Jean, Charis, Kay and many others…

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“Is that all you’ve done?” I heard the Sunday school teacher’s disappointment at how little of her lesson I’d got through. I didn’t like school at the best of times, so aged eight I decided that going on a Sunday was daft.

Three years later, aged 11, my mum coaxed me to give it another go because she wanted me to ‘learn about Jesus’. I distinctly remember saying ‘no’ at first, simply because it was snowing and I wanted to play outside on a Sunday morning. But this was a different church, a nicer Sunday school, and spending time with my fun Auntie Jean, who was heavily involved at St Peter’s, boosted my enthusiasm. I’d always believed in God, but at a young age had decided church wasn’t the place to find him. Through St Peter’s I began to encounter something of what I believe to be the Holy Spirit. I learnt a lot about faith and made a personal commitment by getting confirmed aged 13.

However, what had been a lively, charismatic, spirit-filled  Anglican church dwindled and I was a loss as to why God would allow that to happen. The worship and teaching felt dry and I struggled to connect. It felt like a blow and sent me on a journey that would see me attempt to reject organised religion altogether.

As a student, then a trainee reporter, I still had a personal faith, but my church attendance was sporadic. However, I always had a sense that God’s hand was on my life and that I would re-connect with church at some point. At the same time, part of my newspaper work involved reviewing gigs and collating the entertainment pages.  This meant a ‘party’ lifestyle that didn’t lend itself to getting up early on Sundays. When a born-again Christian joined the team of ‘work hard play hard’ 20-something journalists I was part of in Basingstoke, I was afraid of being judged. As it happened, Charis and I became great friends. It was one Sunday morning when I had managed to get up as I wanted to go into the office to make sure all the copy was ready for the sub-editors the following day. When I’d finished writing and proofing, I thought: “Duckles, if you can get up and come  to work on a Sunday, you can go to church.” I phoned Charis and went with her to the Vineyard where she worshipped.

Moving from Basingstoke to Hull, I continued to sporadically worship in Vineyards until I moved to Oxford, aged 27. Breaking to my new housemates that I was church-shopping, Kay invited me to join her at St Aldate’s. For seven years I didn’t look back, making lots of friends and loving the teaching and lively worship. I still have lots of friends in Oxford that I made during that time. I later moved on to hOME, an experimental Anglican community, based in east Oxford. The journey continues…

As told to Pathways by Jo Duckles