July / August 2015

Big Ben and the Houses of ParliamentDear Friends

Summer is here with a vengeance and the tourists are visiting London in their droves. Crowding round Westminster, taking pictures of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

I’ve been fascinated by the centre of our government for many years. I remember visiting Westminster a child and wondering what was behind the railings? What was it like to visit the House of Commons or the Lords? Many times I’ve considered visiting but never seem to have had the time or any idea how you go about it. So I was delighted when Daisy, our wonderful projectionist, asked if I’d like to see where she worked… which just happened to be the Houses of Parliament! I leapt at the chance – how wonderful to be shown around by someone who knows the buildings so well.

We set off from Sydenham station, had a guided tour of the library where Daisy works training people how to use the complex computer system. We then made our way under the road into the famous building itself. Through the new building (you often see the café on the tv) past the terrace, round the outside of the building into the lobby and eventually into the Commons and the Lords. Daisy said it was unusually quiet which was odd but it meant that we could move around easily and really see everything. It’s like a small town, with a post office, a hairdressers, cafes and anything else you may need. There is also a beautiful chapel which we were fortunate enough to visit. Fascinating. A different world from the bustle of tourists outside.

I can confirm that being in the House watching the debates is a bit like being at Church Council, only bigger. I’d really like to go back to Prime Minister’s Questions at some point. To think that all the decisions that govern our lives are made in this building is an odd thing.

The Methodist Recorder had a front page spread about Parliament on the 26th June, as there is some talk about the need for it to be relocated because the Grade One listed building is in serious need of repair. It has been suggested that Methodist Central Hall Westminster may be a suitable temporary location. A decision will be made next year.

The Houses of Parliament are a World Heritage site, which according to the Methodist Recorder has been the home of the House of Lords since 1847 and the Commons since 1852. There has been no major work to the building since the blitz despite the maintenance bill being £30 million a year (that gets our maintenance bill in perspective doesn’t it?!). The restoration work would cost between £3.9 billion and £5.7 Billion depending on which option is decided upon.

Where Parliament will end up while the work is done is pure speculation at the moment but the Great Hall at Central Hall could be a real option. However, concerns are being expressed that it could have a ‘disastrous effect on the mission and ministry of Methodist Central Hall Westminster’. It would be imperative that worship on Sundays should continue and that the chapel should free at all times. It would be logistically tricky and security would be very interesting.

Central Hall hosted the first meeting of the United Nations in 1946 and due to its location has a natural connection to Westminster.

I wonder what Jesus would say to such a proposal. What do you think? Would it be good for those who make such big decisions in our lives to do so in a religious building, and would it make a difference? Interesting questions don’t you think?

Thank you Daisy for sharing you day with me. I hope you all have a very enjoyable summer, that Brigade Camp goes well and those of you who are going away for a while manage to have a time of rest and recuperation.

God Bless,

Pam

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