All posts by christoph

First Church

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…

Pa

 I wanted to think about the people who have shaped my faith and, with no better way of working out who should come first, I thought I’d start with the most senior, my grandfather, ‘Pa’.

 

Pa was a Methodist minister, a writer and Connexional Local Preacher’s Secretary in the Methodist Church for many years. Despite the fact that he retired from the Church the year I was born and stopped preaching before I was old enough to appreciate it, these things are important to the impact he had on me.

 

Firstly, Pa was a scholar – he did his PhD, in the sermons of Wycliffe(!), in his retirement whilst battling against failing eyesight. As my mother put it, for him scholarliness was next to godliness. This was important for me as it meant that right from the beginning of my understanding of God and religion, thinking was encouraged. For him, studying (in a formal academic sense) the bible and the history of the church was not an obstacle to faith, on the contrary it made it more real. He was also pretty theologically and politically radical which grounded me in these traditions before I was old enough to understand them. In fact, this probably goes some way towards explaining my inclination to be more comfortable with thinking about faith and talking about faith in a fairly objective way and less comfortable/familiar with talking about the more spiritual/’touchy-feely’ side of my faith. Conversation about God and religion made reference to “New Testament Greek” more than “personal relationship with Jesus”.

 

Secondly, I developed an appreciation for ‘good’ preaching. While I might never have heard Pa preach (that I can remember), I definitely heard his comments on other preachers when he came to visit us for the weekend. Being an intellectual snob, he expected intellectual rigor from the preachers who appeared before him on a Sunday morning! While I don’t think I have such high expectations of scholarship in the pulpit, I get a lot of my spiritual nourishment from sermons. They chime with that ‘thinking’ rather than ‘feeling’ understanding of God.

 

Thirdly, I was brought up to see politics and religion as being intimately linked. Pa was a member of the Christian Socialist Movement, was a firm socialist in the old Labour sense and a pacifist. In the last year or so of his life, at the age of 84 and completely blind, he marched against the invasion of Iraq. This echoed what I’d learnt from talking to him about being a contentious objector in World War Two – that he couldn’t reconcile war with his faith. I, like him, cannot separate my politics and my faith, I don’t know where one ends and the other begins.

 

Aside from his impact on my faith, I’m very proud of my Grandfather. It’s still a privilege to have people at Methodist churches across the country say “I’ve got one of his books on my shelf” and to read his obituary calling him ‘one of the foremost thinkers of his generation’ in the Methodist Church.

God the assumption

As lent has started, I’ll start my Lenten discipline with a fairly general post about my faith.

 

Like many people, my faith comes (and goes) in cycles. There are times when I feel a real presence of God – in both good times and bad times. Then there are other times when God is more hypothetical. I’m not really the sort of person who has crises of faith or worries about the absence of God. Instead, the best way to describe the periods when God seems further away is that God becomes an assumption.

 

What do I mean by God as an assumption? It’s like an academic assumption, that I can engage with the idea of God and talk about God but it’s all based on the assumption rather than conviction of the reality of God. I can think and talk about what God is like, look at passages in the bible, even take part in corporate prayer as part of worship. All about/to this hypothetical God. I think that’s why I’m a big fan of sermons (more on that later!), because I can engage with and relate to their reasoning even if it’s not on an emotional/spiritual level.

 

Of course, it’s not always like that. There are times, lots of times, when God seems very real. When God is not an assumption but a reality. A loving presence, a guide, many more things. At the moment, I’m probably somewhere closer to this, after a weekend of worship and reflection with SCM.

Hello Wibsite world…

I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I might be best known is as Mr Ramblin’ Folkie but believe it or not I’m also a person in my own right! In brief, I’m 23, a Methodist, a civil servant and have been living in London for 5 months or so now.

 

Not surprisingly I’ve been reading wiblogs for a couple of years now but 1have only just decided to take the plunge now. So why now? Well…  it’s nearly lent! Over the past few years I’ve done several things to mark lent (giving up alcohol, daily bible reading, etc) but this year I wanted to start something different. As those of you who know me and Sarah in real life will be aware, we’re in a state of flux at the moment. A prolonged advent, if you will, while we wait for her to get the chance to move down this way. Part of this means we can’t really make ourselves at home in a church and get involved. Combined with moving on from studenty Christian activities after graduating, this has meant that my spiritual life has been a bit neglected of late.

 

I thought I would use Lent as an opportunity to reflect on my faith and how I have got to where I am today. I’m not silly enough to think that I’ll manage 40 posts or anything like that but I’ve managed to come up with a list of about 20 or so people, places, organisations, experiences and so on that I want to reflect on. I can’t promise it’ll even be vaguely interesting but I think I’m perhaps doing this more for me, the writer, than you, the reader.