Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, July 25

The evolving events (God’s plan?)

My followers will be aware that for the last six months we have been going to a church in the next town. This is where we crash landed following the problems at our old church. This church has been very good to us, and has been a place of healing for us. We have been loved by strangers. It’s good.

But it has always been dubious as a long terms solution, owing to the impracticality of attending mid-week activities and feeling part of community based events.

Mrs has tried to become involved in the mid-week children’s activities, but being severely arthritic and not driving there have been too many obstacles. She was offered lifts, but she would have had to wait for them and she hates being reliant on other people particularly with a toddler in tow. Also, our toddler is starting a five-morning nursery, and so would be unable to attend and hence unable to justify Mrs.’ attendance as well. (You need to attend a group with your own child for some time before people have confidence in you as a leader in absence of your child)

She had recently been invited to join the crèche rota, and I invited her to see this as a beginning that would grow into bigger things. But because of the above transport and locality issues, we concluded that there was nothing for it to grow into.

We love the church, but its impractical in the long term.

We opened our eyes to this when Mrs had a chance encounter on the train to the local city. I say ‘chance’ but we know that with God there is no such thing as a ‘chance’ encounter. The woman she met has a child at the same primary school, but the stronger contact is that her husband is a former work colleague of mine. Both women have recently been ill, and had much in common. But the thing that caught Mrs’ ear was that this lady’s church had a new curate who was keen on starting up a new children’s work.

This church is almost in walking distance form our house. It is on the same bus route as the new nursery.

So we decided to give it a go. Bear in mind that I hate change. It’s easier to turn a supertanker at full speed than it is to make me change church. So I was really reluctant.

But I had written to my first church that I was taking my wife to a place where she would flourish. She could not flourish in the log term at the church in the next town, as described above. So the logic was inexorable: try this new place.

Reluctantly I looked into it. I have always perceived this place as dead and dusty. It has no vicar of its own but shares a vicar with the church that most refugees from our first church go to – people that I don’t like. Not a good start. Some people I know who have come from this church are surly unfriendly people. The website was useless – wouldn’t even open. Not promising!

But we attended.

Walking through the door, everything changed.

A bright room. Traditional, but well lit and recently decorated. Chairs not pews. Thick carpet. A large area at the back with toys and small children roaming freely.

The service was amateurish (run by a recently qualified lay reader) but the content was very good. All ages were actively involved in the service, including a large contingent of ‘special needs’ adults.

Our toddler became noisy at one point (someone had given her a balloon and she was running around shrieking). I went to shush her, but the sides person intercepted me and told me to let her be.

After the service various people we knew (including my former colleague) came and welcomed us and put cups of tea in our hands. The Reader recognised me and we had a good conversation.

And it turned out that that morning they were having their first meeting of those interested in children’s work, so I pushed Mrs into it. Had we gone last week or next week we would have missed it. And I feel it is important to be at the start of something rather than joining someone else’s work at a later stage.

Had we gone six months ago in the heat of our crisis, they would not have been ready for us or us for them.

I was quite emotional throughout, to the extent that I could barely sing some of the hymns. I had a real sense of homecoming.

We would rarely make a choice about a church based on one visit. But we feel this is it.

Of course I may post in the future about how wrong we were. But that’s it for now!

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