Of all the churches I’ve been involved with, you’d expect my first one, where I spent most of my childhood until I went to university, to be one of the most influential. Having thought about it… it seems not!
It’s not that I dislike the church and its congregation or feel like I had a bad time there. I don’t really know why but I never quite felt like I fitted in. I started going to church there aged 7, when we moved to Bristol and Mum decided she wanted to go back to church. I went through Sunday School there and made friends with some of the other young people. Most of my friends gradually disappeared and I didn’t have an awful lot in common with the ones who were left by the time I was a teenager. I went through confirmation classes there but spent a fair amount of the time feeling that how I understood and related to God totally different to the people I was going through them with.
I think I could probably count on one hand the number of times when someone there said something I found interesting, inspiring or even relevant. The preaching (once I stopped going to the ‘young people’s group’ of the Sunday school) was for the most part fairly uninspiring, not usually anything I disagreed with, just not that interesting. Thanks to the Methodist system, there were a few interesting local preachers who’d lead worship once every few months but they felt like the exception rather than the norm.
Whenever I go back there now, I still feel like I felt about it as a child. That’s probably less to do with the church and more to do with me. There’s something about a group of people who’ve known you since you were a child that always makes you feel like a child. And that probably stops me being able to make a proper judgement on what it’s like now…