A wonderful life
One of the things I do when I move into a new city is look for a place for spiritual comfort, and since I am Christian, I look for a church.
My beliefs which are sometimes accompanied with serious doubts and the self-flagellation of not being what I hope I can be, have sustained me through many difficult times in my life, through cancer and other privations.
If I ever got to write my story properly, I guess I can safely say I have seen my share of amazing success and lamentable adversity all of which I would put down to an eventful life, whenever the end of it comes.
Audacious, it is
Over a month ago, I wrote to the pastor of my old church in Amsterdam, C3 Amsterdam, seeking a character reference and I informed him that I had been attending the sung Eucharist at Manchester Cathedral which sets services by Anglican Church standards.
In his response he informed me of !Audacious Church in Salford. It is evangelical with a Pentecostal leaning and I dare say, quite different from many churches of that genre that I have attended before.
The name of the church alone is audacious and it is audacious too to break English grammar rules and put the exclamation mark before the word rather than after it.
It might be a trend of sorts, but since 2001 I have attended evangelical churches that seem to have an Antipodean provenance. Christian City Church which became C3 Global in Amsterdam and London, Hillsong London and now !Audacious Church all seem to have Australian roots.
Rocking my comfort zones
I guess I am attracted to the broad global diversity of these churches wherever they have broken ground and the liberal embracing community spirit that the church leaders preach and act out. You cannot but feel welcome in the atmosphere of these places. My C3 family was ever so supportive in hard times, love, compassion and grace abounded.
Whilst in the Anglican Church I would have been comfortable with the solemnity of Rock of Ages cleft for me, !Audacious Church praise and worship time does challenge everything about my Englishness, the music is loud, the words uplifting – the lead singer is wild, by my standards, the lights are low – I must eat more carrots to see in the dark, and it is almost like I am in a rock concert.
In the 4 services I have attended already, my 48-year old bearing with a cane sometimes wonders if I have strayed off into a place where I should not be seen. The youthful liveliness of the church is both exuberant and enthusing, you are quite tempted to exert yourself with that daring of someone half your age until you think better of the idea and sway with dignified posturing.
I can stay here
It takes a while for me to commit to a church, I guess for me, I try to find a place. In smaller churches, this is quite obvious and as it grows you already know where you can extend yourself. However, when you walk into a much larger church, it is quite easy to be invisible and whilst we, the English, would easily make conversation with anyone, making acquaintances that then turn into friendships is a much involved process we have nowhere near mastered – I speak for myself in particular.
Most of my friends, I have known for at least 20 years, I’ve become like the Dutch I once castigated for not easily widening their circle of friends beyond those they have known since the year dot.
As questions arose in my mind, the message today seems to have been spoken to answer many of my questions about committing, belonging, engaging, supporting within the church.
I know it would not happen suddenly, but I think for as long as I am in Manchester, I can make !Audacious Church my church. I am getting comfortable, but like we were always advised at Hillsong London, “Just keep coming back.”
The other questions that linger would eventually find answers, and where the conflicts remain, the ability to adapt and have as much sense as an old cow is the way to go, I’ll eat the hay and leave the baling wire.