Last Sunday, Tony, Mike and myself went down to Bethel City Church in Abbey Hulton. Tony had called me a couple of times to see if I’d be interested in shooting a bit of video down there and asked me if I wanted to do the interviews.
I was a bit unsure about setting foot in a church in a reporting mode, I go to school plays and the like but, that’s just paying lip service, it has no further impact upon my life.
I remembered the 1980s. we had a really active Christian neighbor, he raved about the reverend Billy Graham. After a while our indifference and his enthusiasm drove a wedge between our families, and I guess that experience made me suspicious of modern Christians, the group who have been rudely labeled as “happy clappers”.
I’ll be the first to say that I went to BCC firstly to do the article. I am an unbeliever, have been for years, despite having a church upbringing.
Dont get me wrong, I still like Churches, fantastic buildings with awesome architecture and sculpture. I love their historical value. Their records of Births marriage and Death have been invaluable to my genealogical research. I have spent many happy hours tramping round graveyards reading inscriptions looking for lost ancestors. However, that has been where my interested has ended. I don’t go in to churches for what they offer, GOD.
That said, BCC was something different. I’m not a “Bandwagon” kind of Guy, so I won’t say it lightly.
They have got it organised, you don’t just wander in and be alone wondering where to sit, there are people there to help you find a parking space, they greet you as you enter the church, you are looked after.
That in itself makes a massive difference to the way you feel when you walk into a church. Being brought up church of England, I often felt like the black sheep (no pun intended) when I walked into the church. The people knew me, knew I was a rebel, knew I liked a drink, bucked authority etc, and it showed, it showed in their reactions and their commitment, their relationship towards me. I’m not blaming them for everything, I was most probably a toe-rag of the first order, but I reckon if someone had tried to reach out instead of judge me, it might have been a different story.
About 15 years ago, I remember feeling very low after a breakup of a relationship, I thought I’d go and seek solace in a church. Not one church in Newcastle was open that day. Not one. I went home alone without being able to talk to anyone. I get the feeling that couldn’t happen with the BCC.
Whilst we were there, we never wanted for anything, we were announced to the whole congregation who welcomed us with claps and cheers. They brought us drinks and accommodated us in every way. The cynical amongst you will say ” Of course they did, they wanted a favourable article!”
Well that’s possible I’ll concede but as we know, fakery shows through eventually and if there’s any there it will out in time. I didn’t’ see it.
What I have seen so far isn’t scary or sinister, it’s just positive. It’s more positive than I’m used to, one can become cynical when you follow politics.
I haven’t had the energy and the inclination to be nice and lovely to people all the time like the guys at BCC were, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like their approach,or that it hasn’t influenced me. Surely we all aspire to be better people?
When I say better, I mean better to other people. Sometimes I’m an asshole, I’m pushy, I question everything, I wont take no for an answer, I rush and drive too fast, I expect everyone to operate at maximum efficiency or get out of may way. In my opinion being better has nothing to do with money.
For me, you could take all the money in the world and burn it in a big pile and I wouldn’t shed a tear. You can take your fancy cars and posh clobber, your sky TV and conservatories and blow it all up, I’m not interested in it, it doesn’t impress me.
I want to learn how to love others,(I’ve read the Kama Sutra). I want to be more accepting and really help those who struggle. I’d like it if people who were further along spiritually …would do the same for me.
I could actually feel the energy radiating out of that church hall on Sunday, it was tangible, it affected your emotions. I keep mine well wrapped so, it must have been strong.
To all the cynics I’d say, if you are interested in doing good work helping Stoke, Get down to BCC, and get involved with Love Stoke. This will give you a chance to see how things are operated, and if you don’t like it or feel uncomfortable , then no one could say you didn’t give it a go. No one tried to force religion on us whilst we were down there.
I’ll definitely be down there again soon to see what projects I can get involved with, I’m not into the God stuff really but I am into the close community and love stuff, who can really get enough of that?