The Angel of the North is an impressive piece of public art that stands on what was once the pithead of Ravensworth Colliery near Gateshead. The church where I was baptised, and where I was taking part in Anniversary celebrations, is a little over a mile away at Cromer Avenue. This was always going to be a trip down memory lane but there were some unexpected bonuses.Carla and I stopped, on a gloriously sunny day to take photographs of Gormley’s ‘Angel’. In the bushes nearby a memorial garden has sprung up. People have left floral tributes and cards in memory of daughters, friends and loved ones. Under the wings of the angel is a natural place to remember and to trust with our memories and our hopes. I wonder if we, in the church, are sometimes so concerned to get the theology right that we fail to grasp the emotional and spiritual needs of those around us. Could it be that people find it easier to create their own spirituality than to access what the church has to offer because we get in the way of finding God with our rules and our need for people to think like us? As if to underline the point a group of drummers appeared to make their own music and add another dimension. They were led by Andy Raine, a founder member of the Northumbria Community. Andy is a free spirit by anybody’s definition and here he was on a February morning playing drums with a group of men seeking an alternative way of sharing faith and being alive to the movement of the Spirit. I am not sure whether they would see themselves as a parallel church but their drumming sounded as if they were giving the Angel a heartbeat.
Sunday morning was a time of giving thanks, of laughing with friends from 40+ years ago. The point was made that in that place I am known as Eileen’s little brother rather than as a Moderator of General Assembly, beneath the Angel we are all equal. With friends from other local churches we celebrated the faith that gives hope and a promise of the future. The heartbeat of the angels is the faith of the people that needs to be shared and set free.