I was recently thinking about the various different churches that I have been to that I have spoken about at excruciating length on this blog, in not very positive terms. And I thought to myself: “Was there nothing good about these churches, or about the experiences that I had while there?” Short answer: Of course there was. It is so wrong of me to give the impression that my experiences with these churches were all negative. If you are one of the people in these churches, and you thought that you had acted kindly towards me, then you might not understand why I’ve been so angry. Actually, while I was in the churches the experiences felt overwhelmingly positive.
Thinking about one of the churches that I (now) complain about the most, while I was there, on making contact with someone after a number of years, they asked me whether I had found a good church. (Which is of course code for “Are you still a Christian?!”) I responded with such enthusiasm: “Yes, I have found a fantastic church!” This post is supposed to be an apology, so I am going to restrain myself from embarking upon my usual rant. However, it was only in retrospect, and reflecting on a number of things that it became apparent to me that fun or no fun, nice or not nice, even kind or not kind, food or no food, these churches did not truly represent the heart of Christ as I believe in it and I had essentially been wasting my time, my precious, precious time that I could have been spending on building true Christian fellowship with people whose hearts were more similar to mine, if I had been more discerning.
And yet, despite that, there were many good things that I have to be grateful for. I would like this to be the final word on this issue. After criticising these people and these churches so often and for so long it feels like the least I could do is to find things to celebrate about them, to apologise, and to wish them every blessing for the future.
So firstly, I would like to apologise to everyone in these churches for so often letting my anger get the better of me, for using this blog to vent my spleen so many times. I would like to apologise for making it sound as if you are all ogres, which is not true at all. To be perfectly candid, some people were ogres, but they were truly the minority. Most people were…people. I would like to apologise for letting my anger take me over so much that I forgot all the kind things that people did for me.
These are some of the kind things that people did for me:
People supported me financially when I was going through a few financial crises. This was exceedingly kind and totally unexpected.
So many people gave me lifts home from various meetings which was always greatly appreciated!
So many fun times!
So many fun times! Cinema trips, Laserquest, Skating, Pudding parties, Pride and Prejudice 6 hour marathon(s) (Just the one!) I used to love how we could think up an idea and amass a group of people “up for it” really quickly – like within half an hour! People tended to live really close to one another, so it was quite easy to get everyone around, when people were free. And that was all in one church! In another church we used to drive around Scotland to different conventions etc, and they had a very skillful and well-practised music ministry. There was great food there too – Yum! Music, celebrations, food – these are all great things. In yet another church we went on a church weekend away and while on a walk saw beautiful autumnal colours. There was also amazing food in that church. Sighs from happy memories! I truly, truly respected the pastor of that particular church. He seemed grounded, real, and holy and the atmosphere in the church seemed genuinely friendly, largely, I suspect, due to the sincerity of the pastor’s heart.
In various house groups we used to share meals, which was always lovely! I love food, and I love eating with people – (Huggie-Wuggie, I hope you’re listening!) In one particular church, with my sister I briefly hosted weekly Sunday “bring-and-share” lunches in our huge living room after church. There would be so many people crammed in together, eating, talking, laughing – and it could get so hot with all those people in that space (or maybe that was just that one time when I turned up the heating too high – right to the max – because the room was usually freezing and I thought that everyone was going to be cold!) It was also so easy to invite (Non-Christian) people into that environment – not actually a church service but full of Christian people just being themselves. I’ve been trying to find a way to recreate that experience ever since. It was such a shame to have to give up that amazing flat! After that, the lunches continued, but in local restaurants, which was still lovely, but not quite as affordable so there was usually a lower turnout.
In the African churches that we went to, there would be people who were so good at cooking! Wow! (On the whole from my experience serious intense cooking for church events is more expected in the Black African community than I experienced in predominantly White churches where I would say people tended to focus more on convenience and shop-bought dishes.) And then in the African churches people would bring the fruits of their labour to church. And there would be so much generous provision! I’ve grown up with this my entire life, and it is only when you get to a place where this is absent that you realise how strange it is to not have it!
To everyone who ever supported me financially, or came along to one of the events or gave me a lift home, or shared in a meal with me,or any other kind thing which I may have forgotten in this post, I’d like to say “Thank you so much for all that! I genuinely enjoyed those days, and I did have lots of excellent fun! It was so good to be able to enjoy being young, and being carefree in a safe environment, with people you feel that you can trust.” These are the kind of things that I truly yearn for in a church environment: the real community, the friendship, the spontaneity, not to mention, the foooooooood! Being able to think of an idea and have friends around in a shot. All these things are really really good, and I hope and trust that they can continue within all these churches.
God bless you!
I really want to wish everyone in these churches every blessing for the future. I don’t think that I can agree with your approach to the faith – but that point must surely have been made sufficiently by now. I really want to wish you all the very best in life, I pray for you every amazing and excellent thing that I pray for myself – for joy and success, and peace and prosperity. Amen!