The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

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My thought for the day: Why I became a Christian and what it means to me
Me with Red Ribbon
rakspatel wrote in mycroft_brolly
eccehomoallsouls
Painting of Jesus at All Souls, Langham Place, London
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/2943828827/

Last Saturday, Saturday 26 January, it was my turn to give the Thought for the Day at the Day Centre for the Homeless where I volunteer in Waterloo.

To be honest, I was not at all sure of the theme of the talk until the day of the talk. I had been looking for inspiration and it was conspicuous by its absence! However, I managed to put something together very last minute, and it went down well, so I think it is worth sharing with a wider audience. So here it is! :)

I am a new Christian. I am now 43 years old, and for the first 41 years of my life I was definitely a committed atheist - I was of the firm conviction that there was no God. I have been a Christian for coming up to 2 years now, but I was only baptised last September (September 2012).

What made me become a Christian after 40 plus years of atheism?

For all of my working life, twenty plus years, I was a middle-class professional, with a proper career, a responsible job and a good salary. About a year and a half ago I was forced to leave my job in very difficult circumstances and I still bear those scars to this day. Ever since then I have been unemployed - I have been very busy, doing a range of jobs for a range of organisations, mainly charities, but all of that work has been unpaid.

When I was in work, I had an office to go to 9-to-5, I had colleagues to work with, I had staff to manage; I had a very formal structure to my life and to my day. When I left my employment all that structure and routine was gone, and there was nothing to fill the void.

It was at this time that Church became really important to me. My Church family were the only people I saw on a regular basis - every week. When I was working, I was going to the office, and seeing the same people every day; now the only people I saw regularly and without fail were my Church family.

Many people see going to Church as boring and dull. Church has never been those things for me. I look forward to going to Church every week and it is one of the highlights of my week. When I go to Church on Sunday I go to learn, to see my friends and my Church family, and I have fun. I really enjoy Church.

Western society, and British society, defines you by the work/job that you have/do. When you meet a new group of people one of the first questions that they will ask is - "what do you do?". When I walked out of my job I lost my identity and I wondered how I would answer that very simple question - "what do you do?".

Church was one of the very few places where what job you did was not at all relevant. When you met new people at Church what they wanted to know was how you had found Jesus, how he had impacted on your life, and what areas you were serving with in the Church. During my darkest times, when I had lost all hope of ever finding work again, and when I was overcome with despair, Church and my Church family were what kept my going and gave me hope.

In my Church, right at the front, is the painting of Jesus shown in the photo above. It is a painting of Jesus on the day of his crucifixtion, with a crown of thorns on his head. When I went to Church every Sunday I was confronted with that painting. What does the figure of Jesus mean to me?

Jesus is someone who is caring, compassionate and kind. Someone who is loving and giving. Someone who loves everyone and reaches out to everyone. Someone who protects the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. Someone who loved us so much that he died on the Cross in agony to save us.

Many of the people who I have met through Church, and who are part of my Church family, are caring and kind, show compassion to everyone, spend their lives helping others, looking after others, and they often put other people, and the needs of other people, before themselves. For me, they are inspiring role models who try and follow in Jesus's footsteps by embodying the qualities that he had.

After I left my job, and as my relationship deepened with the Church and my Church family, my priorities have changed.

Things that were important to me are just not important anymore eg my career, how much I earn, what material possessions I own. What is more important to me now is how I live my life and what I do with my life.

I want to close with a Prayer which is also a Hymn. It is something that I used even as an atheist, as for me the words are very powerful and convey what I would like to be doing with the brain, the skills and the experience that I have been given. It is the Prayer of St Francis.

St Francis was the son of a rich merchant who started his life being what we would now call a rich playboy. However, when he saw the abject poverty that some people were living under, he reflected on this, and gave up his riches and his wealth, to try and lead a simpler life helping and serving others.

This is the prayer (I actually sang this!):

The Prayer of St Francis

Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love,
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
And where there's doubt true faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul!

Make me a channel of your peace:
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.


The words of this prayer that really spoke to my heart, even as an atheist, are these:

Where there is hatred, bringing love,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
And where there is sadness, joy.

Those are the things that I am trying to do - successfully or unsuccessfully - in my new life as a new Christian.

Amen.

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2013

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