At the age of eight or nine I was given a nativity Christmas tree decoration with an exhortation to remember Jesus even when the bauble was put away for most of the year. At the time, I made it to about the second week in January, but that nativity scene popped into my mind off and on for many years.
Coming to faith in my 20s coincided with starting a family. I experienced a range of emotions I hadn’t felt before and these led me to explore more of what was beyond myself. My wife, Anne, had joined a Young Wives group at church. Through her I met John, the Team Vicar, who, over time, brought both of us to an abiding belief in the reality of that nativity scene. Anne, as ever, was ahead of me, but for me the final step to commitment came at Lee Abbey in Devon – a Christian community that has been incredibly important to me in my faith journey.
My first visit to Lee Abbey was with an informal church group for a holiday. I had been baptised – at the same time as my baby daughter – and was attending confirmation classes, so had pretty much committed my life to Christ, but I was to experience something that week that has helped sustain me ever since. As the week progressed, I felt a stronger and stronger need to participate in the concluding Eucharist. With the nod from John that I wasn’t damning my soul forever by taking communion before confirmation, I took the bread and wine for the first time on a sunny morning looking out over the countryside to the sea. I remember this feeling of being filled up from the tips of my toes to the top of my head – a sensation I can feel now as I write. It’s from this point that I count myself as given to Christ completely.
It was about 20 years from the time my Sunday school teacher gave us our Christmas tree decorations until that visit to Lee Abbey. Anne and John were the two people who finally got me to the starting line, with Lee Abbey’s community cheering me on. It’s a joy to be still running 25 years on.
As told to Pathways by Paul Armitage
Paul was one of the first people in this Diocese to follow a Personal Discipleship Plan (PDP), an accompanied faith journey. Watch Paul talking about the next stage of his faith journey and how he’s benefiting from a PDP.
Lee Abbey on the spectacular North Devon coast offers Christian retreats, holidays and conferences. See leeabbeydevon.org.uk.