Peter Pay gives thanks for local church communities, and their nurturing work
I was due to be visiting Kingston-on-Thames United Reformed Church in September. But the virus has caused my visit to be postponed. King Cong (as it was fondly known) is the church I grew up in. Indeed, it is also the church where my parents met and married.
I recall joining a large Sunday school of well over 100 children. There, I followed a teacher training process for the older teenagers, and started to teach in a branch of Sunday school that was on a neighbouring estate with at least 50 more children. There was a Youth Fellowship, with Saturday socials and Sunday evening speakers, and ‘Fred Fridays’, where one of the church couples provided their front room as a venue for young people to discuss matters. I recall a small group of us being “allowed” to lead worship (with a bit of supervision). It was a church where we felt welcome, included and safe. A church where I was indeed nurtured, and where my faith grew and was strengthened. I left in my early 20s, when I moved away.
Many years later, we joined Wheatley URC, near Oxford, on our return to the UK after ten years living in Brussels. It was a warm and welcoming chapel community. They nurtured me and helped me to grow from being a local church member to an Elder, to an Assembly-accredited lay preacher and then to Synod Clerk and to membership of various General Assembly committees. The support and encouragement I received from members there, especially as I followed Training for Learning and Serving (TLS) training, was particularly important as I started on my journey into the wider Church world. I have memories of other churches that I have belonged to or worked with too: United Reformed, Church of Scotland and Methodist. Each, in their way, nurtured me and helped me on my journey.
It is easy for churches and individual members to underestimate the importance and the lasting effect of their work in bringing folk to faith and nurturing that faith as it develops – effects they may never see or benefit from. Work with children and young adults, also work with folk of all ages and backgrounds; holding them in prayer, helping them to develop and to grow in faith and in confidence. Simple acts of friendship, encouragement and support, as well as more organised activities. Being there in times of need. I give thanks for the work of all our church communities, acting as the body of Christ in their neighbourhoods; seeking to nurture and to support others on their faith journey.
Peter Pay, August 2020