First experience of Gifts of the Holy Spirit

It was during the years between leaving school and living permanently back in England that I first encountered Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As previously mentioned my parents were going to two very different churches. Mum a Pentecostal and dad a Presbyterian.

It was during a family meal when dad asked about the church mum went to and said something about them speaking in tongues there. I replied that I had not witnessed it happen, which was true at the time, I hadn’t witnessed any speaking in tongues, or any other gifts of the Holy Spirit at the church, yet. Dad, relaxed visibly and said, more to the step mother than to me, that maybe they’d stopped doing it.

I never knew the reason for dad’s concern about speaking in tongues and I never pushed it. I had learnt by now never to challenge or ask questions in dad’s house. Survival meant going with the flow and being as compliant as was possible, or at least giving that impression.

It wasn’t long before I did witness speaking in tongues in a service. I can’t remember at all what my reaction was at the time, or much of the detail of the event. It was to be repeated again not many weeks later and I would witness it quite a few more times before my final service at the church. Life at this vibrant and active church was so much more fun that the staid and boring church dad went to. The songs were sung with much gusto and there was genuine praise and worship going on. Such a different experience to the drudgery and hymns sung without enthusiasm.

I loved the clapping along to joyful and exuberant songs, the swaying and dancing in the isles and those wonderful Zambian voices. Oh those voices, they sing with such beauty and harmony, the sound of which beats pretty much any UK choir you could mention. A spine tingling joy radiates from a host of Zambian voices singing in enthusiastic unison that is almost impossible to adequately describe. Even though my British genes barred me from the honey voiced throng, I was in awe of the wonderful experience of being among that congregation.

Even though I now reject the concept of a God, the memories of being surrounded by a joyful throng of black voices, all singing wonderful harmonies is something I treasure. The men with such deep bass that I could feel it vibrate in my chest, I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

I don’t remember any specific teaching on spiritual gifts at the church, or what other gifts may have been used besides tongues. I only remember that tongues were occasionally used during a service.

I was Away at School when Dad Remarried

The news that Dad and new woman had eventually decided to get married wasn’t broken to me until after the event.

He met me at the airport, on his own, which was unusual, normally the airport run was a family affair and everyone came along. I realised why as soon as he broke the news to me. He wanted to be alone with me, though why I am not entirely sure, maybe he dreaded some sort of teenage strop. Whatever his reasons, he told me as casually as he could and we had the rest of the journey home to recover. While I would later ponder over the various reasons for my (and my brothers) exclusion from this event, it was never voiced out loud.

I can’t really recall what I felt inside, but my response was “I’m proud of you”. It was a lie of course. The years between my parents separating and this moment were full of anger, pain and deep upset. There were many moments when he and new woman had argued and fought. Fights that I never witnessed between mum and dad. These were times when I truly wished dad would leave her and I really could not understand why he didn’t. Life was horrid and the worst that mum and dad has was far better than an average day with this cobbled together group of incompatibilities, trying to call itself a family.

So the news they had finally got married meant that the dream of dad leaving her was over and my brothers and I were doomed to spend most of the rest of our childhood in this very unhappy unit.

The emotional needs of my brothers and I, in this post remarriage family were never met. We were always bottom of the pile and regularly manipulated and bullied by our new step family. Several behavioural issues came to a head over the years and were never acknowledged or even dealt with properly.

Life with mum was a complete contrast, unconditional love, always and never ending.

Through all these years we still went to church. dad to a very traditional Scottish Presbyterian and mum to a very charismatic Assemblies of God church, despite her Plymouth Brethren upbringing. My spiritual life was fed very effectively by mum’s church, while going to church with dad and the new family was utterly tedious. It was immensely boring and something to be endured, just to keep the peace, because speaking out would invoke the wrath of the wicked step-mum.