My Journey So Far

Martin Kingsnorth from Hanwell Methodist Church writes about his journey of faith.

In past editions of In-touch both Rev. Rachel and Gerald Barton have written - and challenged others to write - something about their Christian beliefs and faith. For no obvious reason I've felt led to pick up the gauntlet - maybe because I'd like to read other folks' thoughts if I can help encourage them by sharing mine!

Well, here goes. With my 3 younger brothers I was brought up in a Christian home, my parents being active members of firstly Presbyterian (Greenwich) and later Methodist (Sanderstead) churches. So, through Sunday School/Junior Church, eventually progressing to being received into membership in my teens, my thinking being greatly influenced by one particular teacher - who often found himself with a class of one when he'd probably rather have been in church - and Grandma K - like all good Grandmothers a very wise and perceptive lady.

However, in adult life, I just didn't quite seem to bond with church life, and, coincident with my first living away from home (by then Southampton, but seconded to work in London for a year) just "dropped out". Eight years later, a change of job, and now living in Hanwell, one Saturday morning I was walking past the Methodist Church and stopped to talk with a gentleman who was on the premises (the late George Jones).

That was meant to happen! We had a chat, and within a few days Rev. John Newton contacted me, and my membership - which hadn't formally lapsed - transferred from Southampton. "Jesus is seeking the wanderers yet". That was 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history - been there ever since, and hope I may have made some modest contribution over the years.

To backtrack a little, I think my belief in God strengthened when it at last dawned on me that he wasn't a benign old gentleman living somewhere above the clouds. But who, or what, is God? I just don't know the answer, but can't accept our complex universe just materialising out of nothing - there must surely be an architect/creator/driving force of some sort?

However, I confess great difficulty in accepting a lot of biblical content, and have pondered long in attempts to sort fact from fiction. I don't think I will ever be much of an evangelist. The example of Christ, the Church's ethos and its role in the world are far more important to me than theology, and I'm ever conscious there's so much that I don't understand. A blasphemous thought came to me once - on arriving at St Peter's Gate there will be a big notice saying "you all got it wrong, but the Buddhists (or Sikhs, or JW's) were nearest".

More positively, I've long felt strongly - though never experiencing visions or "callings in the night" - that I've been guided on my way through life. A good example was my first job - with my headmaster's farewell words (" - - - - better than you have done here") ringing in my ears, and little realistic prospect of higher education, a despairing careers adviser thrust a sheaf of papers into my hand. One struck me as attractive - the Gas Board were looking for "Supplies Trainees". I went for it, got it, and in due course worked for many years as a Buyer for Southern Gas, and then London Transport. All just coincidence? I don't think so!

Incidentally, fulfilling jobs with plenty of opportunity for "bribery and corruption", and/or acting unethically - adopting Christian values were important in avoiding temptation . Later, redundancy led to my working at a number of British Rail and London Underground ticket offices - and again, in a cash handling and customer service environment, Christian teaching helped. Not though, that l'm going to claim that I never, not even once, rose to the bait when dealing with an overly demanding or abusive passenger!

Like everyone else I've had my ups and downs, made good and bad choices, and I have experienced a few wonderful God-given moments. Generally one thing has seemed to lead to another, and I've had no cause to regret any major decision. I know that I have much to be thankful for.

One "thread" that has run through my life since it was introduced 50 years ago is the E3 bus - and not just my home-to-church journeys. I kid you not! - but too long to explain here (the story that is, not the bus route).

What of faith in the current crisis? Perhaps irreverently I have wondered whether God has decided mankind needs a "wake up call" to save us from ourselves ("You reckon you're all so clever - I'll give you something to think about"). There are precedents - the Flood, for example. Maybe we shall have some golden opportunities to really think about and sort out many issues. Will we?