I didn’t become a Christian until I was 21. If asked my family would have claimed to be Christian, but my familiarity with having a faith growing up was limited to Midnight mass at Christmas, Funerals, Marriages and Christenings. My knowledge of the bible was linked to the Christmas nativity play and Joseph and the Technicolor Dream coat.
My family moved often, and during the summer between senior school and university we were packing once again. I came across a red New Testament that gets handed out in high schools and began to read it as a distraction. Three years later my faith journey found me being Baptised in a swimming pool in Leeds.
Brought into faith through the charismatic evangelical movement, with emphasis on gifts of the spirit, the moves of the Holy Spirit and declaration of prophecy and spiritual visitations my faith was very much based upon the belief in a personal relationship with God. I have had situations in my life that I believe were miraculous, that can’t be explained by logic or rationale. I met my husband at Church, married in front of my church community – one of the songs at my wedding was “Jesus makes me Funky” – and I had both my children dedicated, with my son choosing to be baptised at the age of 10.
But, coming into church late, perhaps gave me a different perspective to others who were church born and bred. I describe myself as a pinky, liberal Christian. I was uncomfortable with the connotations of the prosperity gospel and the idea that if you weren’t ‘healed’ it’s because there was either some sin in your life or you somehow lacked faith. I didn’t fall down ‘slain in the spirit’ just because some preacher was pushing my forehead and sometimes I disagreed with the message being preached. My brother is homosexual and I couldn’t ascribe to the belief that his love from his husband was sinful. I felt that God was far more inclusive than evangelical doctrine allowed and hated the politicisation of Jesus and hypocrisy over which of the bits in the bible the evangelical movement would use to bludgeon ‘sinners’ with.
My break with evangelical church doctrine suffered a fatal blow in 2016. A ‘respected’ church leader from the evangelical movement, Bill Johnson, wrote a FB post urging Christians to vote for Donald Trump and used passages from the bible to justify it. This was a man whose teachings had shaped responses to situations in my life, whose weekly preaches I streamed and listen to in my spare time, basically stating that Trump was chosen by God. If he could manipulate the word to declare that Godliness was voting for a white American Republican… well my pinky liberal heart was more than triggered. What the actual….
For two years I struggled on. Trying to square my faith and beliefs with church doctrine. I spent too many hours praying about whether I was wrong, and if I was wrong I wasn’t sure I could remain a Christian, worshipping a God who would create someone to be separated from them. I missed church more often than I attended. I had numerous meetings with my church pastor to address my faith and belief. I was frustrated by the insistence that homosexuality was a ‘lifestyle choice’ and once challenged my pastor about how he would treat my brother and his husband if they came to church seeking God – because divorce is supposedly a sin too. For 22 years this church had been at the centre of my life, my friendships were almost exclusively centred on the church community. To walk away from the church was to break with something that was fundamentally part of my identity. It was made even harder because I didn’t know where to move to, because the church I was in, was probably one of the most progressive in the town I live in. But eventually it got too much and I made the decision I had to leave for my own wellbeing. The Pastor was, and is, great. He asked whether I was leaving the church or the community – and in affirming that I was leaving the church, he encouraged me to remember that and keep in touch with the community, which I have.
I did some research and was given a recommendation that the Reverend at the main Church of Wales church in Wrexham, St Giles, was fairly progressive. It turns out that he has a theological basis for believing that God does not have a problem with LGBTQ+. The burden I felt for so long was lifted – my God IS inclusive. Furthermore, St Giles’, which I entered demoralised and broken, and saw as a waypoint to whatever else was next, has become my faith home.
The 3 to 4 hour Sunday morning marathon has been replaced with a half hour family service. The church follows a calendar I don’t understand marked by coloured vestments worn by the Rev, and has many rituals and traditions that I am unfamiliar with. The live worship band has been replaced by recorded music blaring out a multimedia screen speaker. I no longer stand to worship, waving my hands around and clapping, but instead stay seated and sing hymns. I take communion from a Chalice and wafers on a Silver plate instead of plastic glasses and a tray with torn up pieces of bread. But there is love, there is community and what I have felt has been missing for so long: God as the centre of attention and a simplicity of faith in an all loving Father. I once more want to go to church on a Sunday morning and feel whole again.
My faith is an anchor, my relationship with God a stabilising force. I am working on deconstructing signs and wonders and prophesying, trying to determine what is truth and what is fluff. My husband still attends my original church (though not regularly), my son has asked to attend St Giles with me, and my daughter? Well, I’m not sure, but I hope that in time, my whole family will join me on a Sunday morning and St Giles’ develops into being a part of the rhythm of our family life.