The New And The Old
On a trip to London just before Christmas, I was taken to visit the famous Lloyds Insurers at No. 1, Lime Street in the City of London. The original building was designed in the late 18th century by Robert Adam, the architect of Edinburgh's New Town. In 1956 the business moved to a new building on the other side of Lime Street, and then in 1986, they moved back to the original site, into an extraordinary multi-storey glass-fronted tower.
The new Lloyds emulates the Pompadour in Paris with all the lifts and piping on the outside of the building, reminding me of an oil refinery at Grangemouth. The trading floor was alive with insurance syndicates doing business at their computer terminals. In the middle stood a massive ledger in which are recorded the names of any ships lost on that day. In the midst of this centre of global technology, the names of the ships are inscribed in copperplate with a quill pen, maintaining centuries of tradition.
The lift to the 11th floor was all glass, leaving the cold London street far behind, and opening staggering views over darkening London to the lit pencil towers of Canary Wharf. Stepping out of the lift we looked through plate glass to the vast atrium of ant-like activity on the ground floor.
And then came the surprise. The boardroom is the original Adam Room, complete with ornate plasterwork, preserved for over 200 years. We stepped into history at a height that Robert Adam could never have conceived.
A few minutes later we were back on the pavement, marvelling at the billions of pounds that are insured and reinsured to keep ships and businesses afloat across the world. The building had changed beyond recognition, but the core business has remained.
At the beginning of another year, when we have been told that September 11 2001 marked a threshold of global change, when the Church in Scotland embarks on a journey of discovery as a "church without walls" and many of us face 2002 with irrevocable changes in our own life patterns, we do well to remember that our core business as Christian people has not changed. We are to follow Jesus Christ through this year as through any other.
While the external culture may change, there are some things about human nature that do not change. They remain like the Adam room amidst Lloyds' post-modern architecture. We all need to know that we are loved and to give ourselves in love to God and others. We all sin and need the assurance of forgiveness. We all experience the fragility of life and need a strong foundation beneath our feet. And at the end of the journey we need to be able to face death with a steady eye. These needs and aspirations do not change from the days of the New Town to our so-called New Age.
I know of no other place where I can find the answer to these deep needs than in the person of Jesus Christ who opens up the way to the Father and offers us the sustaining strength of the Holy Spirit. My primary desire in 2002 is to follow Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord wherever he may lead. There may be times when that sounds like the scratch of a quill pen amidst the tip-tap of Lloyds computers, but "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".
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