Big Interview - Sept 08 Inspire - Back to Church Sunday

CAROL AINSWORTH explains how going back to church literally saved her life

I wouldn't be alive sharing this with you if it had not been for Back to Church Sunday last year.

Ryan, my son, had received an invitation from a friend in his class, as had my daughter, Victoria, but we had not committed ourselves to going.

The evening before, we had yet another huge family argument. Steve, my husband, and Victoria weren’t getting on, and I was at a total loss as to how to resolve the situation.

Sunday morning, I woke up and thought: “That’s it. We’re all going to church!”

I had attended about five years ago, when Victoria was in Brownies, but stopped going because I felt I was taking too much from people and not giving anything back.

I now know those people, some of whom didn’t give up on me, and continued to pray for me, confirming that prayer does work!

When I walked through those church doors that Sunday it felt like I had come home. I felt relieved, at peace and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving this time, no matter how hard it got.

The welcome, the love and support that people have given me since have been overwhelming. I did struggle to accept this, because I didn’t think I was worth it.

The first time I came to the 9 o’clock service I was on my own. I sat down. Then this lady moved from where she was and sat beside me, so that I wasn’t on my own. The same happened at the Thursday morning service, too.

People have come up to me and introduced themselves, and made me and my family feel really welcome.

As a family we come to events like decorating the church for Christmas, making Christingles and assembling bunches of flowers for Mothering Sunday, and each time we are made so welcome.

It isn’t a closed shop, we have always been made to feel included and that our presence is valued.

Both my children attend clubs at the church. Victoria has committed to the Sunday service at 6pm, and she goes to the youth cell on a Thursday. She has become a youth helper at Monday Night Live, and it has been her decision to want to be confirmed.

It was with happiness and joy that I was able to watch Victoria and Ryan being baptised. The freezing cold water will be a memory I don’t think they will forget, and that was the beginning of their journey as disciples of Jesus.

Eighteen members of our family and friends who are not part of our church family came, and I felt proud to be able to show them that as a family we are truly committed to following Christ and being part of this church family.

I have begun to help with the children's group Little Gems when it is the family service, and I am about to embark as a candidate in the growing leaders course. John Harris has spoken in recent weeks of how important it is to pray about those we want to invite to Back to Church Sunday to prepare that seed.

We heard the parable of the farmer scattering seed, the different grounds the seed could fall on, and what happened to it.

I was lucky that I fell on the ground that was fertile, and so began to grow. I grew because the church family had prepared that soil for me to thrive in, but seeds growing even in the best-prepared soil can suffer setbacks.

This is what happened to me. I wilted; my mental health deteriorated, and I went back to a place I’ve been to before. I wanted to harm myself.

I felt I had nothing to give anyone ... was no use as a mother, a wife, a friend, and that everyone would be better off without me. I really believed that. I truly did.

But that fertile soil wasn’t going to let me die. Instead the labourers, the farmer and our Father held me up until I could support myself again, and continue to grow.

If I hadn’t come to Back to Church Sunday my children would not have had a mum, Steve wouldn’t have had a wife, my granddad his granddaughter, my dad his daughter, my brother his sister ... and I wouldn’t have been able to inherit the gift of everlasting life.

Article first printed in Awake, the Wakefield Diocese newspaper, and reproduced by kind permission

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