Alison Gibson has been thinking about the question I asked on the First Sunday of Trinity, “what is the Good News” and I am very happy that she took the time to write out her thoughts on this to share with you. Alison also gives voice to a feeling that I think many of us can emphasize with, the feeling of inadequacy as a Christian, and how she has come to a fresh understanding of her relationship with God and the Church over time. This is a beautiful story, I hope you like it as much as I do…
…by Alison Gibson
I have enjoyed following all the posts and listening to different people praying and reading. It has been great seeing the artwork and the alternative Whit Walk and interesting seeing the responses of people contemplating all the thought provoking questions Graeme has been asking over the last few weeks.
The last question which Graeme asked was what do I think the good news is?
I think that the biggest good news for me is that God showed his love for us by the way in which Jesus lived his life, and the messages of love that he brought from the Father. Good news is also the inclusiveness and compassion which Jesus showed towards others and how he wanted everyone to share in God’s love. This knowledge has empowered me into confessing that actually, most of the time I feel an inadequate Christian.
The Inadequate Christian
I wish I had the certainty of other people and their clarity of belief. I wish I could see the message which some of the obscure, or seemingly contradictory, bible verses were saying and I wish I had the dedication and commitment to spend studying these words. I have never actually heard the word of God speaking to me directly, I have never spoken in tongues or had a deeply religious experiences, but have felt a sense of wonder in the words of hymns, the prayers of others, the awesome gift of family love and in the beauty of nature. Just like my heart beating or my eyes blinking is my belief that my God is compassionate and an all-encompassing God.
I was brought up a Christian by my loving parents and joined them in playing an active part in the life of St Bartholomew’s church. Since losing both my parents I find huge comfort in the beauty, familiarity and serenity of the wonderful building which has played a significant part in my life in so many important joyful and deeply sad occasions over the years. However, I am acutely aware that people are the most important part of the church.
When I was in my mid-teens, I inadvertently went with a friend to what turned out to be a very evangelical camping holiday. The difference between the traditional and somewhat sedate services I was used to was startling. I was transfixed by the exuberant singing, dancing, praying and emotive preaching. I quickly learned, and was quite distressed, to find that I was indeed a very inadequate Christian and changing my deeply sinful ways and giving myself to the Lord was the only way I would become a proper Christian. Needless to say, my Mum and Dad soon calmed me down when I returned home. Later in life I briefly attended another church and again I found that I was indeed an inadequate Christian and couldn’t attend a prayer meeting because I hadn’t completed a particular course. I was very upset and cross and quickly returned to the security of Marsden church.
Over the years we have seen attendance numbers fluctuate greatly but there has always been a core number of people solidly and reliably supporting each other and representing Gods work in Marsden. Like any family we don’t always see eye to eye and we can’t always like each other all the time, but when I look back on the many occasions when we have faced difficulties, the numerous interregnums, the endless need to raise finances, the difficulties of implementing changes to worship and controversy over church protocols, through prayer and compromises we have always come through together to find solutions. I feel proud of the achievements that the dedicated people within the church of Marsden have strived to achieve over the years, the ready welcome to new visitors and the resolve that the church would be accessible and available when the wider community of Marsden needed it. The determination to ensure that regular worship continues not only on a Sunday but also Tuesday morning worship and evening prayer, the Taizé services, the work of the music group and the commitment of the junior church leaders. The dedicated fund raising, for our church, and for others like the people of Nepal when disaster struck their church. The regular bread baskets which over the years have raised hundreds of pounds for charity and the determination that the empty vicarage was used to support families in need, these are just a small number of significant things which spring to mind.
One of my all-time favourite TV series, which has been reshown during lockdown, is Sacred Wonders. This amazing programme has shown people from a huge range of faiths and beliefs. It shows acts of worship and devotion, often incorporating traditions and beliefs which have been passed from generation to generation. What a colourful and vibrant world we live in. Over the years I have been frustrated by the reluctance of change within the church in Marsden, but this has changed and so have I. I now appreciate the value of change, but respect continuity and traditions. I love the wonder of Easter when the building is made beautiful by a good spring clean, the displays of flowers and the joyful songs ringing out the glorious Easter message. I love midnight mass when the bells invite us to worship the birth of a King and the traditional carols and readings which link us so firmly to our past. And I now believe that any act of worship which helps people feel included and closer to God will be pleasing to him.
The best thing to come out of my camping holiday experience was the following song words
“If I tried to change for you Lord today,
If I tried to walk in your footsteps each day,
Then all of my life would be me and not you,
And none of your glory would ever shine through”
Wrongly or rightly I take comfort in my belief that God doesn’t have a league table ranking my performance as a Christian, but loves me despite my inadequacies. I am looking forward to the time when the people from our churches in Marsden, Slaithwaite and East Scammonden can safely meet again, as one of the many diverse branches in the tapestry of God’s family.