I was more than a little shocked and (I’m sad to say now) put off when I arrived and found the house was actually the Catholic Chaplaincy. As my feet landed on the steps I thought my semester of fun and partying overseas was shot right there. And faith? I hadn’t attended the Episcopal Church (or any for that matter) in a long time and was not too comfortable being here.
I arrived on my first trip abroad to attend an exchange program at the City University. Upon my arrival I was informed the student housing at my University was full and I would be staying at another place. A bit upset at being told this news only after I had flown overseas I took the address, crumpled it into my pocket, grabbed my meagre belongings and headed out to find my home for the semester. The address: 111 Gower Street.
The building itself was covered from roof to basement in scaffolding, completely under renovation. I would soon find out how true this was as I was often awakened in the early morning to the sound of work crews hauling buckets up to the roof. I had little option but to take showers in bathrooms where the electricity had been cut and I was forced to bathe in almost complete darkness. Not every day, but often enough for a flashlight and batteries to become a regular shower companion for some time.
Of course, now looking back, I think someone above had a plan for me. But isn’t that how every journey is? We often cannot see the journey we are taking forward until we look in our rear view mirror and see where we have been.
I discovered 111 Gower Street was actually a place full of lively personalities from all over the world, wonderful people and the seeds of memories and faith which make me part of who I am today. I never felt forced to participate in anything. I did however engage in lively chats and in depth conversations with as many people in the house as possible and discovered an amazing chain of connection between all who wandered through the front doors.
I could not have found a better place to spend my time in London and thus started truly opening my heart to experiences in the world to let anything different be a moment to be savoured and taken as part of this big adventure we are all on.
I now know I was on only a part of my faith journey at that time. A part which slowly allowed me to realize what everything in my life was pointing to all the time. My belief in God was strong and always with me, I just didn’t know who to share it with. Two years ago I became Catholic after attending the RCIA program in Woodbridge, Virginia. My faith journey will continue.
I share this because the other day I was thinking of all the people I met at Newman House and often wish I could thank them in person for the good times and warm hospitality which was a part of bringing me to where my life is today.
Brad Engborg, Resident 1988-9