Our family were not church goers. The first person who taught me about faith was my nan Barbara. She had a quiet, but resolute faith. I remember learning how prayer formed part of her everyday life. She always made sure we knew she was praying for us. I went with her to her church. However, at 13 I knew everything and made a point of telling the vicar this! I was most likely more than a bit annoying – so I don’t blame him for asking me to leave the confirmation classes. I left the church, for good, I thought. My nan continued praying though…
By the time I went to university I was hardened against religion. I saw no evidence for God and thought it was better to engage in solving the world’s problems through left-leaning politics. All this changed through a (random) sequence of events. Doctors thought a friend with meningitis was going to die. Her mum was a Christian who set off a prayer chain. The friend made an unexpected recovery. I always thought prayer was to do with positive thinking, and this experience challenged my lack of proof for God’s existence. The chaplaincy at university had a mission week coming up. The speaker was Methodist preacher and political activist, Donald English. In five days, I got to explore many aspects of faith I struggled with. Donald inspired me to see that true transformation for our world will come through the coming of the Kingdom of God.
That set me on a slightly different journey resulting in me (randomly) choosing to join a Christian youth work agency. This team was led by a couple called Jonny and Jenny. So much about them was inspiring. They modelled an equality in their relationship, at home and at work, which I have sought to emulate. They introduced me to studying theology as a way of seeking a ‘transforming vision’ for the whole of life. The worship events they ran, along with others, led me to find an irreverent yet deep spirituality that brought God to life.
Since then there have been many others as companions in the way of faith. My wife Bridget is the number one provoker and supporter for this journey. In another (random) connection we now have the privilege of Jonny and Jenny’s grandchildren being in our church. I can now pray for them, like my Nan did for me…
As told to Pathways by Nick Shepherd
Nick Shepherd is the director of Setting God’s People Free which aims to help Christians in their everyday faith. Hear him talking with Bishop Steven.
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