Carol Shepherd from Barns Green, West Sussex thought she was a Christian until she met some people from a church in the next village …
I was born in England, christened and married in church, went to weddings and funerals, and when asked what faith I was I would say: “C of E”. These things made me a Christian, didn't they?
A week after my 40th birthday everything changed. Now I know the difference.
Our marriage became quite rocky, but we plodded on for [our three] children's sake. In 1985 we had a chance to move into the village we still live in.
I can remember saying, “When we move, we should join the church,” but that was only to 'fit in'. There isn't a church in the village so I did nothing about it.
Two weeks after moving in, a group from the Free Church in the next village sent letters to every home saying they were going to hold a monthly Sunday evening “come and see”' [for people] to find out about Jesus.
I rang the minister. He came round and spoke to both of us and invited us to the evening meeting. Dave was working so I went along on my own.
I didn't know a soul but felt quite comfortable, although many people had their hands in the air and were singing and praising God and 'talking' to him just like they would talk to a friend. It was all very new to me and a bit strange, but still I felt quite peaceful.
A young couple introduced themselves and invited me to their home the following Friday evening. I went along and during the worship and prayers I asked them how they were able to be so informal and open with God.
One of them told me it was because they had asked God to forgive them and for Jesus to come into their lives and help them to follow him.
I went home, and while I was getting ready for bed I found myself praying [for the things they’d mentioned]. Immediately I had an overwhelming feeling of light and warmth go from my toes right up through my head and a huge weight seemed to be lifted from me.
I didn't know there was a 'burden' on my shoulders until it was lifted off. I felt wonderful and completely at peace with myself.
On 17 November 1986 I was baptised by total immersion. That was a day to remember. All my family came – and a few friends.
During the service our daughter became very agitated and walked out with my mother and husband. She said: “You don't want us – why did you have us? You only want God.”
My husband said: "If you go through with this our marriage is over," and Mum just wanted us all to go home.
All the time I had this enormous peace within me. The pastor said it was my decision and we prayed about it. I knew that if I went home my family would have thought that I wasn't really committed, my husband would probably have felt guilty and I would have felt I'd turned my back on God, and in the end we would all drift apart.
Instead, I knew that if I went ahead God's love would see us all through to a better life. So I went ahead.
Life hasn't been easy, but over the years I know my family are proud of me and accept that I am a Christian (they aren't – yet).
I have written many songs since knowing the Lord Jesus and have spoken and sung some of them in a few churches. It is a real joy, and one day my husband and I will share the same joy and work together for the Lord.
We have now passed 43 years of marriage. In the 39th year Satan really had a go at breaking us up, but when I found out that our 40th was on Easter Sunday I knew we would survive, and things have gradually got better and better. Praise God!
Extracted from an article on www.face2faith.co.uk and used with permission.
MORE STORIES FROM BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY
Giving church a go
Ruth Webster from All Saints Church in Wellingborough was sceptical about religion.
“It was not part of my upbringing and had never played a part in my life,” she said.
The family started going to support her son at school events in church. “We really liked the vicar and thought he was very good with the children – our son spoke about him a lot.”
Nevertheless, Ruth felt apprehensive about going along. “I found it very confusing and it didn’t make a lot of sense.”
Finding they knew many people already, the family started attending social events.
“My husband became a Beaver Scout leader and our links with the church got stronger. Then I felt at ease to ask the questions that had puzzled me before.
“Having been christened and confirmed, I am still on the journey, but well on my way.”
To anyone thinking of getting involved in church Ruth says: “Give it a go. You just might enjoy yourself!”
With thanks to the Diocese of Peterborough’s Cross Keys magazine
Come in for croissants!
“Try something different” is Rev Robin Townsend’s tip to help put Back to Church Sunday at the forefront of people’s minds.
So it was coffee and croissants at St James’s Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire when the congregation helped transform their church into a Café church.
Said Robin: “We thought it was a good idea to do something different and to use our comfortable lounge with its close and non-intimidating atmosphere.
“Back to Church Sunday depends on people bringing their friends, relatives and neighbours. It needs our people to be holding others by the hand and saying, ‘Come with me’.
“I’m sure quite a number of outsiders who came were drawn closer to our church family,” he said.
And the idea certainly worked – in fact it went down so well that St James’s is planning more coffee and croissants mornings.
Extracted from Look who came Back to Church with permission from the Diocese of Wakefield
“Many people have got out of the habit of churchgoing and would go back with the right invitation. How many people are waiting for just that?”
Rt Rev Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract
Philip went back to church at All Saints and St Cuthbert’s, Ackworth, West Yorkshire …
“It was Anne, she was on the till when I was doing my shopping, and said: ‘Back to Church Sunday’s coming up. Why don’t you come along and have a go?’
“I’d never heard of it, but I’d always meant to go back to church. If someone doesn’t ask you, then you don’t bother.”
With thanks to the Diocese of Wakefield
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