When I got to the airport everything went smooth. The gate was C21, and that’s sweet for me because Concourse C is where my favorite Chinese food is located. Excited as I was, I got to sprint towards my Chinese place and down a bunch of my favorite Orange Chicken with white rice! There is no better Orange Chicken in this world than at O’Hare! When I boarded the plane I got to my seat and realized that there weren’t a lot of other people getting on. There ended up being 27 people on this huge plane to England, so we all got an entire row all to ourselves! Holla. The plane departed at 6:30pm, which is 12:30am in England. I figured if I could fall asleep right away that when we landed at 8:30am I would be fully time-adjusted.
Too bad that didn’t happen
I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I ended up watching the movie It’s Complicated with Streep/Baldwin. I hated it. It was terrible. Bored out of my mind after that waste of 2 hours I started to read. I brought with me 4 books and my Bible. Choices, choices. I decided to start reading the 1,100 page monstrosity that is Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome. I got about 100-ish pages in and it’s really good thus far. That made me feel better; still not sleepy though as the book is a thriller from the start. I figured that wouldn’t help me get tired continuing to read a thriller, so maybe a Christian book would?! I got out Alan Hirsch’s new book, Untamed, and started reading that. About 75 pages in I realized that wouldn’t make me tired either. Drat! Back to the movies, I thought. One of the movies playing was The Blind Side. I have refused to see it thus far because I know, I just know I would cry watching it and I didn’t want to do that. But seeing I had nothing else to do, a row all to myself, and a lot of time on my hands, I watched it. And yep, cry I did. I swear I cried at least half the movie. Maybe it was because I was already feeling emotional knowing I was going to be gone for the next 23 days? Maybe because I was super nervous that I was potentially walking into a British-trap of haters to my message for no other reason than I’m American? Maybe it was because I was sappily already missing my family? Or maybe it was just a really sensitive movie that touched my soul? No matter the reason I’m glad I had a row to myself!
I was so drained after watching that movie I quickly fell asleep (unfortunately for only about an hour) and the next thing you know we’re touching down at Heathrow Airport. A brilliant chap named Dave picked me up at the airport (he was holding a cool sign that said, Springharvest Andrew Marin). I exchanged some US dollars for some British Pounds – and let me just tell you that $73 got me about 40-something pounds! What the heck America! Our first stop was to the T-Mobile dispenser thing that I bought a UK SIM Card for my internationally wired Blackberry phone. Unfortunately the technologically inept person that I am, I’m still not able to figure out how to get it to work. I’m still trying though! I will conquer it soon! And off we were in his comfy red Audi on our 3+ hour trip to Minehead. We had a great conversation, stopped off for some sandwiches and tea(!), and arrived to the site in the afternoon. I was gassed! But I immediately found some of my favorite Brits (Wendy Beech Ward and Laura West), exchanged some hugs, got some lunch, said hi to their families and I couldn’t get to my ‘chalet’ (what they call our accommodations) fast enough. I just collapsed and woke up a few hours later feeling much better. I reconnected with Wendy and we were off for a tour of the site and then ended at the ‘Big Top’ (their general session area) for the evenings events. I’m sure it was great, but it was much of a blur because I was so tired. I headed back to my chalet, got lost for about 15 minutes, finally found it, and went to bed.
I set my alarm for 8am (2am my time), and my body was not feeling it. I slapped that alarm back into reality and slept until about 11am. When I woke up I reviewed my notes for that afternoon’s lecture, took a shower, made sure I looked nice and off I was. I can’t tell you how nervous I was! I haven’t felt that nervous in a long time! The last time I was out here speaking in England my message was well received, except for an entire denominational publication who can’t stand me or my work and loves writing/talking trash about me. I had no idea if they would be there or not; if this was going to turn into a pick-apart-Andrew-Marin time; or what? I think I lost 5 lbs. just in nervous sweat! Over the last month I have been doing as much research as I can, talking to all of my British friends filling me in on the engagement/lack their-of between the two communities; trying to gain as much insight and accurate perspective as I can. My one goal is to not be the stupid American! When I walked into the site, it was a huge ballroom area with lots and lots of empty chairs. It was only about 10 minutes before I was on, and there were about 15 people in attendance. Guess not many people wanted to hear about homosexuality and elevating the conversation?
But then with about 5 minutes to go, everyone started pouring in! In what seemed like 1 minute that auditorium went from 15 people to the place overflowing out the door! The room was buzzing, and I’m talking awkward, nervous buzzing because no one knew what to expect from this unknown American. Wendy introduced me to the crowd and off I went. The hour seemed to fly by and the audience was overtly engaged – laughing, crying, clapping – it was amazing. I didn’t see that coming from a mile away! The last time I was speaking over here the audiences were stone-faced, even if they did like it! That is what I was preparing for…but no! It felt like I was speaking to an American audience with British accents. After the lecture was over a mass of people descended upon the stage to talk and I thought, Here we go…I’m ready for the insults.
That was the farthest thing from the truth of what actually happened! Here are just a few of what some people said:
“I am a mother and have been told by my church that my gay son is lost and unlovable. You are the first person to give me permission to love my son again. Bless you” (with tears and a kiss she walks off).
In a whisper: “I am gay. You don’t know how much this means to me. This was like nothing I’ve ever heard here before.”
“I came to this knowing I was going to be extremely pissed off listening to you blabber about the same ol’ crap I hear from the Church. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Please accept my apology. Thank you.”
“I’m a lesbian and I read your book and I still can’t believe I’m sitting here at Spring Harvest listening to you. They don’t do this! The Church of England doesn’t do this. I don’t know how you’re here, but this hopefully is the start of something special. I hope the people here have been listening.”
“The brilliant part to what you said is that British people just seethe-in-silence. You’ve just torn that apart and let our voices be heard.”
Stuff like that went on and on. I was floored. FLOORED! They were old and young; men and woman; gay and straight; clergy and layperson; parents and grandparents; brothers and sisters; friends and co-workers. Unreal. Were there people in that huge audience that didn’t like what I had to say; I’m sure there were. But none of them came up to me to say anything. In fact, walking around the site after the talk I had at least 5 other gay men/lesbian woman stopped me to thank me for giving them a voice for the first time in such a setting. I couldn’t get 10 feet without someone else stopping me wanting to tell me their story of the Church and how it has (hasn’t ‘handled’) their GLBT family member/friend/etc.
The organizers of the event were more floored than I was. They kept coming up to me saying,
“We thought all of this time that this was a dead issue in England. Guess we’re either really wrong, or that’s what we want to tell ourselves to make our ignoring this acceptable.”
Um, ok then. Quite profound self-realizing statements. I was so overwhelmed I went back to my chalet and on my knees praised the Lord for the grace He had just shown me here.
Later that evening I got some dinner and then went to the concert – Nikki Rogers – singing songs from her new album Once in a While. This lady is crazy unbelievable. She has had the best voice I’ve ever heard live. What a day.
I woke up this morning, exhilarated, and the first thing I see when I get on the Internet is that my good friend Michael Spencer had passed away. At this time of dualistic feelings, my soul is a little messed up right now. It has been wonderful writing this, and I’m off in a few hours to speak again tonight – not a lecture but a total Q&A session. Let’s see what happens. I’ll be updating you again soon…
Funny side notes:
I keep walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk and people keep giving me strange looks!
Thank God Brenda convinced me to take my coat as Weather Channel lied to us about how “warm” it was supposed to be.
No one could tell I’m American until I open my mouth and talk…brilliant!