Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

chance meetings

Dear friends

If you’re part of any type of community, you will know the phrase, it’s a small world. That’s true but it doesn’t always feel like a small world when you live in big cities, visit new cities or when you’re taking a break.

Not long after I moved to London, 1996, big metropolitan city, home to approximately 6.5 million individuals, I was in an area of London, I think heading to an exhibition and coming out of Angel tube station during rush hour. And who do I pass entering the tube station, my little brother. Yes, I knew he was one of those 6.5 million people but he lived the other side of London, and had been in London for a few years. He was just as shocked and let out a jovial laugh of shock as we hugged and he explained he couldn’t really stop because he was on his way somewhere!!!

Same year, still in London, leaving another tube station (St James Park), middle of the day and I hear someone call my name. This time a lady who I really did not recognise. But she knew my name and then told me she hasn’t seen me since I was about 14 years old. We used to attend Sunday school together at the New Testament Church of God! As she told me her name, I was still in shock that she recognised me, then in my late 20s but I could barely recognise her. Clearly I hadn’t changed that much! We politely asked for each others parents, wished each other well and continued on our independent journeys.

Later that year, 1996, I travelled to Canada and USA on holiday, and I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, casually wandering through a shopping mall on my own. Across the atrium I see another black person, possibly the only black person that I saw in Salt Lake at that time :), so imagine my shock as he called my name! As I approached I recognise him from the stake (area of the church) in London – he had moved to live, or study, in Utah. We arranged to meet up later that day and that was the last I heard of him. I was already engaged, I think he was too as I recall. Remember, back then the Internet was rare, expensive, and the term social media had yet to be coined!

A couple weeks ago our family went to the London Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are sacred places and this temple serves the southern half of the UK. We decided stay overnight so it wasn’t so rushed even though we are only a couple of hours drive from it. Saturday afternoon we prepare to head back home. Daur2 and I quickly head towards the accommodation for… something… (I forget what) and see two men; the tall black man recognises me, calls my name, and, lo and behold, it’s the same friend from Utah, now living back in England, in the Midlands, 200 miles from us! It has been nearly 23 years!!

Before we make it into the building we meet two more people that know me – well, one knows my husband – by which time Daur2 states: “You and Dad know ALOT of people!!” I don’t think we do, but that day, there certainly were lots of chance meetings. And it is more lovely to meet old friends at the Lord’s house and knowing that in our own party of the Lord’s vineyard we are each individually trying to remain true to the Lord.

Light The World

Dear friends

Happy New Year 2019! This time of year, Christmas and New Year can be difficult times for many; loneliness, cold, reminders of darkness in our lives when light seems to surround. Here’s a story and a thought to encourage you to light the world, light your community, throughout the year. Seehttps://www.lds.org/church/news/2018-lighttheworld-asks-members-to-give-as-christ-gave?lang=eng

In recent years our town, city, has become home to the homeless. Tents in the city parks have appeared and a soup kitchen takes over at 6pm outside a coffee shop which serves as additional meeting rooms for nearby businesses during the day. As a local government worker, I’m aware that there are targets for building homes over the next few years. As an architect, I know what can be done to the physical structures that lie empty while someone sleeps on the ground in it’s shadow. As a Christian, a Latter Day Saint, my heart aches to do more.

And so it was a few weeks ago that on a rainy morning as I left the office for a morning site visit that I passed a motionless figure wrapped in a sleeping bag at the base of an advertising kiosk, in the open rain, on the pavement. The guilt engulfed me as I passed on to my site visit – how many times have I been in lessons and heard the parable of the good Samaritan. Site visit done, I headed back to the office and determined that if that figure was still there I would offer assistance. I prepared myself by visiting the bank first and purposefully walking back the same way. The figure still lay there but I could see movement and rain had stopped, the sleeping bag was, of course, sodden. I knelt and began speaking. Food and drinks were on the pavement for the person so I explained that before trying to persuade them to let me help them to a local launderette, to wash and dry the sleeping bag. As this offer was refused I realised that the person was a woman. I then decided to give her the money which I had withdrawn and asked her to put out her hand so she could receive it. And I pushed the note into the grey hand which emerged from the side of the sleeping bag. Our family has been blessed throughout this year, we’ve not struggled for food, managed to pay bills and debts and though I’m not in the habit of giving money away, I felt humbled to do so. I then headed into the warm dry office.

Whatever you may feel about homelessness and how a person finds themselves sleeping on a rainy pavement in a sleeping bag under some cardboard, I know that individual is known to God who is the Father of us all. And we can be His hands to bring comfort to each other. And as this life is a test, I remember the scripture (Hebrews 13 v2):

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers : for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

And, of course, this one (Matthew 25 v40):

… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

charity

Dear friends

I love this definition of charity which was in the visiting teaching message this month – here’s the link to the talk https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/charity-never-faileth?lang=eng  It’s Prophet Thomas S. Monson, at women’s session,  October 2010.

Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.

I can definitely work on these!  As I do, I know I will come to know our Saviour better,  and so I can trust Him more.

the begging person

Dear friends

Yesterday was parents’ evening at our eldest daughter’s school. During a break between appointments, we walked down to the local shop for a drink – I had come straight from a work meeting and our daughter had stayed on from school. As we approached there was an older man sat on the pavement outside the shop asking for spare change. I literally had none since I was heading for the ATM machine in the wall, where a younger man sat, also asking for change.  I gave nothing to either man and we headed into the shop.

As we went round, selecting cookies and drinks, my daughter began talking of homeless people needing to help themselves and how they’ll probably spend it on cigarettes or alcohol.  I said little in response because in my mind I kept seeing the old man. As we came out the shop, heading back to the school, I gave a coin to the old man.

Typically, I don’t give anything to people begging on the street though I recognise one must have little other options at that point.  I haven’t, consciously, made any judgement on what they may or may not spend the money on. It is simply a case of my own perception of me and my family. I feel we have sufficient for our needs, but not an excess. Apart from a few days at the temple over the last few years, we’ve never been on holiday together.  All the children have had to wait for new school shoes at some time,  including this year and we’ve all worn clothes from the charity shops.  I do pay my tithes, fast offerings and donate to other humanitarian funds which support people all over the world.  I guess I have justified not giving away more because we don’t have a whole lot in the first place.

After parents’ evening, we walked back past the shop, back past the old man, who was now smoking, who did not ask for money.  He recognised us by asking for no more than a brief smile.

As I’ve thought on this brief experience last night, and pondered why I felt impressed to give when so many times I haven’t, I have been taught, and I hope I am humble enough to learn and make a difference to my actions and motivation in the future.

The Saviour’s observation of the widow giving her ‘mite’ came to mind, Mark 12 verse 44:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

So, I may not have abundance, but I do have more than some and when we truly serve others, maybe it should stretch us.

Also, King Benjamin’s beautiful sermon on how we should serve, including towards others, Mosiah 4 verse 19

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have,…

I do rely upon our Father, I do cry for help and forgiveness and I feel he was teaching me that I can do more, I can be a better rescuer 🙂