Church, Faith

Where did it all go…wrong?

Last Sunday, the house church I’ve been part of for the last ten years came to a close. Started by a couple of friends with some great supporters, this thing has given life to a small but beautifully-formed little community. And now, a decade later, we’ve said farewell to what has been a remarkably important part of its members’ faith, life and discipleship.

What’s really struck me over the past few weeks is how people have reacted to the news:

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Are you okay with it?”

“How are you all coping?”

It’s the natural reaction, I suppose. Something is coming to an end. And so it’s reasonable to assume a sense of loss or a deep sadness.

It’s not always how we react to loss though is it?

No one says: “I’m sorry to hear – you had that wart removed,” or: “how are you coping – with the closure of that wasps’ nest in your loft?”

We recognise that some loss, some closure, some endings are positive. But they tend to be negative things.

So when something good is coming to an end, what are we meant to say? How are we meant to respond?

In the grand scheme of church history, our 10 years is nothing really. The denomination that birthed us is celebrating 150 years of existence, and a few weeks ago I visited Salisbury Cathedral, the construction of which started in 1220, and that was to replace the old one that was built in 1078. Our little decade doesn’t come close.

In moments of doubt I wonder if this means we’ve failed, that our inability to stick around makes us somehow less worthy, or less credible. It sometimes feels like the better something is, the longer it stays around. That somehow tenacity equals brilliance. Maybe that’s what people are really wondering when they ask how we’re feeling? Perhaps they’re acknowledging our failure, or our inability to ‘go the distance.’

But I’m thrilled we’ve closed our house church.

Don’t get me wrong, I still deeply love the people in the group, and I will always be grateful for every moment, good and bad; every joy shared and every tear shed. But I’m proud to be part of something that not only lived well, making plenty of mistakes along the way, but knew when to stop and wasn’t afraid to. To be part of something that is prepared to die, not because of exhaustion or old age, nor because of some sickness that crept in or a plague put on us, but to die because sometimes it’s the only way new life gets a chance.

There’s no agenda here, I’m certainly not suggesting everything that lasts a long time is past it, and I’m not naive enough to think that everything that starts and ends quickly has been brilliant.

I just wonder what might happen if we lost our fear of things ending? What might we be released to release and freed to finish? If we were able to take stock without the looming fear of failure, what might we stick with confidently and what might we have said goodbye to a long time ago?

And so, for me, this is a fond farewell – because there really is such a thing.

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Fatherhood

RAISING A DAD – 27 April 2014

Apart

I’m on a very slow train back to London from Leeds.

I’ve been away for a couple of days at a Salvation Army youth event (I’ve been speaking at it…I recognise more than ever that I’m well past “young”).

I left my lovely wife and K yesterday at my in-law’s and headed off.

I’m slowly getting used to saying goodbye (not sure I’ll ever fully get used to it) but leaving for a whole 36 hours has been tough.

He’s not a great sleeper and we share the night shift of feeding, changing and soothing. It’s only one night but I feel bad that I’m not there to help.

I’m learning that one of the biggest changes for me isn’t just working out how to be a good dad but how to be a good husband when we’re parents now too…

Fatherhood

RAISING A DAD – 14 April 2014

He’s gone upstairs

For just under two months now, Kasper has spent most of his time on us…usually on his mummy…sometimes on me.

He likes to be cuddled (does he? Or do we just really like cuddling him?)

Tonight, he’s gone upstairs to sleep in his crib for the first time.

We’re now sat, downstairs, in the living room glued to the screen…his monitor screen, discussing his every move.

It’s like the worst episode of Gogglebox ever.

Fatherhood

RAISING A DAD – 19 March 2014

Saying goodbye (pt2)

And so I’ve left home and returned home.

Today was a sad but inspiring occasion.

The church was rammed to capacity as people came to say goodbye to granda. A tribute to a life well lived, the impact he had on his community, and the love for his family (so many people commented on how my nana, mum or aunties had “been there for them” in the past).

