I am from a Christian family and was given no choice other than to join my Mum and Dad at Church each Sunday and then go to Sunday school. I also belonged to the choir and had to attend two or more services each Sunday! When I was a teenager I helped at Sunday school with the younger children. In our council house street this was not normal Sunday behaviour, as my sister, brother and I were not allowed to go out to play on a Sunday but made to stay at home in our ‘Sunday best’.
I won’t say that this upbringing made me view the Church with resentment, but when I was seventeen and finished at school I left Crick on my little motor bike and headed south to a job in Research & Development with ICI near London. This was a metamorphism in my life and after all the great food at home and being short for my age - then on to living on beer and sandwiches - I grew six inches in just over a year. My confidence also grew with every new day. I had a good start in the R&D labs and went for every job on the notice boards with undeserved success. I met and married Sandra, the child bride, who I still love more than life itself.
We moved to North Yorkshire and Sandra was left alone ‘up north’ while I had a field job flying here and there sorting out issues wherever they broke out. After five years we again upped sticks to the midlands for yet another new job. I know lots of people say that life is hard, that they’ve had ups and downs… but for our family (we have three kids, all of whom we’re very proud of) life has been fun and rewarding. We’ve never wanted what we couldn’t afford. I occasionally went to Midnight mass but whilst I was trying to be a good guy I had no real relationship with God.
Sandra worked next door to a practising Christian. When he invited us to the ‘Carols by Candlelight’ service - which I absolutely loved - I asked Sandra if she’d mind if I started to worship occasionally at WBC. Not only did she not mind, she offered to join me at least until the following Easter, despite her fear of attending, as she had not been a church-goer as a child.
WBC was as different to my traditional Anglican roots as could be…. the worshippers were enjoying themselves. We read the Bible and were given an understanding of those Holy Scriptures my King James upbringing made almost impossible. I found a new belonging, a new joy. And above all – an inner peace which I had never experienced on that level before.
All was going well, Sandra had made friends, and I assumed the trial period would be extended without any debate. Then, without warning or reason, in the middle of a happy Easter hymn, I found myself crying like a baby unable to sing and feeling totally over-whelmed. Bryan Gilbert was leading that service and after the blessing he said that he felt that the Church had been touched by the Holy Spirit. He invited anyone who wanted to to come forward for prayer and support. I was a mess and unable to speak clearly - and thank goodness men don’t wear mascara! Bryan held me, we prayed and something changed: did a door open? I think so!
I went on the Alpha course and commend this to anyone considering exploring their faith further. As a scientist I was still looking for proof of God. Then, following the Alpha ‘Away Day’ session on the Holy Spirit and a deeply focussed prayer session, I asked God for proof of his existence. I was hit by neither a voice nor a sound, but a loud exclamation in my head that I did not need proof, I already had proof, in fact I was proof!
So here I am asking God to forgive my sins, my forty year-long leave of absence has ended, and I rejoice in the company of the loving God.