I have been a member of St James the Great, Blendon, since 2001, the year my son was born. After his birth I began to feel strongly that I wanted him to be baptised, something which prompted me to really think about why this felt important to me. I wanted to explore this more so I looked around for a local church where I might do this.
And so I began to attend St James’s, our local parish church. This was slightly daunting at first as I was not a regular churchgoer and only usually attended church (like many people) for weddings, christenings and funerals. However, the community at St James were immediately welcoming and I liked the friendly, informal atmosphere and the focus on families, something that is still as strong today as it was then. I began to feel a real sense of belonging and not just from a social point of view. I had begun to belong to the Christian family and it felt like I had come home.
Over the years, St James has offered me the opportunity to explore and grow my faith and my relationship with God in a safe space supported by other church members, church leaders and through activities and groups where I have been able to listen to, share with and learn from others.
The mixed pattern of services means that some services are more informal than others - there really is something for everyone. And I love the many modern worship songs that we sing during our services, with our small but gifted music group leading us.
In addition to worship, St James has always been big on social events and activities, such as quiz nights, theatre trips, the annual Spring plant fair – and not forgetting the St James Christmas Fair, which is a local institution and a popular event with local families, regardless of whether they are church members. St James has a great tradition of hospitality and almost all our social and community events involve significant amounts of cake!
As a regular attender with me, my son grew up being part of a church family, making new friends, receiving the support and encouragement of other adults and being able to share his own thoughts about faith with other young people his own age. He was confirmed at the age of 14, a decision he took for himself. As he moves into adulthood I believe this part of his life will still be carried with him, wherever life takes him.
In recent years, life has presented its challenges, but the most important lesson I have learned is to trust in God. This has not always been easy – I’m a bit of a control freak. But taking the conscious decision to pray, to listen and to trust God at key moments in my life has brought me peace of mind and blessings I never expected. There is no doubt that taking that slightly daunting first step over the threshold of St James all those years ago has enriched my life in ways I never expected!