Finding a church community abroad was something that I thought would be very difficult to do. However, I really wanted to experience how churches in a different country operated, how they were the same, and how they were unique. So I made it a personal goal of mine to seek out churches in London. I wanted to see the impact culture had on how things ran. As of writing this I have come across two churches, one recommended by a mentor and the other by chance, and experienced Jesus in two drastically different ways.
The first was at a start up church called Trinity Central London formerly known as the London Underground Church. Started around 5 years ago, Trinity Central is a very small church with an average of around 20-30 members. It is planted in the heart of the city centered between three main tube stations on the outskirts of Trafalgar Square. Honestly, I loved it. There is an intimacy that can be hard to find in mega churches, but with a church this size you get to know everyone very well and very quickly. They embraced me and got to know me, and that’s something I really appreciated. Opening up with them was easy because the environment was so inviting, and they were very kind in letting me in on all the activities they had planned. I even got to play the lead worshipper’s guitar after the service which I had been craving since I left mine back home in the states. Something the head pastor asked me at the end of the service that really stuck with me was How can we serve you? What can we do to help you and make your time in London the best it can be? Loving to serve others is one of the most impactful things I have learned in following Jesus. It is so filling and makes massive impacts in peoples lives. To find a church that fully embraced that and lived it out was extremely heartwarming. One thing that was evident while being at a church of that size is the urgent need for Jesus in London. So many people still need to hear about the life God has in store for them if they want it.
My other experience was completely opposite from the one I had at Trinity Central, and how I found it was extremely random and lucky. It was a Sunday and I wanted to explore London a little more, mostly go shopping and find a new coffee shop. My plan was to check out the area around Trinity Central, but I got very mixed up on the tubes and ended up pretty lost. On my way out of the station I passed a huge sign that said Hillsong London Church. Now I have heard of Hillsong Churches but never been into one. As I passed by, I saw that a service was just about to start. A few greeters at the front were quick to welcome me in and point me towards where the main service was taking place. Like I said, I had heard of Hillsong Churches but never experienced them. I knew they were a big church with massive services and awesome worship. Immediately when I walked in, I felt the base from music and heard the faint sounds of worship already starting. As I was walked down the hall there were more greeters and people who looked like security guards smiling and guiding me. My excitement started to sky rocket as the music grew louder and I heard more and more voices singing. The hallway came to an end at two huge double doors and a young woman standing in front of them said Hello, and welcome to church and she pushed the double doors open and I was flooded with singing and music. I stepped in to overlook a sea of hands raised in worship all leading up to a huge stage with brilliant lights and a worship team giving a concert-like performance. Waves of joy and excitement washed over me. My arms filled with goosebumps rippled with tingly elation. I was paralyzed with awe and wonder at how many people there were and the energy in the room. I stood there for a moment trying to process everything I was seeing before me. Eventually the same woman that let me in came up to me and said Let me help you find a seat. She brought me up to the front and from there I could see that not only was this huge theater filled with people, but there were two balconies with people as well. I was just so amazed by the whole experience, and so astonished that so many people had come together to worship Jesus in London. It wasn’t as intimate as Trinity Central, but it was powerful. Afterwards, I talked with the woman who let me in and found out that they weren’t even supposed to be at that location. There normal building had to go through some renovations on short notice and so they ended up finding that theater for the day. It blows my mind how things like that happen— That I would get lost and that their church would be relocated right on the path that I stumbled upon.
What I learned from both churches is that yes, there is a massive need for Jesus here still, but at the same time God is moving London. He is working in big ways and subtle ways but his love for us is active. I also learned that no matter the culture, the environment, or the community if people truly are followers of Christ there won’t be to much difference between them. I felt welcomed, accepted and loved in both churches. I saw communities ready to share His story and I experienced his love in new ways, and that makes me incredibly happy.