament Meeting was a twelve-year-old boy who played with one finger. He’s a learner. Then one of the sisters in the couple missionaries took over and played. Later that day, the boy was ordained a deacon by his father. Lehi’s mother, Verona, gave a really good lesson in Sunday School.

–In spite of all the differences between our “home” ward and this, in spite of the various failings to do things the “proper” way, coming to this ward was like coming home. Everyone was trying very hard to do things as the Church would like them done. Everyone’s testimony was sincere and heartfelt; it was patently obvious how much conversion and membership meant to those in the ward.

Nate wonders how a person can feel love for “everyone.” In the abstract, I’m somewhat sympathetic to his question. But attending the Crystal Palace ward, I know that it happens because I’ve felt it. I don’t see how someone could come to this ward and not love everyone there, though meeting them for the first time. If it is possible immediately to love fifty strangers, why not a million of them and more? I’m humbled and put in awe by them. I want to have their faith. I know that their Father in Heaven sees them lovingly, and I cannot help but emulate him.

So, we whine about the two hour trip, but in spite of that, as one of the students said, I would feel like a traitor if I were to petition the stake president to be allowed to go to some other, more convenient ward. This is the best thing that has happened to us in London.

8 comments for “Crystal Palace Ward

  1. ukann
    September 5, 2005 at 11:51 am

    Welcome to England Jim! Although I live way north of London, I can see I’m going to enjoy your learning experiences! How long are you here for?

  2. Wilfried
    September 5, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    Sounds very much like my home ward in Antwerp, Jim. Same size, same distances to travel for many members, same developing musical talents, same palette in skin colors, same great spirit. How many languages spoken? Any constant translation going on?

    Enjoy it!

  3. September 5, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    Good luck in England, Jim. I’ve never been to church in London, a reminder to me that although I sometimes think I know everything about the church in England, what I really know is the church out in the shires. Sounds like it’s pretty different.

  4. manaen
    September 5, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Jim, your experiences in London echo what I found in the south-central LA branch: varied skin colors, some service and proselyting missionaries, and this astonding faith, commitment, and gratitude. The members immediately extended a heartfelt welcome.

    This seems typical of converted LDS regardless of earthly position. Once, I happened to visit a ward in Michigan and a kindly elderly man in the congregation noticed someone new, came over to meet me, and make sure that I felt welcome. That gave me a better impression of George Romney than anything I learned about his career and accomplishments.

  5. Costanza
    September 5, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    Jim if you get an itch to leave the city, pay a visit to my old branch in Newbury, part of the Reading Stake. You won’t regret nor forget it!

  6. Rebecca
    September 8, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    This is a very beautiful post. It sounds like four hours commuting is all worth it.

  7. Keith
    September 9, 2005 at 3:43 am

    Jim, though you definitely should not move away from Provo, you seem to have very interesting and deepening experiences when you go abroad. You seem to always being something new back. Enjoy England.

  8. Larry
    September 10, 2005 at 12:55 am

    And if those feet in ancient times didn’t actually reach England’s shore, we know for sure that the Spirit did. I am sure that is why so many of the early Saints came from there. They are a loving and humble people.

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