Help! I think I might be interested in all this!
|I suppose this may be expecting quite a lot, but it's conceivable, just conceivable,
that having had a look at all this Christian stuff you may possibly
want to find out a bit more. I offer these thoughts to address that
albeit vanishingly small possibility!|
often don't remember what it was like not to be one. Very often, they
can't be expected to remember, because they always have been. It's
fairly fresh in my mind, though, and I wouldn't want to forget ...
|Try a Book|
We think a really good book for someone who doesn't mind reading a bit is our friend Michael Lloyd's Café Theology
- Michael was Doctrine Tutor at St Stephen's House in Oxford,
where I studied, and is now Principal of Wycliffe Hall theological
college after a sojourn in the City of London as Vicar of St Andrew's
Holborn. Café Theology gives you an overview of Christian doctrine from somebody who understands doubt and depression. It even has the odd joke.
|Try the Bible|
Bible isn't a magic text. It's a collection of ancient documents -
myth, history, poetry, letters, biography - that tells the unfolding
story of God's relationship with the human race. Most Christians
believe - in a weaker or stronger sense - that God speaks to us through
it, that is, he has made sure that what he wants said has been said.
He's revealed himself to us primarily in Jesus Christ, but the Bible is
the witness statement about Jesus. It's a fascinating story, if nothing
Have a read of it. Cover to cover, if you can. It seems a
bit daunting, but at a couple of chapters a day (and there are bits
that it does you no harm to skim through) it'll take you 18 months or
so. Much of people's Bible reading these days comes through books which
provide little excerpts and reflections for the day; but that doesn't
bring you a sense of the story of humanity's developing awareness
through history of what God is like. I found the Bible was a wonderful
landscape to be discovered, and far richer and more complex than I'd
Try a Church
often say, 'You don't have to go to church to be a Christian'. I think
there's something deeply suspicious about someone who claims the faith
of Jesus yet doesn't feel the need to express it in worship with other
Christians. Our relationship with God isn't just as individuals
enjoying his company wherever we happen to be. We aren't complete
without other people; God calls us into community, and the Christian
community is where we learn how to love and act lovingly, because none
of us has the resources to understand everything on our own.
find a church. Don't do what a lot of people do, and continually shop
around to find one that suits you perfectly, because there won't be
one. Don't turn up at a church and continually have an eye on the one
down the road which might suit you better. Every church will have
liturgy which occasionally makes you cringe, people who you don't like
or who clearly don't take the faith they profess on board at all, or
just sour coffee after the service. You won't get everything you want. (And
God may rather want you there to start providing for that church the
very thing it lacks!) The important thing is to find a community of
Christians who are attempting, probably quite inadequately but in hope
and faith, to follow Jesus Christ, and become committed to that
community. I hope that willbe your local Anglican parish church, but it may not be. Don't worry if you don't believe it all at first.
God calls you and wants you there no matter how strong or weak your
faith is. If you're baptised, you've every right to be there even if
you're a heretic; and if you're in England, yourAnglican parish church is there for you to use. You can join in with as much or as little of the services as you feel able. For most people, we find, belonging comes before belief.
started talking to God. Try to say in your own words whatever's on your
mind. It doesn't have to be eloquent, and it doesn't have to be
overflowing with wonderful sunny feelings. God wants to talk to the
real you, not some assumed identity based on what you might think you
should be like. If this is a bit much for you at the moment, start with
the Lord's Prayer or something else hallowed by tradition: that'll free
you up to pray through the words, rather than worrying about coming up
with something impressive. As you go on, a mixture of the structured
and the spontaneous is a good idea.
Try and get a rhythm going. Discipline in praying - praying something whether
you feel like it or not - is really helpful in the long run. So say a
prayer when you get up and before you go to bed, and try not to let
anything else interfere with that time of contact with God, however
short it is. Later on you may like to try some sort of Office (a
structured time of prayer with Bible readings).
As you go on,
things will change. Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed with a sense of
God's presence; sometimes nothing will happen at all. Sometimes you
will feel so miserable and desolate the words will hardly come, let
alone any Godly thoughts or feelings. Sometimes (if you try meditating
for a while) you'll be tired and nod off. That doesn't matter. Talk to
someone who seems as though they might know what you're going through,
and keep going.
God's still there and still loves you, whatever you feel. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth'!
Many religious houses provide places for people to 'retreat' and think about life spiritually. I have been several times to the Anglican Benedictine convent of West Malling in Kent - click here for a write-up of this beautiful, peaceful place.