The beauty, seriousness and fellowship of church was melting my heart, giving me hope, and feeding me spiritual sustenance.
I was a regular churchgoing Anglican until about 14, when my mother allowed me to stop attending after the priest terminated my confirmation classes. Well, Id told the priest that there was much of the doctrine I didnt understand, so I didnt know if I believed it or not.
I was expecting an explanation, not a big door-slam. But Id been feeling like a hypocrite for some time. Church had become a tedious irrelevant chore I was glad I didnt have to do anymore. Rather than a Reject Christian I became a proud outsider. An atheist.
Or did I?
I began to have a recurring dream:
Im a visitor in a large building. A big conference or workshop is happening for an organisation to which I dont belong. Im doing maintenance or something on a scary high platform. There is food and drink. Im not really supposed to have any, but Im starving and I find a way to sneak some. I look down and feel paralysed. At that point I wake up.
Decades passed. I tried many faiths and practices. They were good for my health, but they left me cold. I read and searched online for doubting Christian. There was clearly a grey area between belief and atheism. The New Atheists just annoyed me. But at that time Julian Bagginis Heathens Progress had just started in the Guardian online an atheist saying whats good about church. How lucky was that?
I began to wonder if I wasnt an atheist at all and also whether the church had changed much and went to a service, in January 2012 this was. Hostile though I was, I immediately felt a curious and unsettling certainty that this was what Id been missing. I went to several churches until I found one, St Marys Redcliffe, with the version of the Lords Prayer I remembered. For the first time in my life I began looking forward to Sunday. I loved it. I went twice sometimes. I felt called so strongly to participate and study. But I was also scared. Could I believe it all? What would my friends think?
I felt split down the middle, but people remarked that I was glowing. And indeed the beauty, seriousness and fellowship of church was melting my heart, giving me hope, and feeding me spiritual sustenance. There was much I rejected intellectually, but the core message of love was so good, I saw that the issue was not, "Can I blindly believe a set of propositions?" but more "Can I persevere on the same journey with these people in order to create the kingdom of God?"
Well I want it known that I am now ready to do this and so here I am today, hoping to be accepted once more, sinner that I am, into the Church of England.
About the author
Penny is a member of St Agnes in St Paul's Bristol and was confirmed on 23rd January 2014, and this is the story she shared on that special occasion in her life.