I’m afraid there is not a road to Damascus moment or a Billy Bray “Seeing the Light” story in my Christian life.
I was brought up in what was then a very typical Methodist farming family. At Trispen Chapel there was always a morning and an evening service and Sunday School at 2.30 pm. I used to cycle to Sunday School on my TRICYCLE – before I could ride a bicycle – from Tregassow – which is quite a long ride for a pre school child –ah …. the days of freedom!!
I can remember my Sunday School services – a hymn or two – colouring in – Stories from pamphlets and those wonderful stamps we collected and stuck into our books – I suddenly realised where they all came from later on when I saw the Sistine Chapel!! Then there were those marvellous choruses!!
Wide wide as the Ocean
Climb climb up Sunshine Mountain
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam
Now Zaccheaus was a very little man etc. etc.
Nearly all the children from Trispen and its “suburb”, Church Town (now known as St. Erme) used to come regularly and the room would be packed.
I can remember the lovely warm feeling of being part of the chapel, sitting in our usual seats Sunday after Sunday. Mrs Davies ( Priscilla’s mother in law) playing the organ; Roy Davey ( an evacuee from the not so distant war days) hand pumping the air for it; The local preachers – Mr Stan Brock from Grampound Road, Mr Morgan ( chemistry teacher at the High School), Derek Burrell and Ken James from Truro School – a long, long list. They all had their own way of preaching – a lot were Billy Bray in style. And sometimes the warm feeling was replaced by one of self examination and doubt.
I remember the singing – so exuberant, so sincere. We really meant God to “Take our lives and let them be consecrated to him”.
My parents were my regular everyday Christian influence – prayers at bedtime, always Grace on Sundays before lunch (a tradition we still observe at Oxturn House), a genuine love for and respect for other people and always hospitality especially on Sundays, sometimes after the service most of the congregation would come down to Tregassow to sing more hymns around the piano while Mum found supper for them all.
At the age of 5 I was sent to Truro High School where an Anglican influence came into my life. There were many times when the Anglican and the Methodist traditions seemed to be confusing to me, but in the way of children – I managed to run along quite happily with a foot in each track – so to speak. I sang loud and lustily in Chapel and observed piano and fortissimo at school and in the Cathedral when we visited there. I grew to love the more formal C of E services but still felt more at home in Chapel.
I had the fortune to grow up with a marvellous life long friend – Ernie Dymond who has been a wonderful example of how a Christian should live and behave – although we did get up to a lot a mischief as children!!
I had some excellent teachers at Sunday School and day school so that I have been very familiar with much of the Bible all my life – loving much of its poetry. Recently I have been delighted to read Pat Robson’s own wonderful version of the gospels. The living understanding she has of the countryside which was walked by our Lord and her knowledge of the politics surrounding him and his Apostles have turned on many more lights for me in my comprehension of the Son of God.
In my everyday life I am constantly brought before God in the most hum drum things that happen. In my kitchen I have a wooden spoon bearing the picture of Mount Charles Chapel, a present from the congregation there when we left St Austell and went to Arrallas to live. It is in a drawer and seldom comes to light these days, but now ANY wooden spoon reminds me of my time and friends there. So I try to bake for God.
The most boring and menial house work can be for God when I think of our Lord and his commitment to service.
Most of all the wonderful heritage of the oh so familiar hymns will suddenly burst in on my memory. I can never go weeding without hearing the ear worm – “Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.”
I see the sun or the moon and it is “Sun and moon bow down before him, dwellers all in time and space.” What wonderful poetry that is!
When I think of my son in the Middle East or Ian’s family in Australia I my brain is singing “As o’er each continent and island the dawn leads on another day, The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.”
And so it goes on – dozens of reminders of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost in verse and music.
So – I am afraid I cannot live up to the image of sudden conversion, a sudden awareness of my shortcomings and a sudden change in my life.
For me these things are constantly happening. I would like to think of my Christian life as a graph showing a steady and regular incline. In fact it is more like a series of peaks and troughs but hopefully with a mean incline.
I feel confident that God created me in his own image. Some of us show different aspects of God from others. We all have our own special personalities and it is up to us to show God’s love to others in the way in which our strengths lie. Most of all I know that God loves us and wants us to love him.
I have to say that I would love to experience more of those moments when I can almost physically feel God’s presence – but I imagine that is not uncommon. It does happen though at the most unexpected times. The most intense of these moments was when I was on my way to surgery for breast cancer at St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle. I found that a wonderful place and it certainly has some quite inexplicable quality – however I have been there for surgery 3 times now but only had that wonderful feeling of such closeness on one occasion. God reveals himself to us in his own time – as he did to Elijah – not in the earthquake, wind or fire but in the still small voice of calm.
I sometimes come face to face with Him in some of my B and B guests.
On one occasion I had a letter from some guests who had been staying with me a few weeks before – parents and their teenage daughter. They were very apologetic and told me that they had found a small polished glass Madonna with Child statuette which lives on the side table in our hall. It shows how often I polish and dust!! I had not realised she was missing. The daughter had been suffering from a very bad break down and felt healed by my little Madonna and the Christ child. Not wanting to be parted from them she had packed the statuette in her suitcase. Well I was delighted that such a wonderful thing had happened in our home, although I am always confused by healing stories. Why does God allow the problem in first case if He is so almighty and can heal at any moment? We all know those questions which go around our heads in never decreasing circles. But there it was. Apparently there had been a small miracle in our midst and we had not even noticed it. Naturally I insisted they kept the Madonna and some years later a parcel arrived – my statuette, very carefully wrapped. The girl (woman by now) felt able to cope without it. Any one visiting us will see it back in place on the hall table.