BRIDGING BELIEFS

An American Perspective on Faith in Europe

BY ALEX REESE

The Church

In the heart of London, just off Fleet Street, a tall white steeple resembling a wedding cake soars above St. Bride’s Church. Surrounded by iron gates and shrubbery, the stone structure remains a place of worship for the journalists who once worked in the area.

Inside the church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, light pours through the windows. Choir stalls line the center aisle. Behind each stall, a plaque honors the news organizations and journalists who have exposed wrongdoing and informed the world for decades. continue reading…

My St. Bride’s story was quite an inspirational one and was the perfect final story on my excursion. The story refers to the hard work that goes into the journalism occupation. Sometimes journalists are so dedicated to a story that they risk their life. These people are memorialized at St. Bride’s Church in the heart of London.

The story of St. Bride’s is a great one—built by Sir Christopher Wren, the Great Fire of London, bombed and rebuilt after World War II, the ancient crypt’s discovery, etc. But I chose not to elaborate on the history as one might do in a research paper. Rather, I decided to reflect upon the people who are honored at St. Bride’s by its memorial altar. That story seemed more relevant and relatable.

The atmosphere at St. Bride’s alone can provide great inspiration. But I was also inspired by the words of BBC staff member Sam Whipple. He said that news-gathering can be quite dangerous, but the danger comes with the job title. He said the BBC takes extraordinary measures to make sure nothing happens to its reporters and crew, but no guarantees can really be made.

It really made me think: Am I ready for that kind of a commitment to journalism?

From Punjab to Southall: Learning to be a Sikh in London

By David Olson

Welcome to West London
A small group of boys and girls sit cross-legged beside an open window and bow their heads. Men wrap lengths of orange or blue fabric around the boys’ heads to make turbans. It’s Friday night at the Sikh gurdwara, or temple, in Southall, a suburb west of London. The men are teaching the youths to tie and knot a turban properly. Because Sikhs don’t cut their hair — hair is regarded as a gift from God — the turban keeps it in place. It’s also a symbol of Sikh identity.

Preserving one’s identity is important in a town as multicultural as Southall. The streets here buzz with conversations in languages from Europe and Asia, underscored by the hiss of air brakes on double-decker buses and the strident wail of police cruisers. At High Street and South Road an open-front store called A Bollywood Corner sells CDs and DVDs of Indian entertainment. Next door is a food shop, Chhapara Bhog, with “Pure Vegetarian” under its name. Across the street, signs at The Three Horseshoes pub proclaim “Welcome to a Traditional Free House” and “Pool and Darts Played Here.” The words, in elaborate silver cursive, mostly go unnoticed by passersby in turbans or hijab headscarves, white caftans or colorful saris, jackets and ties or blouses and skirts. continue reading…

Sleepless Nights
How St. Mungo’s is battling homelessness in the United Kingdom

By Richard Keever

It’s cold, dark and raining. Imagine that your hands are dirty, your pants are ripped and you’re wearing an old, beat-up jacket. You find a place to lie down in an alley across the street from a train station, but the only thing you have to cover yourself is a soaked newspaper. Such is the plight of many homeless people in the United Kingdom.

For hundreds of them, a charity known as St. Mungo’s offers an alternative — about 1,600 beds and meals every night all over the United Kingdom. In a city as big as London, with 7.1 million residents, the number of homeless is relatively small. The St. Mungo’s website claims that only about 265 people are homeless in London on a given night. Broadway, another London-based homelessness charity, reports about 3,500 “rough sleepers,” as they’re known in the United Kingdom, between April 2008 and March 2009. These low figures can be attributed to government support and the dozens of organizations that help the homeless. continue reading…

Musically Connected: Music in two different faiths

by Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Sikhism and Anglicanism appear to be polar opposites, and in many ways they are. Sikhism, born in India 500 years ago, is a relatively young presence in England, whereas the Anglican Church has been the nation’s established church since the 16th century. One thing that ties these two religions together is their reliance on music as part of their worship and faith.

Sikh Music: Spiritual Connection

Sikhs of all ages come to worship in the peaceful prayer hall of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, a temple in Southall, a suburb west of London. They walk quietly up to the front to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, their holy scriptures, which rests on an elaborately decorated altar. Men, women, teens and children make an offering, kneel and touch their heads to the floor. A man waves a short silver baton topped with soft white material over the holy scriptures, keeping the air pure. continue reading…

After having my computer stolen in London, I had limited computer access and, therefore, limited Internet access. But on June 11, I assumed all that would change as I ventured to Greece to visit my cousin at her house on the island of Mykonos. I was mistaken.

Mykonos is a small island of about 41 square miles that’s home to 9,300 people (not to mention the vast number of tourists who venture onto the island from cruise ships on a daily basis). The island is small but still manages to maintain a modern flair among its ancient history. My cousin’s house sits atop a small hill, overlooking the Chora (meaning town in Greek) where her father’s restaurant resides. Outside, from the patio, you can see the ocean touching the horizon. It is a beautiful place—tranquil during the day, boisterous at night. Lying on the beach is a daily activity before gallivanting into town to discover the amazing night life. But one thing was missing from my Grecian vacation … Internet access. continue reading…

For three and half weeks, eight students crossed four countries to study journalism and report compelling stories. There where plenty of busy days, boring days, stressful days, fun days. However one consistent every day was endless laughter from everyone. During the time we spent together, we adapted to each other’s personalities, likes and dislikes, because at the end of the day, for those three weeks we only had each other. continue reading…

While  in London, I learned that there’s a popular English dish here called bangers and mash, which can also be referred to as sausage and mash. Basically it consists of sausage links topped with onions on a bed of mashed potatoes. How does that not sound amazing? Well, it’s no secret that mashed potatoes is one of my all-time favorite foods, so I just had to try this dish. continue reading…

At 6:30 a.m., when many 20-year-old Londoners are still sleeping, their alarm clocks go off and they spring into action. Their morning starts with a plan for what they’ll accomplish this day. They think of various ways they can leave a positive influence on this tiny, mostly African community in southeast London.

After this brief pause for meditation, they exercise for 30 minutes to make them stronger and improve their mental health. Push-ups, sit-ups, dips, squats and an occasional run are all part of the daily routine.

By 9 a.m. they’ve showered, eaten breakfast and talked to their companion about any upcoming appointments. continue reading…