Two Things that Happened last Sunday

There are two things that happened in church last Sunday that I would never have expected to happen in our last church and I think are a credit to our new church and the Pastor in residence.

Leavers being blessed

The first thing was during the service the Pastor mentioned by name a couple who had felt that they wanted to try another church in the town. The pastor mentioned this and said they’d been at tenders for about 7 years and that while he was sure they church would miss them, he wished them well and wanted to make it clear that they were welcome back any time they wished.

I think it is a good thing that a couple have a respect for their Pastor to the point that they can have that conversation with him and it shows grace that the Pastor points it out in church and the sensitive way he did and makes it clear that while he does not want them to leave he wishes them all the best.

This is something that I simply can’t imagine happening in our last church. I have seen many people leave the church in the past few years and they all disappeared silently.

An open atheist being made welcome

During coffee after the service my wife and I got talking to a couple of ladies of similar age to us. They both have children, some of which are similar in age to our daughter. One of the ladies is a Christian and had just come back from a Christian weekend away and was positively buzzing with enthusiasm as a result. The other lady was from a distinctly non-Christian household, her story of involvement with the church is that some of her children started coming to the Friday evening youth club at the church and eventually two of her daughters expressed a desire to attend church on Sundays. She and her husband agreed they would let them make their own decision and so she brings them to church on a Sunday morning but she sits in the church foyer and does not attend the service herself.

She admitted that at first it was awkward but the church lets her do that and is fine with it. She was quite happy and unembarrassed to profess her lack of faith and her Christian friend didn’t appear to let it affect the friendship that has obviously developed, although there was mention of some conversion attempts but I got the distinct impression it was not overt and was not a big issue.

I admire both the church’s stance in making this possible and in the lady in questions honesty in being in that situation. There was a level of acceptance and integrity there that I simply could not imagine occurring in my last church. There are definitely people at my last church that are capable of enabling this sort of situation to happen, however I just can’t see the church leadership making it a comfortable situation.

At one point in the conversation I told the lady that she was being more honest by expressing her position and sitting outside the service than someone who attended the service and pretended. It was meant as a compliment to her, but I was fully aware of the hypocrisy within myself as I was saying it. It was a challenge to me to be more honest about my state of faith, especially with those I love.

So what next for me?

Well, I don’t know yet. All I know is that at some point I’m going to have to stop avoiding the inevitable. Yet, I still can’t bring myself to say it straight because I am afraid of the hurt and upset that will result. I would feel immensely guilty about being the cause of that.

Sometime soon there is going to be a conversation about becoming members of the church. I know that when this church writes to our last church that there will be a glowing reference of us as a couple and a family. However, I don’t think its fair or right for me to make the same profession of faith that I did when we became members of our last church. To do so would be to lie and be dishonest.

I think what I will do is tell my wife that I am not sure I can make that same declaration and see what the conversation leads to. She knows I am having doubts as we have touched on the subject before (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/you-have-my-permission-to-be-controversial/).

Settling into a New Location

New Location Summary

At the end of August the family limey relocated to a seaside location. We’ve settled into our new home quickly and we are beginning to get our bearings in the town and meet some new people. We’ve moved to a small town, smaller than the town we used to live in, however, due to its location it’s a very popular holiday destination and there are two large static caravan parks north and south of the town; as a result the population swells considerably in the summer months. This brings its own benefits and challenges. For starters, it means that it’s a much more dynamic town and there is no shortage of visitor attractions in the area. There are also many events and activities in the town which are geared towards family’s and children. All of this is very good, because we’ve moved from a very nondescript magnolia town which was less than an hour’s train journey from centralLondon. Most residents wereLondoncommuters and people went out of town for their activities because there was no shortage of similar towns all a ten minute drive away. Now we can walk or cycle to many places, including the sea front.

We’ve moved into a brand new house, which is great in many respects, but also brings its own challenges and issues. For the next few months at least, we’re going to have to tolerate new houses being built 20 meters from our front door and all the dust and noise that comes with it. However, look out the back and we can see cows in fields and scrub land, which I hope never gets built on.

In short, we love our new location, there will be a time of settling required but we are already very happy here and are glad we’ve made the jump. I am currently working from home and my travel intoLondonwill be limited because the journey is not a practical daily commute.

Our phone and internet provider has been astonishingly slow in getting us connected and so I feel very out of touch with the blogs I follow and the other on-line communities I like to keep in touch with; which means when I do eventually get connected I’ll be overwhelmed with the volume I need to catch up on.

The New Church

As was previously predicted, the whole family has attended the Baptist church in our new town. It’s the longest run of consecutive services I’ve been to in a while. For the moment I am okay with going to church again so I we’ll see how things proceed.

Our last pastor is best described as intense and immature. He had a very black and white attitude to many things and his delivery was always shouty enthusiastic rather than considered intellect. In the last few years we’ve seen many mature Christians leave the church and the vast majority of the newcomers are new Christians or literal Christians. While I had much in common with our last pastor, including a love of cars and a very childish sense of humour, I had little respect for the way he ran the church.

The pastor of this new church is very different and carries a maturity that is immediately attractive; being ten years older than our last pastor probably helps with this. The pastor’s wife is actively involved the children’s work and when I’ve seen them both at the front doing a sketch together they were genuinely entertaining and very likeable. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Pastor’s wife so visibly involved in the ministry of the church.

The church itself has an older demographic than we are used to, and this is most obvious in the worship. The only musician is an elderly lady who plays the organ, a very lovely pipe organ that dominates the front of the church. Its quite surprising to see one in a building so small. In a way it reminds me of my Grandparents old Brethren Chapel

That’s not to say that all the worship is dowdy hymns though. There are many popular chorus’s sung and they are accompanied by a CD soundtrack. Its sounds immensely corny but its actually works quite well.

So far we’ve already managed to get a lunch invite to the Manse to get to know the Pastor and his family a little better. We had a lovely lunch and chat after wards. I can see that we’ll be getting to know them much better over the years.

Cause to Laugh and Chuckle

The biggest surprise came when I visited the local camera club in our second week here, only to find that the Pastor himself is a member. So it looks like I will be getting to know the Pastor on a social level regardless of whatever happens at church. This could be interesting; at least it gives the chance to have serious conversations casually so it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Nothing has changed, yet.

There is more that I want to say about the church but that demands its own blog post. What do need to acknowledge and clarify is that being happier with this church changes nothing in my state of belief; I am still an atheist. What will change is that I’ll no longer be able to hide behind our previous excuse of not being happy in the church. At some point I’ll have to stop wishing for a happy status quo and man up to the challenges that will come in answering questions on my spirituality. I don’t ever see myself professing faith again, so the issue of needing to tell the truth but not wanting to cause hurt and upset is still the big thing that is bubbling away in the back of my mind.