- Drums in the band.
- The leader talking about porn in the service.
- People taking a genuine interest in who I was.
These things were the big three that made me question whether church was for me, and if Christianity was relevant today.
This experience happened in Vancouver, about six years ago. It was August/September 2011, my mum and I had gone to stay with my Godmother Ange (who is my mum’s cousin), and her husband Rich. They were working in Canada for a couple of years and were welcoming visitors, so I jumped at the opportunity, and my mum jumped with me!
We had a great time, not only are they lovely people, but they were putting us up for nothing, and it meant we got to eat with them, go on little trips with them, and they showed us what Vancouver was like for a resident as well as visiting the tourist spots.
When they said to us about going to church with them on the first Sunday of our stay, I didn’t really want to go. I’d been to church a lot as a kid which was fun, but growing up I’d gone a fair bit with my grandma, and had always found it so stuffy, boring, old fashioned, cold and uncomfortable. It was usually all old people there, talking about stuff that wasn’t relevant in our society any more and then getting together for knitting and tea in the week. Yawn!
Thankfully, Ange and Rich didn’t pressure us at all – they just told us that they were going, we were welcome to join them, and what time we’d have to leave. My mum convinced me to go by saying they’d asked us so obviously wanted us to go with them, and we were staying with them, and they were doing so much for us, so I went, but kind of feeling obliged to do so.
Rich had actually gone already as he was leading something or other in the service – I didn’t really know what Ange had said he was doing. When we turned up, the building wasn’t what I expected – it was modern. But then again, our house back home was older than any building I’d seen so far in Canada, so I couldn’t really be that surprised!
However, as we walked into the church there were so many people! And all ages too. And they all looked so smiley and happy. Ange chatted to a few people she obviously knew, and people talked to my mum and I too. They seemed to be genuinely nice people, asking all about our trip, and how long we were staying and what our plans were, etc.
When the service began, it turned out Rich was actually leading the worship – playing guitar and singing. We followed Ange to some chairs – not pews – and sang along to the words on the projector screen. There was a full band. Guitars, keyboard, and drums. In church. Drums! The only thing I’d ever been aware of musically in a church before was an organ or a choir, so this was totally foreign to me – I just really enjoyed the music!
During the service, this guy got up, the lead pastor, and spoke for about half an hour. It was captivating, interesting, he was talking about the Bible, but it all seemed relevant to life today. The next thing I knew, he was talking about porn. What the heck?! Porn isn’t talked about in CHURCH! I was so thrown off. (In hindsight, I probably looked like this at the time. Click here!) It was really so refreshing – a church leader, in a church meeting actually talking about a real world struggle of this cyber-saturated and over-exposed century.
The following Sunday we didn’t go to church, we did a day trip to Whistler instead. But, the week after, we did go back. My mum and I had people coming up to us and asking follow-up questions from the time we visited two weeks prior. This made such an impact, because they weren’t this exclusive, closed community looking out for one another, they were inclusive and genuinely cared about us, these visitors only there for two Sundays. Also, during this service a bunch of young people got up at the front of church and were prayed for as they were beginning new chapters in their school life – another sign of these people, this church, caring about others and being multi-generational.
I was so blown away by this community, when I got home, I looked online straight away for a church I could go to that was similar to Granville Chapel in Vancouver. I had no idea how you would find that though, so I got in touch with a girl from the CU at my uni, and she invited me along to her church that Sunday and said she’d put me in touch with people from other churches following weeks so I could visit them too.
I went to Longton Community Church that Sunday, and now, I am still there, although we’ve both changed names since then – I got married, and the church became Crossgate as it moved from Longton into Preston.
I guess the thing that kept me going to church was curiosity and this sudden hunger I had to know more about God. I’ve always been very inquisitive (nosey) and this new church community had intrigued me.
I joined a small group where we studied the Bible more in depth than I could have done on my own, and talked about how the stories related to us. I was in a group with people at a similar life stage as me (uni students) so it was good to talk through stuff that we were facing or struggling with at the time. I happened to be absolutely hating my course and ready to drop out at the time; turned out I realised I was not cut out for the career I had thought, so having people around me who I could talk to was great.
I also took part in this thing at our church called Adopt A Student – I happened to be placed with the leaders of the small group I was in, and they ended up having me round for lunch every Sunday. They had a daughter who is about 10 years younger than me, so we had great fun playing games and chatting about life and faith.
All of this really started to cement a life devoted to Jesus for me. I had realised that I needed Him in my life, and with Him, life had a totally different focus. I was no longer interested in material things, achieving status or a fancy career – it’s like I realised what was important, and that was living a life that honoured and worshipped God. I’m still very much working that out, and my faith is developing more and more. The more I seem to question things, the greater my faith grows.
I’ve been on staff at that church for nearly five years now, and the journey God has taken me on since that Sunday back in August 2011 is pretty crazy. I have become so much more secure in myself, my confidence has grown; my direction and desire to do something with my life is only ever increasing. It’s all because my knowledge of God and my relationship with Jesus are both getting deeper and deeper and transforming who I am and the way I see the world.
I have made so many friends, and also happened to meet my husband through church community as well. I believe in the impact of real loving, caring relationships in the world – I genuinely think that transformational relationships are the key to change. That’s on two levels – one being relationships with one another – people who have got your back and are willing to go the extra mile for/with you, and the second being relationship with God. (That’s a whole other blog for a another time though…)
I understand more and more of what the Bible means when I read it, and am challenged by it to live better, and do things the right way – learning from the stories of people gone before me. This all comes from relationship with God, and walking through life being led by the Holy Spirit.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from my Christian walk so far is that we’re all on a journey, and the grace and love of God is so needed by every person. God’s love is so big that it covers every wrong, every bad thing, every sin in the world. God loved humanity so much that He humbled Himself, coming down from heaven, to become man, to live among us – to show us how to live, and how to be in relationship with Him. We are all on a journey, and all struggling with different things, and I am so thankful that God picked me up exactly where I was, brushed me off, set me on the right path, and is now walking it with me – every step of the way.
It was the best decision I ever made to accept God, to follow Jesus, to ask the Holy Spirit into my life. There’s always so much to learn, so much to figure out, etc. But I am so happy that I don’t have to figure out life on my own, that I don’t have to strive to meet the world’s standards, or get anyone’s approval. I am accepted by Jesus, and that’s what matters!
I found the testimony I wrote from my baptism, and thought a couple of the quotes give the background to my faith pretty well, so there was no need to re-write it!
I don’t particularly feel like I have a story to tell or a journey to share, but I do want to say that I love my life, and it’s all because I have come to realise that life isn’t about living up to my, or anyone else’s expectations but finding and following the path God has set out for me.
I was bought up in a Christian family, attending church on Sundays, and going to Sunday School – which was called the J Team (Jesus Team) – but then when I was about 7 or 8 we moved house to a different village and the church wasn’t anywhere near as welcoming, so we stopped going. This didn’t bother me at the time, as I hadn’t ever really understood church, it was just a place I went to and had fun. I was Christened as a baby, and I was privileged enough to have Angela Hughes as a Godmother. I again never really understood what the point of a Godmother was, but appreciated the fact that I had one!
Whilst I was staying with Ange and Rich we went to Granville Chapel with them and it really opened my eyes to what church could be like. I had always seen it as a really old-fashioned and boring place, where the people were boring and only ever talked about God. I didn’t realise that Christians could actually be normal people and lead normal lives. It seems so obvious now that I am one, but I had always had that stigma attached in my mind, but Granville Chapel and Ange and Rich really opened my eyes to this.