Life in Community

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Life in Community

Rural America to London

November 9, 2017 by

As the Tube slid to a halt, I “minded the gap,” jogged up the stairs and out of the station. I stopped short. Where in the world was I? Literally. Had the Underground mistakenly taken me to Bangladesh? Maybe West Africa? Bearded men in turbans bartered over heaping fruit stands while bustling Arab women examined African prints. A barrage of inharmonious languages mingled with the smoke from an Indian grill as I pushed my way down the crowded sidewalk. Finally I saw the sign I was looking for: “Queen Mary University of London.” OK, so I am still in the western hemisphere – and I even made it to campus.

Several weeks ago I moved to our small Bruderhof community in Peckham, London to begin my university studies. I spent most of my childhood in rural America, so I had carefully prepared myself for the culture shock, mentally playing through anticipated scenarios of city and university life. None of this meticulous planning could have prepared me for the thrilling, and sometimes jolting waves of newness that met me.

Getting around the city on the London Underground has been a relative breeze even for a beginner like me. It has also been an exercise in claustrophobia management with an ironic twist – the Tubes have the highest concentration of humanity I’ve ever witnessed, but at the same time it is awkwardly quiet. (Although if you happen not to be plugged in yourself, you get a free multi-concert from all the music leaking out of people’s earbuds).

Students from the Peckham Bruderhof house riding the public transport through London

Although I have only lived here a mere six weeks I thoroughly enjoy this diverse and happening city. London, like many places, has its horrific headlines. But for me these dangers are far outweighed by the countless opportunities to meet new friends, to help local charities, and to experience the multicultural menagerie – and most importantly, to counter fear with love. I’ve realized that if I let the anxiety and cheerlessness that often are tangible affect me, it is harder to love those I’m with.

At our Peckham house community, reaching out takes many forms. We recently started the Peckham Book Garage, quaintly decorated and lined with free books published by the Plough Publishing house. Visitors can simply browse the books, and those who want to talk are directed to ring the doorbell. This venture brings a whole variety of people to our doorstep along with their fascinating stories and contrasting ideas.

Supplementary to our studies, many of us students volunteer or work in youth programs, day nurseries, and local primary schools. Since our community has only been in the area for a year, these opportunities help us get to know the locals and become involved in our neighborhood. As well as engaging with the wider public, we find it important to spend time together. Most of the day, we are scattered around the city, so the meals and gatherings we share provide critical strengthening as we pray for and encourage each other. For me, survival depends on this support group.

It’s not surprising that the most common question I get at university once they’ve heard my accent is “Why would you come all the way to London?” “What?! You’re here by yourself? Wow, you’re brave.” Well, not really, I tell them; I live with friends – in community to be precise. And that’s a conversation-starter.

In short, the London I knew from CNN Breaking News has turned out to be quite a different reality. I concede the dangers, but enjoy being a Londoner and absorbing all I can from one of the world’s most diverse metropolises.

Marcella Clement lives at Peckham Community, a Bruderhof house in South East London. She attends Queen Mary University of London where she is studying history and comparative literature.


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  • Welcome to London Marcella and thank you for sharing your thoughts. May you enjoy your time here and make lifetime friends.

    Lydia Lewis