A wonderful two hours spent last night at Chelwood Baptist Church in the company of the members and supporters of Christians in School Trust (CIST) and various members of the congregation there. For 10 minutes I spoke and answered questions, telling the congregation (in summary) of how I came to be where I am and a bit of my vision for the future.
Meeting with Jonathan again I took a dip into my past and spoke of how I had grown since the last time we had met, since I left high school. He had inspired me as a young teenager of 13-16 in morning assemblies which he held for all the students.
I, as many readers will know from either the Who I Am:Summarized page or from personally knowing me, have grown up without any Christian relatives, and the first time I entered the church I now regularly attend, St Michaels & All Angels, I was 15.
But it was when I was 14 that things started to come back to me. And Jonathan was one of the people who reminded me of the ever-present God who loved and loves all. Jonathan gave me courage and weekly or monthly inspirations about life, and although some students were not willing to listen, I was. And I still do. Thankyou again Jonathan, for whom without I may not be writing this blog, and for whom without I may still have been lost, waiting for meaning, strength and courage to let myself open up and live the life inside me that I’ve always wanted to live. To be myself, without fear. Thankyou. And thanks to all the other members of CIST who I wouldn’t have known him without!
With many at Chelwood’s House tonight we engaged in discussions of the importance of child education, and giving them the message of this love, sharing it with one another. As known to me Baptists and Anglicans shared the pews tonight. I met with a lovely woman, Sue. She told us many inspiring stories, but the one that stood out most for me was that as a recently ordained Deacon in the Church of England, she is now working alongside Baptists but also a Roman Catholic school as a sort of chaplain for young people. She turned up at the interview with the Roman Catholic head and was surprised when he asked her to stay. Slightly puzzled by the ease, she asked three questions.
You know I’m an Anglican?
Yes he said.
You know I’ve just been ordained?
Yes he said.
You have realized I’m a woman?
Yes he said. But you know and love God, and I know and love God, and that’s good enough for me.
Oh praise God. It is not our differences. It is our similarities.
The last man to rise to speak spoke of (Classical Civilization coming in handy here guys) the Athenian marketplace, the Agora as I’ve known it. The marketplace is a place where all people of Athens, all faiths come together. How wonderful this Agora sounds. To have all people together in one place. If we stopped for a moment and spoke to one another we could learn so much. We could connect so much with all other human beings.
Finishing with a closing prayer, we huddled together for tea and cake. In the most beautiful sense, sharing communion with one another.
I may have shared the pews with, to be particular, Baptists and Anglicans. But tonight I shared the pews with fellow Christians. There was no need for labelling. And I hope that in the days to come the different church denominations can come together and find the similarities once more. And even within the same church branch, of Liberals and Fundamentalists, of High Church and Low Church, of Traditionalists and Evangelicals, we must see what I and others saw tonight. The love inside one another. The vision for peace. The Kingdom of God.