A member of the family
As most of us find, life has not been easy. Hardship, divorce, loss of loved ones - all proved difficult to cope with and my prayers often contained the question ‘why?’ and tears often accompanied prayers. But my faith was like a crutch, and I never felt far away from a loving God.
I was baptised as a baby and brought up in the Church of England. My late mother was a very committed Christian woman.
I took confirmation classes as a child, but didn't feel ready for the commitment. At the age of 15, however, I listened to Billy Graham, the famous American evangelist on television and felt compelled to offer my life to Christ there and then in our living room.
This was the first time I realised God loves us as individuals; that each of us is important to him – even me.
This led me to evangelical and Baptist churches which I attended in whichever location I found myself in. Feeling led by God to do so, I received adult baptism in a Pentecostal church at the age of 19 and made a public commitment to follow Christ.
There are many differences in the style of worship between the denominations, of course, and even between churches within denominations. The Assemblies of God and Elim Pentecostal churches both in the UK and Canada were largely free-form worship... extemporary (unplanned) prayer; not only hymns but many choruses, repeated if anyone started to sing again; lots of congregational involvement encouraged 'at the front' via testimonies and soloist singing, perhaps tambourines or guitar playing; even sometimes people speaking in tongues during prayer sessions.
The Holy Communion wine and bread was taken in your seats, not at an altar. We waited until all had been served with individual tiny glasses and then took the sacrament together. The last Baptist church I attended was less free-form, but there were similarities, with plenty of congregational involvement again. Longer sermons, as I recall!
As most of us find, life has not been easy. Hardship, divorce, loss of loved ones - all proved difficult to cope with and my prayers often contained the question, "Why?" and tears often accompanied prayers. But my faith was like a crutch, and I never felt far away from a loving God.
Roll on 30 odd years and now living in a village near Swindon, I found myself with no local evangelical or Baptist church, and very tentatively entered the doors of the local Anglican Church. I was nervous: when to stand, sit, what words to repeat in the liturgy... has anyone else felt like that? I am sure I am not alone!
However, I soldiered on - they needed a treasurer, so I joined the PCC, and then they needed another organist and then some help with organising the house group, and I offered to help. It took me a while to feel at home, but one day I found I was. I recently also agreed to be nominated as churchwarden and was duly elected. I was not expecting that role in my life journey either.
I also felt the need to take on more learning, so took the two year 'Exploring Christianity' course offered by the Diocese of Bristol. It was very interesting, and spiritually rewarding - I recommend it highly. We shared together passages from the Old and New Testaments. Our study was in itself a form of worship, and we spent some time in prayer together. The deeper we delved into Christianity, the more we studied the Bible, the closer I felt to God and could see His work in the world around me.
We came from differing backgrounds and a variety of C of E churches in Swindon. We learned not only from the tutor but from each other and new friendships were formed. I joined new friends for a service at St John's in Haydon Wick, and still try to visit the church regularly. A second church family!
Then I was confirmed in the Anglican ceremony. So why confirmation at my age – 60 years old? I took some persuading! But after all, I had become part of the family and if you do so you need to wish to be a full member of the family. It was another commitment to God, and I was happy to affirm that commitment.
It has been a wonderful journey with Christ and I hope and believe it will continue to be.
Linda lives and worships in Swindon
Is commitment something that binds us or frees us?
Think of one thing you could to strengthen your feeling of church family.
Pope Francis says that the Holy Spirit spurs us to experience ‘richness, variety and diversity’ within the Church, without conflict.
Meditate through the day
The family of the Church is one where each belongs as much as the other.