For a fleeting instant I had a feeling of warmth, peace, welcome and belonging. It was so brief that afterwards I wasnt sure I had actually felt it, so I soon dismissed it from my mind, assuming Id imagined it.
My wife Wendy joined our local church, St Marys. For the first year she went there, I didnt attend with her but, because she has poor mobility, I would take her to the church and collect her again after the service.
I was always surprised at the welcome I received when I dropped off or picked up Wendy, and how friendly everyone was to me.
In the spring of 2006, probably around Easter time, I took Wendy to church as usual but before I left, she started to feel unwell. She said that she didnt want to go home but neither did she want to stay there on her own, so for the first time as an adult since our wedding I stayed and joined the service with her.
One of the church's lay ministers was preaching that morning on a Bible passage from the book of Romans. The reading was quite long, but a short passage struck a particular chord with me:
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
I dont remember where I had first that passage but, like most of the other Bible passages Id heard, it hadnt make much sense to me and Id almost forgotten it.
But the preaching on that reading unexpectedly made sense to me. By coincidence, or so I assumed at the time, I had been attending a management and team building course at work, comparing a business team to the parts of the body, where each part had a role to play and no single part could accomplish very much on its own. I realised how relevant the Bible still is to us today.
After that little eye-opener, I continued to go to church each Sunday with Wendy. Some weeks Id learn a little bit more, or understand some other passage and some weeks I didnt but I started to see how other parts of the Bible too are relevant to modern day life.
One Sunday, when communion was being distributed, I went up to receive a blessing. Until this Sunday, although I had been taking Wendy up to the altar to be blessed, I had not accepted one myself. I would stand back until after Wendy received hers then take her back to our seats. This time I didnt stand back but knelt beside Wendy and kept my hands lowered, so that the Vicar would know only to give me a blessing, not Holy Communion.
As Viv, the Vicar, stretched her hand out over me and said the blessing, for a fleeting instant I had a feeling of warmth, peace, welcome and belonging. It was so brief that afterwards I wasnt sure I had actually felt it, so I soon dismissed it from my mind, assuming Id imagined it.
It was nearly six months later when next I went up to receive another blessing. During that time, Wendy had been confirmed and Id continued to attend church throughout this period, sometimes picking up new snippets of knowledge and understanding new bits here and there, but still when it was time for communion I would take Wendy up to receive the sacraments but I would stand back.
Then, at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2006 I took Wendy up to receive Communion and I knelt beside her to receive the blessing. It was a spur of the moment decision that just felt like the right thing at the time. Like last time, I got that feeling of peace and welcome and belonging, again only for the merest instant of time, but this time I was sure of it. I believe I was being offered a welcome by God into His family.
Jim and Wendy attend St Marys Church, Yate
What do you think about how the God the Holy Spirit works through sacraments and prayers?
What do you think about how God the Son makes us a part of Himself on earth and in heaven?
What do you think about how God the Father welcomes everyone through the church of His Son?
God welcomes us all before we even hear the invitation; God asks us to offer God's welcome to all.