Then we encountered the Torino airport. 8:00 or so on a Sunday morning...shouldn't be that busy of a time...and it wouldn't have been, if they had had any sort of organization. I don't know if it the crowds and delays there are typical or not, but I can't imagine how it must have been during the Olympic games. As it was, the security line stretched around the first entry room of the airpot past the luggage check lines and to the street door. Once we finally got through security, there was a passport line that merged into a line for our flight gate. Once they announced the free-for-all that is Ryanair unassigned seat boarding (half an hour late), we went out the gate expecting an airplane, and found...a bus. Stood in the very crowded bus for a good 20 minutes, then finally were driven to the airplane.
Once we were on the airplane, the flight actually was decent, and arrival in England was smooth. They did actually check passports (after Torino had check passports literally 5 times), and we all made it via our chartered bus to the hotel. In London, we stayed at the Royal National hotel in Russell Square, which, while hardly a 5 star hotel, was an immense improvement over Torino. I like this hotel...It also turned out that Luther uses the Royal National for all their J-Term classes in London, so there was another class staying on the 5th floor besides ours on the 1st floor. Took the tube to Leicester Square for dinner (Burger King), then nearly all of the class went to a service at Westminster Abbey commemorating the one year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, mostly because it's free to get into the Abbey during services.
I, however, really wanted to visit Holy Trinity Brompton, the church that created the Alpha Course, which is a basic introduction to the Christian faith class that Ascension, my church in Fond du Lac, has used. I think I've spent something like 72 hours of my life watching videos of Nicky Gumbel (the Vicar at HTB and founder of Alpha) speak, so I was eager to visit the church in person. I had a Google map to where the church was, so I allowed an hour and a half to get there, and figured I'd be in plenty of time for the 6:30 cafe before the service at 7. However, once I finally started to figure out London street signs, I wandered around and around a block looking for a church, and not finding one. At 6:40, I finally found a little door in a row of offices with a tiny sign saying Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha International. Quite confused, I attempted to go in, but found the door was locked, and no one answered the buzzer. Eventually, a man came out, and I asked him if there was a service. He was quite nice, and gave me directions down the street and around the corner to the actual church of Holy Trinity Brompton, and I made it there about 6:57, just in time.
The service was great. Very similar feel to Focus (my contemporary service at school), but with about 300 people, and in a cathedral. I was greeted at the door and immediately handed an Alpha brochure. I really enjoyed the contemporary music and feel of the service in a historical cathedral. There was an 11 piece band, including drums, guitar, cello, upright electric bass, violin, and vocals. After a couple of songs and sharing of the peace, during the offering collection, they played a video with "HTB News," the announcements for the week, then Nicky came and interviewed 3 people who had gone on the Alpha course and invited anyone who had not come on the course yet to come check it out. The Alpha talk took about 20 minutes, followed by a 25 minute or so sermon, and then closing songs, with an invitation for prayer ministry after. Also an invitation for refreshments afterwards in a pub down the road, which was a bit different...I was a little surprised that there was no scripture reading in the service beyond the one verse that the pastor directly talked about, and slightly disappointed that there was no communion, but the service took about about 1:45 as it was. Excellent service...I'm really glad I went. I'm now all excited for Alpha...even though I won't be at home for the course...
Went to hotel, went to bed. Yay for a country where they speak English!