February/March 2014 - Vol. 72

Koinonia students, staff, and friends celebrate a Thanksgiving evening at the Brothers house in London
Living a Life of Unity in London
by Andy Pettman

It’s a Thursday night late in November at the Servants of the Word brothers’ house in West London. The ground floor is full – forty university students have moved in – they have come for a “cultural experience.” In the corner there’s a conversation in Arabic, in another Spanish banter, and all around the room heavily accented English. One woman, clearly from France, says “I never knew zat you could make a dezzert out of pumkeens!” 

The head chef for the day, Lebanese Joe, explains the thanksgiving traditions he learnt from two years across the water [in the USA]. And the big question still hangs in the air: “Who are we thanking at this thanksgiving?”Maybe there is a God out there who is waiting to be thanked…maybe he is waiting for you to turn to him? 

31 Lynton Road, the Servants of the Word brothers’ house in London, has been a gift from the Lord.  I remember the day in 1992 when I walked in for the first time. I instantly knew that this was the right house for us. It was close to the main cluster of Antioch member houses. It had the right sort of mixture of rooms that we could imagine using as offices, bedrooms, a lounge and prayer space…and yes of course, ground floor rooms perfect for evangelistic parties. 

This year there are eleven of us living in the house coming from nine countries: two Americans (Jamie and Don), two Lebanese (Joe and Peter), one Fijian (Eroni), one Indian (Ralph), one Canadian (John), one Filipino (Jake)on sabbatical with us for five months, and three British, but from three countries (Welsh Richard, Scottish Pete, and English Andy)! 

It’s 7pm on a Friday night in late November. Frying of meat and spices has been going on all afternoon, and now Armenian Lamb is being carried through the house to a car waiting to whisk it down to the annual pastors’ dinner.  7:30pm and Acton Green Church is buzzing. Tables have been laid for 50; guests start arriving; drinks are poured; “hello Father Brian”…”great to see you Rev John”…”Jenny how lovely to see you”, leaders, pastors, and spouses from eleven different churches in Acton. The Baptist pastor’s wife says “I love this event – it kicks off Christmas for me every year”; Fr Kieran cracks a joke; there is a slapping of backs, bear hugs and handshakes that suggest… peace.  Andy one of the brothers, and the main leader of Antioch, kicks off with a welcome: “We want this evening to be a place where we as leaders experience unity in Christ, and a time when we in Antioch can say thank you for the work you do for us.” Its 10:30pm; chat keeps on, but time marches; coats are found; again and again: “thank you for making this night happen”. 

The unity of Christians is huge for us brothers in London, since we are part of many different churches ourselves: Methodist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, and Greek Catholic!  Helping to build unity is part of our DNA.

Its 6pm on the first Saturday in December. Ten boys age 13-17 are joining the brothers for the celebration of the Lord’s Day. Worship begins; most raisetheir hands and praise God; all sing. Tables are laid; food served; football scores exchanged; jokes abound. Everyone is in the kitchen singing over dishes. Laughter flows as we strive for victory in the” hat game”.

Our brothers serve in many different ways, but youth and student work is where we put our biggest missionary effort. Some of our brothers are also involved in leading and developing our work with the network of communities of which we are part, the Sword of the Spirit, in pastoral work, administration, development, literature and finances. Others have been accountants or business consultants, and today one of our brothers is an artist and coach. 

Diversity is at the heart of who we are as brothers in London, diversity in nationality, language, church, and work, and yet the Lord unites us as one man: 

"I pray…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
- John 17:20-21

> See related video clip of Servants of the Word household in London

Andy Pettman is senior coordinator of Antioch Community in London, UK. He is a member of the Church of England which is part of the Anglican communion, and a household leader of the Servants of the Word, an ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.

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