I’ve been a little bit freaked out to be described as an evangelist as I’ve been introduced at various places during this Mission. People don’t normally call me that. It doesn’t sit too well with me. St John was an evangelist. I’m a parish priest from Huddersfield. But when I think about what it means – someone who shares the good news of Jesus – I can calm down a little – and remember that I hope I am in a room full of perhaps unknowing evangelists. Any one of you who has ever shared a church Facebook post, ever said to a friend – “I went to a Christian funeral the other day and it was beautiful you know” – evangelists right there. Anyone who has ever said to another person “I go to church – it’s great.” Or “I go to the wine night at that church – I’m not religious but they are lovely” – welcome one and all the world of the evangelist. From such tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow.
As for me – perhaps I should share with you a little of my story. I’m a cradle Christian – no flashy conversion story for me (and as you can tell I am actually very jealous of those people who have had a sudden intense and life changing moment of revelation where they’ve found Jesus) – but I was brought up in the church. C of E. Middle of the road. Straight down the line. Late 70s early 80s . Still quite a lot of people in church and no-one really panicking that that might change. I went to Brownies but got bored with Guides. Got confirmed at 11 because they wouldn’t let me have bread and wine otherwise. Went to Youth Group in my teens – and when I left home to go to college – it never crossed my mind to find another church. Faith was about place – not about my personal relationship with God. I didn’t think it was something that needed nurturing or paying attention to. I could go for Mothers Day, Christmas and Easter if I was home visiting the family – but otherwise not think about it. I think this is quite a familiar story in general for lots of people who went to C of E schools and did a few bits at the church.
My late teens and early 20s were a difficult time. I did some amazing stuff. Jacked in college, went to work in France singing in bars and clubs, followed a deeply unsuitable boyfriend to Newcastle and back to France – and in between that struggled with the gap in my head between faith and being a woman living in the real world. My church had taught me that good girls save themselves for marriage. The world I lived in, the generation I was part of just thought of this as ridiculous nonsense. While I know that my church could and should have had more to say about how to navigate my actual real world as a Christian – there was still just the good girl vs bad girl rubbish. Nothing deeper about what good healthy relationships between equal human beings looked like.
This distanced me from my faith – and led to some bad situations which damaged me.
To be continued…