Thursday, December 13, 2007

An evening to remember...

OK, so it's Thursday afternoon here in London. It's a cold, beautiful day outside--clear skies and in the mid-30s (there's still frost on the ground). I'm sitting in our house, a little bummed out because Julie and Ian just left for California for a Christmas break. I'll be joining them--I fly out on Christmas Day--but for now I'm alone in our house for the next 12 days, and it's not much fun. counter my general state of mopiness I'm going to tell you about the evening out I had with Julie last night. It was pretty darn cool.

First, we went to the Christmas program at Ian's school, which was actually held in the very posh hotel a few blocks away (I saw Gwen Stefani there once...). Ian was great, although we could hardly see him behind the gargantuan girl standing in front of him. After the concert we got home in a hurry to meet our angelic sitter, Niki Barlow.

Why the rush? Because we'd been invited to a Christmas cocktail party at the home of the US ambassador, Robert Tuttle. It was an inconvenient night to go out, with Julie needing to get ready for her flight, but she was a trooper and looked STUNNING in her dress.

Winfield House is the official residence of the ambassador. We'd been there before for an Easter Egg Hunt earlier in the year, but this was the first party we'd been invited to. It was great--here's a picture of the house.

One of the first celebs we saw was David Frost, the British interviewer and generally smart guy. He said hello to me for no apparent reason, which earned him an extra portion of points.

As we moved from room to room I found myself facing a large, friendly-looking clergyman. Whew, I thought, another out-of-place minister who might want to stop for a chat. I introduced myself and we started talking about ministry, about the differences in UK and US churches, and the role of the Anglican Church in this country. I suppose I should have picked up the clue when he mentioned his cathedral, but I let it go and we kept chatting. Julie was having a nice talk with his wife, which I was half-listening to as well. As we wrapped up our chats he gave me his card. "His" cathedral was St. Paul's Cathedral, and he turned out to be the Bishop of London, John Carew Chartres, 3rd ranking leader in the Church of England. When I saw that I mentioned, just in passing, of course, that I had preached a few weeks ago at his cathedral, and that I thought it was very nice. He laughed and we started talking again. It was a pleasure to meet him.

In the main room, just as we came in, we saw our favorite journalist--and one of our favorite women in the world--Christiane Amanpour. She was with her husband, who I actually saw first. He's James Rubin, and he was assistant secretary of state in the Clinton Administration. She was talking to some people when we noticed her, and we decided to make a circuit through the party before coming back, and by the time we did she'd gone. That was one disappointment in a night that was otherwise fantastic.

The real buzz in the room came when Baroness Margaret Thatcher came in. She was a bit swarmed at first, but in a lull Julie and I went up and introduced ourselves. She shook our hands and asked what we were doing in London, and we had brief chat about the American Church. It was a nice capper to a truly amazing evening.

Julie and I have turned a major corner over the past few months. We always felt called here to serve the American Church and the community around us, but we haven't always felt, well, glad about it. That's changing. London is a daunting, thrilling, challenging and dazzling place to live. We still plan to come back to California--don't worry about that--but it is a special blessing from God for us to freely love this place while we're here. One of many Christmas gifts we've received already this year.

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