Our Lent Course this year and the Lent booklet “God’s Story Our Story” (distributed to people on our Parish Electoral Roll) have looked at witness – the joyful call to each of us to share our own story of God, and evangelism – the particular ability God gives to some of us to be able to tell the story of God in a way that stirs faith in those who might not call themselves Christians.
So for today’s Daily Reflection I have decided to share my story.
I was born on 12 May 1956 in Edgware Hospital and I was baptised on 17 June 1956 at Holy Cross Church in Borehamwood. In August 1956 my family (Mum, Dad and 3 older brothers) moved from Borehamwood to Basildon. There were many families with young children moving to Basildon New Town at this time.
St Andrew’s Church opened in Basildon in 1956, and I used to go to Family services with my Mum, and went to Sunday School and then the Pathfinders Group. My Mum was a member of the Wives’ (later Women’s) Fellowship and the PCC, and helped to run the Sunday School in Luncies Road. When I was young I always thought that the earth was so amazing that it could not have happened by accident, and there must be a divine power involved. I also enjoyed the stories of Jesus, but did not really understand how somebody could have a personal relationship with God. One of my Sunday School teachers was involved with the Samaritans, and it was his witness that resulted in my joining the Samaritans as a volunteer in 1989.
At the end of the Pathfinders Group in 1969, you were presented with a Bible and it was expected that you would be confirmed. However, I decided that I did not want to be confirmed, as it just seemed the thing to do, like a conveyor belt.
At the time, there were some older people who decided to start a youth club (which became an After Church Fellowship) on a Sunday after the evening service. This involved people from different churches. There was also a prayer and praise meeting in various homes on a Friday evening, where I first experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including people speaking in tongues, which was only worthwhile if somebody could provide an interpretation.
In the summer of 1972 I went to Lee Abbey Youth Camp in Devon with a number of people from the Church group. Here I experienced the love of God, asked Jesus to be my Saviour and decided to make God the centre of my life. As a result I was confirmed on 26 November 1972 at St Mary’s Church, Great Baddow.
In the summer of 1974 a number of my peers went to college and university, and others decided to leave St Andrew’s and join other churches as they said St Andrew’s was dying. However, being quite stubborn I decided to stay, believing that God had put me there for his purpose.
For many years I continued to attend services at the church, but did not take a very active role in church life, preferring to go to football, the pub etc. However, I met my wife Marion through the church – we got married in 1990 and had our son Graham in 1992. 1992 was also the year when I became Churchwarden, and this continued until 2008, so I was able to use my admin talents in the service of God, and get other people to do the practical work, for which I have no skills.
Between 2007 and 2009 I took part in the Course of Christian Studies, which gave me a greater understanding of the history of Christianity, and the range of views and beliefs that Christians have. It also made me think about a more pastoral role, which led to my involvement in the Pastoral Team, and as a befriender for Christians against Poverty.
In 2019 I was again elected Churchwarden, and retired from work, hoping to find out what God wants me to do in my later years. Then Covid 19 came along to change all of our lives! When you get into your mid-60s (and having had 2 brothers die at the ages of 46 & 63), you realise that there are no guarantees of how long you will be on this earth. However, we have God’s promise of eternal life, and we need to make the most of each day we are given.
All of the sermons, bible studies etc., boil down to the simple message of John chapter 3 verse 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
Lord, please help us to be willing and able to tell the story of our lives and your presence in them so that others might be drawn to you. Amen.