Georgina, Esther (aged 5), Mary (aged 2) and I moved to Washington from Sittingbourne, in Kent, just over two years ago. The move was a great opportunity to bring us closer to work and closer to family.
Before coming to Washington, I had a superficial belief in God, derived from being brought up in a loving Christian church-going family. I always had a sense that there had to be ‘a creator’; a God, but I needed more evidence before I believed anything more.
I was not a regular churchgoer. My experience of church had been one of tradition, rules, sin, forgiveness, repeating mantras, hymns and – I hate to say – nothing really which inspired me, nothing making me want to come back; nothing making me want more. I could not understand why people would keep going to church week on week; I guessed they just did it out of duty or fear.
Over the next two years this was all to change. Georgina started to go to the Little Lambs baby and toddler group at Washington Church with Esther and Mary. They loved making new friends and being a part of the community, and the girls had great fun too. This led to us attending the monthly family services at Washington. We loved the relaxed nature of the services. We found ourselves making friends in a welcoming atmosphere with uplifting talks and worship, all of which helped us settle down into the community.
I heard about the Alpha course [a 10 week practical introduction to the Christian faith] and this seemed a perfect way to test ideas and ask questions in a relaxed, non-judgemental environment. I had a lot of questions bottled up, most of which got answered over the weeks, but there was a key moment in the course for me. Someone mentioned a quote by St Augustine: “You do not need to understand everything in order believe, but one could believe in God in order to understand”. All my life up to that point, I had been looking for answers: the science had to add up if you like, before I could fully believe. Just hearing this told me that I could believe first, and find out the answers along the way instead. This opened the door for me.
This was just the beginning of my journey. During the Holy Spirit weekend on the Alpha course, many of the people felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I just felt like I had a weight on my shoulders, but it didn’t strike me as out of the ordinary. My rational brain told me that the others in the group were probably just feeling something that could be explained naturally. I was disappointed to be honest, that I had not felt more.
After the Alpha course finished, we continued meeting as a small home group. I found that a small flame had been lit inside of me, and I wanted to find out more, and to keep meeting which we continue to do regularly. Our group is a source of inspiration, genuine friendship, healthy discussion and amazing prayer. Being part of this group has kept my faith developing, and that flame inside from blowing out.
In the run up to Christmas, I attended the ‘Signs’ course run by Chanctonbury Churches. It was on this course that I started to see things that amazed me, and provided proof to me that God is real.
What really stood out for me was the prophesying which I had not witnessed before. It amazed me how so many prophecies seemed to come true or made complete sense. I could not believe that people that had only just met could connect and get wisdom from God about their lives. It was inspirational!
One week, the Holy Spirit came upon us, filling our hearts. The person leading started to describe what you might feel. She said, “Some people might feel a warmth inside, some people might feel a tingling sensation in their fingers, and others might feel a real weight upon them”.
Hold on… a weight upon them! Every week on the Signs course, I had felt my shoulders tightening, and this weight upon my shoulders during the prayers, blessings and prophesies. I had felt this same weight during the Alpha course and at different times at church, and now I had felt it here on this course! It seems that the Holy Spirit has always been within me, and I just had not recognised the ‘Signs’. Amazing! I saw the Holy Spirit in full action at the recent ‘Seeking the Face of God’ evenings at Wiston Church and even had spiritual visions following these sessions!
I really have been given a true feeling of God working his “magic’ here. In just two years I feel this doubtful and unfulfilled faith has been turned in to a much more believing, trusting, fulfilling, uplifting, and inspirational faith. I am left wanting to learn more! For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of actually wanting to go to church!
I feel there is something happening here in Chanctonbury Churches that is truly special. I can’t wait to see what happens next on this journey and to share it with friends, family, the church community and those yet to walk through the church doors.