OK, it is really hard to keep up on everything and that includes Blogging. So here is the November Blog taking us Thanksgiving through Dec 21st.
November was a wonderful month with many highlights, not the least of which was a Special Mission Conference. Once a year (if we are lucky) we call all of the missionaries from every corner of the mission to come in for instruction and direction. This year Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve came to instruct and motivate the England London Mission (and the London South Mission). Elder Cook and Elder Holland were companions in this mission years ago and the stories and direction given were amazing. This was also the kick-off of the HE IS THE GIFT! Initiative for the Church worldwide. What a beautiful presentation the Church has prepared to share with the world about the message of the Saviour. If you have not seen it, go to: Christmas.Mormon.org and watch it. Following our conference, we took all of the missionaries to the stairs of Royal Albert Hall for a Mission Photo. It is indeed a special occasion to get all of the missionaries together at one time for a photo opp.
Christmas is coming and it is such a special time of the year. The Hyde Park Center has been tastefully decorated and there are many many many decorations left over from prior years. Sister Baxter and Sister Williams have been going through much of the excess and have had great experiences decorating the office, the flat, the halls and lots of other areas from what were left-overs from prior years. I found a few lights and we purchased a “small” tree and we have decorated our flat. You will see the home made wreath that we made and the tree that we have dedicated for Christmas for this year and next.
Shopping for Christmas here in London could really get out of control. There is an upscale grocery store near our flat that has an “American” section where they have Oreos, Cheerios, Crisco, and even Jell-O pudding. The Brits don’t buy the stuff, but there are enough Americans, missionaries, and embassy workers in the area to make it worthwhile to carry. A 3lb can of Crisco, £10 ($16.00). The pies this year are not so numerous, but the ones we do bake are really appreciated. Shopping at Harrods is also a special experience. See pictures. They really have about anything you could every want, anywhere. You just have to pay the price. They have a really cool toy section, a spectacular fruit and vegetable section, a marvelous bakery section, a section specializing in candy, another just for chocolates, clothes of every kind, even furniture and electronics, a full meat department, a cheese department, a diamond department, men’s and ladies clothing, a whole separate department for shoes, sporting gear, and on and on and on. These are not just one row of items, but each is a complete department with its own decoration, theme, full display and complete inventory. A simple ladies jacket was £900 ($1,300) and there were some men’s loafer shoes priced at £1200. Yes, they were patent leather and with some really cool colors, butt $1,600 for a pair of casual shoes is over the top. Check out the Rainbow Cake in the picture.
The American’s here did celebrate Thanksgiving. We had a pretty traditional dinner at President Jordan’s flat with all of the Mission Staff. President cooked the turkey and made up two kinds of gravy, we had potatoes, sweet potato soufflé, Sister Jordan made a Dixie Salad (Costco here has Pomegranates that are already out of the skin), vegetables and stuffing. The couple of interesting add-ons were parsnips, cauliflower, and fried rice. There was a Lemon Meringue pie with at least 8 inch high meringue and I made an apple pie with fresh apples. That Thursday was still a work day and we spent a few hours in the office, had dinner, and then Sister Baxter and I had to run off to the Wandsworth Stake to meet with their Self Reliance Committee.
In our run-up to Christmas, the Hyde Park Stake had an annual International Evening with special foods, games, dancing, and lots of fun. Our Stake is represented by over 110 different cultures. At this one event, we had an activity where everyone was asked to visit the table and pick out the flag of the country where they were born and post it on the wall. As you can see in that one night, we had over forty countries represented. We had some wild Brazilians doing some very active dances, sharing spicy beef, we had some gorgeous African dresses and head gears as shown by Claire Mungo, one of our Self Reliance Center volunteers, we had Chinese, Japanese, African, American, middle eastern all bringing their special types of food and culture to the event.
As we have led up to Christmas,
we have had a most wonderful Christmas Devotional at the Hyde Park Center with
a Missionary Chorus, and Young Single Adult Chorus, inspirational video clips,
instrumental music, inspiration messages and finally the showing of the video,
He is The Gift. As we got closer to
Christmas, we have been able to participate in other musical events. As we visited one of the wards, we met a
senior couple who invited us to attend the Messiah. Then we met an inactive sister and we are
working on activating her. She sings
with a group that was singing backup to Maddy Prior. We went to see Maddy Pryor and the Carnival
Band. We started the week with Evensong
at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Let me share a
bit. Wednesday was Evensong. As we went into the service at St. Paul’s
Cathedral (THE St. Paul’s Cathedral) we were asked if we wanted to sit
amongst the Choir. Not knowing what to
expect, we jumped at the opportunity. We
were ushered up front, into about two-thirds of the Choir seats, just below the
Cathedral organ. Evensong is the mass
leading up to the Christmas Week. The
pomp and ceremony were very interesting. Thursday, we jumped on the tub for a concert at
Cadogan Hall to see Maddy Pryor and a six piece band playing 18th
century instruments and singing old English Carols. There was a lot of dancing and carrying on reminiscent
of an Irish drinking pub. Very
interesting. Friday night we met another
missionary couple and traveled down to the Thames River, walked along the
river’s edge and turned up toward Bailey Square. This is where the court system, legal system
of London functions. Right in the middle
of all of this is the Temple Church.
That is, the Church first built in 1116 by the Knights Templar of
DaVinci Code fame. A beautifully
restored church where the BBC sponsored the presentation of Handel’s
Messiah. There are 26 members of the BBC
Singers who performed the full Messiah along with the Norwegian Wind
Ensemble. They were spectacular!!! We have sung in several excellent
presentations of the Messiah with chorus’ of 150 to 300 but none was as moving,
beautiful and so professionally done as this one here in London. What a spread of musical experiences that
|Baxter's @ Royal Albert Hall|
We did find a few rather spectacular lights for Christmas. This was Westfield Mall, just Bus 49 to the end of the route. In the center of the mall they put in a temporary ice skating rink and the people seemed to really enjoy it. The lights were wonderful. However, as you look around, there was not one mention or sign of "Christ"mas - it was all secular and worldly.