I’ve put some of the family tribute below, which focused on the things granda taught us;

He taught us to love music; Behind his beloved organ at The Salvation Army or practising at home in the front room. I think we all used to love hearing him play…I guess though, what was a treat for us could be slightly more of a pain to live with. I remember once being at the house and granda was playing in the front room. His hearing had started to go and so he was playing loud – I could hear nana shouting for him to turn it down and worried that he couldn’t hear her I said “granda nana wants you to turn it down”. Without a seconds hesitation he looked at me and said “I know son I can hear her”

He taught us selective hearing; His selective hearing became the stuff of legend – he could sit in a room and make out he heard nothing to the point where someone would say “he can’t hear a thing” it was at that precise moment he would weigh in with a perfectly timed and sharp as a tack comment that left you in no doubt he heard everything.

He taught us to have a signature dish…granda had not one but two incredible signature dishes – Ginger wine and Irish stew, no one made either quite like him…

He taught us the secrets of a happy marriage; Nana and granda loved each other dearly, they would fight the bit out but their love was real, committed and had stood the test of time…we celebrated 60 years of their marriage this Christmas. You don’t fall into 60 years of marriage and it doesn’t just happen. It takes work, commitment, faithfulness and a love that lasts long beyond the heady days of romance and newness.

Granda was a loving husband to our nana and a proud father of his three girls and the lives they’d each made for themselves with husbands of their own…You only had to see the smile on his face when the family got together…He loved his family and we loved him.

He taught us to serve; granda loved to help others, he served his church for decades…he showed keen generosity to causes that caught his eye, created hanging baskets for family and friends and everywhere he worked or went sought to work for others…He loved to help, he loved to serve and he lived well for others.

And all of this, stemmed from his faith. A quiet but constant presence in his life. A belief in Jesus that he shared with nana and his family and today we recognise he has gone to be with the Heavenly Father he knew and loved.

Granda was not one for deep theological conversation and neither is this moment – but he loved Jesus and was a true disciple, a faithful follower of Christ.

His simple faith, commitment to his family, service of his church and devotion to his community here in Newtownards will remain how he is best remembered.

I believe that after death you leave behind what you lived.

Granda leaves a loving wife, a family united, and four grandsons, three grand daughters in law and two great grandsons who will miss him greatly but will try their best to follow his example into a future that is now a little sadder without him in it.

So today we don’t say goodbye…Besides granda never said goodbye anyway – he would shake your hand or give you a hug and as you left would smile widely and only ever say chi-o

So granda, until we all meet again, we simply say – chi-o

I’ll always be sad that granda never got to meet K, and K never got to meet his great-granda but will make sure he knows all about him and what a great granda he really was.

Fatherhood

RAISING A DAD – 18 March 2014

Saying goodbye (pt1)

We’ve flown to Ireland for my granda’s funeral today.

My parents have opened their doors since Friday to allow people to come and join the family.

It’s a peculiar thing about back home but the house becomes a sort of makeshift bakery as people arrive with solemn faces, cards of condolence and 14 cakes all somehow transported in their handbag or coat pockets.

I’ve left my little family at home – with K still at high risk of infection we took the decision to play it safe.

This afternoon, my youngest brother wanted to go to the funeral home to see Granda. And so my other brother and I said we’d all go together. We quietly filed into the room, and stood in silence for a few minutes. Then we prayed together, we thanked God for our granda, for the life he lived and the family he’s left behind.

I love being a big brother – it’s one of the best things in my life without doubt and I’m incredibly proud of both of my brothers and the men they’ve become. I don’t know what the rest of my little family will look like in the future but I hope K gets to experience being a big brother in some way in his life.

Back at the cake shop, it’s not long before we’re sharing memories, smiling, passing around photos of K and remembering granda and the life he lived.

Tomorrow is the funeral…I’ve been asked to give a tribute…hoping I can hold it together.