There is a blogpost stirring in my soul about our time at the lovely One Church Brighton. I’ve written on Facebook about my wonderful colleagues, I’ve been processing the last times with friends and places but there is this need in me to quantify what I have loved about our church over the last few years.
Wind the clock back 5 years. We’ve just come out of the end of our previous church. We are battered and bruised from the loss of some very wonderful intentional community we’ve shared deeply with friends in the previous few years. We are hurting, wondering where we’ll land. Wondering what our faith looks like now we can choose the church we will go to next. Husbandface is on the edge of his breakdown, teetering on the edge of health, we are about to plunge into the darkest points of his ptsd. We have no idea what lies ahead. We have two small crew members who take all our sleep and we are tired.
We return to the church I used to go to when I first landed in Brighton. But I am not the same. My faith has shifted, I am not the same. My world blew apart when I had son1. My faith has been altered, my understanding of God stripped down and I am leaning into different ways of relating to the divine. I’ve spent a year learning about spiritual direction on a course with the diocese and I’ve enjoyed so many different ways of viewing God. I buckle at the weight of conservative evangelicalism and the frustrations with the talk of grace but so many people feeling burdened and constrained, unable to express who they are in safety. I cry at the end of services at the narrow confines of this house I want to leave. I do not belong here any more but I am scared to leave, scared of the voices that will condemn me to heresy and hell. I am scared to choose a freer path.
Our friends come around for dinner. We talk and they speak of the church they have landed in. Of the freedom offered, at how it sounds like the things I hold dear. We smile and wonder and ponder stepping into another space. Family come and stay for the weekend giving us the excuse to check it out. We go.
We hear talk from the front of this place being a place where they are trying to learn how to disagree with each other well, of how we don’t all have to think the same thing as the minister in charge, of how he welcomes diversity and difference. We hear a man who wants to give his power away. We are hooked.
Son1 talks to us when we get home. He saw his people there, his Godfamily, who held him the second day of his life and have loved him and us endlessly throughout the years. He says, that will be our Church now then? We smile and nod. Ok. We put aside the voices of warning and step outside to enjoy the view.
We go back again and again. I stare at the ceiling marvelling at the God who appears in this space as well, in the spaces we were warned about. And yet this Christ who plays in 10,000 places is playing here. In our lives. I spend a good few weeks in tears marvelling at a place we can be us. We chat to the minister in our house. Husbandface does what he needs to do less these days, announces I preach and my history. I am grateful.
I am asked if I want to preach. I am slightly taken aback by how easy this seems. There is an open invite, a generosity which I love. It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman. For the first time it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman. I feel free.
Time goes on. Husbandface sometimes comes, sometimes we leave him in bed with his exhausted shaky body. We journey on. I lead a women’s retreat, I talk on parenting at a weekend away, we plod through the storm and still find our God holding us, reminding us of the hope for the ones who wait for the morning. I get a job with this beautiful place and spend the next few years loving hanging out with my colleagues, learning how to work in a place which holds space for people on the edge of faith, either about to head out the back door or experiencing shifting ground beneath their feet.
I have the privilege of sitting with people again and again as they find they can breathe. I hear stories of people disconnected from so many parts of themselves because of messages they’ve been told from churches. I watch as tears fall in relief of knowing that God is out here in this expansive space, holding out love and holding out life.
I love this church. Not because it’s perfect, there are many frustrations and hurts along the way of our journey here. Nothing is ever simple in a world of messy hurting people. But I have deeply loved the freedom I have found here. I’ve loved the willingness of Dave, our minister, to take a punt on someone random preaching and to have consistently encouraged and desired me to grow in confidence in what is in me. I have loved journeying with people in faith shifts, in holding out the bedrock of a God who loves and loves and loves again and who calls us to full life in all its messy wondrous glory.
I have loved the safe space for us to heal from many hurts, I have loved finding God in the cracks, I have loved the chance to serve this messy hard to define community.
We go aware of deep gratitude for such a lovely holding space in the darkest times of life. I am so grateful to the people of our church who were so good at loving us in the darkness, at noticing how husbandface was doing and checking in, at providing meals when we needed it. I am so glad of a space where I could use and grow in my gifts, in space to be me when so much of my life was about holding our family together. Church and work provided such a helpful space of purpose beyond the immediate pressures.
It’s been such a lovely chapter of our lives so far, of healing, being put back together and flourishing in our faith journeys. Whatever the future holds, whether we come back into the fold or stay away I will be forever glad of this holding space of hope.