The first session……

So on a dark October evening,  I joined a group (one of three around the Diocese) of like-minded Christians in a church hall for the start of the autumn term.

Walking in I was immediately surprised by just how many of us there are and reassured by smiles that we all felt as nervous as each other.

After some prayers and an explanation  of the purpose of the course, to help people grown in discipleship and to perhaps find the ministry in to which God is calling them, we settled down to our first lecture.

Session 1: Making Connections

After reassurance there was no wrong answer  we started by discuss how our past experiences from all the different and varied church back grounds we came from might make for a fertile ground for us all to grow in faith. That to grown in maturity as a Christian we needed a two-way process with life influencing faith and faith influencing faith. In short we had to live our faith, not just turn up on a Sunday and by Monday be back to our old ways. It soon became clear that this course was going to challenge my whole way of living.

How do we use the bible? What is Theology? On what is your faith-based? How can that understanding grow?

My head was spinning.

THEN we were told we were all Theologians. ME!! the person who can’t quote anything or remember who said what when!!! A Theologian. DO be serious!!

But again I was told YOU are here to do theology.

An “ology!!” said the Maureen Lipman in my head.

And then the gentle reassurance. “Theology is faith seeking understanding.”

And it all made sense and as the night progressed it suddenly all started to slot into place. Understanding the context of the scriptures, the history and lifestyle at the time and then making it relevant to the here and now so that I could explain to people in a way they would understand and be encouraged. That  small voice whispered you could do that.

After a much-needed coffee break we split into smaller groups in separate rooms and headed off with our lovely mentors to discuss the evening further.

Now throw a group of very different people in a room who have never met and ask them to introduce themselves and to say a brief bit about their personal journey to date and you could get into a huge pickle. We might be all emotional and give testimony or stiff up lip and give nothing away but oh my, what a blessing our group are.

We did get a bit emotional, we did share very personal things quite openly, we did explain a little of our journey so far, but under our mentors guidance we all had a chance to speak, to express and to bond.

I came away from that first night so encouraged and enthusiastic and with some fab new friends. We all came from different churches with different styles of worship but we all have so much to give and share.

Never have Thursday evenings been so exciting!

 

 

Becoming Church Warden

Once I stopped laughing at the offer to take up the role of Church Warden, I mean was the Rector bonkers? Did he really think I could be THAT grown up? Apparently he did.

So off I went to think and pray about it.

I googled “What does a Church Warden actually DO?” and promptly scared the living day light out of myself.

So  I rang the previous vicar and asked for his advice. Suffice to say he wasn’t very enthusiastic and shed quite a lot of doubt on my ability, my commitment and if I was a strong enough Christian……. WELL that just annoyed me and after a further few days of prayer and silent ranting…. I said yes.

For the official bit I had to go to Rye to the lovely St Mary’s. Taken by the previous warden, to make sure I went, I was welcomed by the Archdeacon in, some very grand surroundings and if I am honest was rather emotional at the thought of following in the footsteps of generations of Christians all doing our bit to promote the word of God.

On the way back my predecessor filled me in on some of the “extras” and the village politics that everyone had failed to mention……..what had I done???

But as the weeks turned into months turned into years I discovered that I knew more than I thought I did. And while I may not do everything in the traditional ways our church had always done things, I could persuade even the most traditional of our flock to bend a little and even embrace new ideas.

I was encouraged to lead a very active role taking  responsibility for prayers, reading and leading small services. Slowly my doubts were replaced by confidence and I was no longer afraid to jump into conversation about being a Christian but tried always to lead by example stepping out into the village with confidence that the church plays a vital role in village life and really needs to be part of the village not a stand alone historical building.

When our beloved Rector announced to the full church he was ill and would be taking time to have some treatment, I saw with my own eyes (as did everyone) pure unadulterated faith. It was bursting out of him, exploding into the congregation, that he had faith in God to bring him and his family safely through this dark time. In his own quiet modest way, I suddenly saw such a confidence and declaration of faith I was humbled. Never did he show any fear, although I am sure there must have been times where he had doubts and worries.

If ever there was a sign of God’s love in action it was the way, we as a church community pulled together and rallied round to keep the status quo, to even grow a little in his absence and to make sure he had a vibrant church to come home to.

And he did and we rejoiced and slowly we returned to normal and that was where I hit my personal brick wall.

I think I had just done too much for too long in addition to being a Mum and working full time in a demanding but enjoyable job. The cracks were starting to show and I started to take a few things very personally.

It was time to step away and spend a bit more time being me and to find time for me to worship without the pressure of sorting, leading, being.

Simples! Or so I thought……..

 

Living Faith

So after a few heavy hints over a few years about doing more and listening to God’s plan and perfect time to become  a vicar – make the change you want to see by being the change – all of which I laughed at and ignored. “Flattered but not interested”  seemed to trip of my tongue quite regularly. None so deaf as those who don’t want to hear.

So while browsing the Diocese web site – admiring improvements in recent years I saw an advert for a  Mindfulness Day. Now this excites me the principle on being at one, in the moment, appreciating the positive. That might be a good use of a Saturday.

Click to book screamed at me on the Eventbrite page. And then I saw the dreaded fully booked sign. 😦

Really…. finally a course I want to do and its fully booked……

So I clicked to see other events in the area. VOCATIONS DAY. Laughing I had a good browse and ignored it. I mean why would I want to go there I don’t want to be a vicar!!!

Then the emails started – informative news letters, Faith magazine all with vocational red flag. That drip feeding of suggestions that God has a habit if doing to catch you unaware. He is not daft!

Then the icing on the cake – the final push – I finally listened.

An email from my Rector with the email from the Diocese suggesting they “encourage” people to attend. His email read…

“Just saying!!!!!”

I gave in. What did I have to lose? What harm could it do? At least people would stop hinting!

OH BOY WAS I WRONG!

Turning up on that Saturday morning I was determined to go in with an open mind to think about everything that was said very carefully commit to nothing.

Anxiously I step through the door expecting the usual restrained C of E greeting.

I was hit with a wall of enthusiasm – a hand pumping smiley welcome. That in its self threw me. I had hoped to  sneak in the back, listen then leave without any serious interaction. But being pounced on by a familiar face dragged over to meet others and engaged in conversation and made to drink exceptional coffee?!?!! Was I in the right place? This was everything I had been saying the church in general was lacking enthusiasm, drive, encouragement.  I clearly wasn’t the only one taken aback but  as the room filled up and the day began I suddenly felt relaxed and as if I might just be in the right place.

I had read about the Living Faith course but hearing a more detailed account it seemed that maybe it was the exact place I needed to be. I mean what harm could it do? It would give me a chance to deepen my faith through scripture, to meet new people and I would be actually doing something for me for a change. As any mother will tell you that’s  a rare thing.

So I signed up. With my Rectors support, even if he did have a twinkle in his eye which seems to say GOT YA!!