At the kind invitation of Isobel Pinder, there was a ladies supper last night at Martyr Worthy Manor. About 35 ladies from the Valley attended. Drinks were enjoyed in the beautiful garden followed by supper at long tables with table cloths and beautiful rose arrangements. In true Valley style the food provided was varied abundant and delicious.
During the course of the evening Lucy Pease gave the following talk:
My journey of faith began when I got married. Previously I had been brought up in a home with good values and attended chapel at school, but my parents only went to church at Christmas.
The vicar who married Alex and I, Jeremy Cresswell, said something to us during our Marriage Preparation which resonated and was very important. He spoke of that passage in Genesis 2 “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.” This was important for me because I came from a very close family and grew up with the notion that blood is thicker than water. What this passage taught me was that this notion wasn’t true. Alex would become my closest and dearest and we were to become one unit and as he would cleave to me I needed to cleave to him and put him above my family. This was the first truth of the Christian faith that I took in to my heart and thus began my journey.
Our wedding day was very special and we were both overwhelmed and convicted by our marriage vows. So much so that we decided we would go to church every Sunday that we could. Having only the limited knowledge of Christianity from school we didn’t fully understand what we were doing and so we thought it might be fun to go to a different church every week! We were living in London and had no idea at that time that church is a community of people, not a building.
Eventually we moved to Tokyo and lived there for five years. About half-way through our time we moved house which brought us within range of an international church, St Albans. It was gentle, loving, fun and they ran a Children’s Church which the girls loved. We attended there regularly for a couple of years and then a wonderful young Deacon, Jenny Andison, from Canada arrived to help the vicar. She was only in Japan for six months. Jenny was in her twenties and wondering what she could do to help. She decided to run The Alpha Course (the first in Tokyo) and invited the whole church to attend. And that is what we all did – 70 of us. It was amazing and so interesting.
In the middle of doing this course, we had already booked a holiday of a lifetime on a beautiful island in the Philippines, Pamalican. It was paradise – white sand, turquoise sea, perfect thatched cottage on the beach, Filipinos ready to serve us at every request, the girls were behaving beautifully and one night Alex and I had an almighty row! I can’t remember what it was about but we suddenly realised that we had nothing to blame. Everything around us was perfect, so why were we arguing? I stormed off in a huff to nurse my grievance and while I was brooding, it occurred to me that the problem might be me. I started to think about all I had learned on the Alpha course thus far and it was like a light switch being turned on. I realised that what we had learned about God was true and that the whole reason for living was not about satisfying my needs and what I wanted to do, but doing what God wanted and about helping and thinking of others.
So, for the first time in our marriage, by that stage nine years, I went to find Alex to apologise. Amazingly he had been having similar thoughts and when I apologised he realised there must be a God! We talked about it all in to the night and for me that was it, I was now a follower of Jesus. For Alex, it was a sign and he embarked on a journey of exploration to discover the truth.
After the holiday, we went back to Tokyo and finished the Alpha course and at the end someone prophesied that Alex would be a leader in the church, which at the time we couldn’t take seriously or even contemplate. This was in almost 20 years ago.
But Alpha was just the beginning. We returned home to England for good, three months later and moved to Winchester. We began going to a relatively traditional church called St Paul’s near the station, but amazingly were swept in to a bible study group of Christchurch. At that stage, we couldn’t cope with the modern worship at Christchurch and felt very at home at St Paul’s. However, it was in the study group where our faith grew and the scales began to fall from our eyes and our ears, minds and hearts were opened to the teaching of Jesus.
A year later we moved to Kilmeston where we lived for the next 16 years and where we began as baby Christians in mission with some wonderful neighbours to minister and help with our local church. It was a time of training for us I think. We ran modern worship family services, alpha courses and marriage courses under four different Rectors in that time. It was was during the last of these, who left after two years, that Alex felt called for Ordination. Meanwhile, for me I was struggling to discern an outworking of my faith. I felt very safe, protected and privileged living in our beautiful house with my lovely family in a very pretty and affluent village. It was difficult to know how to reach those who were less fortunate than myself. I hadn’t worked for 20 years and was wondering if I should get a job, but who would employ me? Then it was reading an amazing book called “Greater” by an American Pastor called Stephen Furtick that I realised God really wanted me to get my hands dirty. The idea was that God might be exalted in some way if I was prepared to lower myself in some way – out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what that meant or how, but I decided to look on the Christchurch website to see what they got involved in in terms of out-reach in Winchester. Well of course, they get involved with everything: the Nightshelter, the Prison, City Chaplaincy …. and Street Pastors. Alex then became the curate here in the Itchen Valley and we were now worshipping over here and Mark Hibbert-Hingston came to speak at Martyr Worthy Village Hall about the Street Pastors. The whole idea of it caught my imagination and so I realised that was it and I became a Street Pastor. It meant joining a team of six to go out on the streets of Winchester from 10 at night to 3 or 4 in the morning, once a month on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night caring and being there for people who were using the night time economy – the party crowd and the homeless. I did it for two years and it was an extraordinary time of learning and blessing for me.
During this time God was also showing us that we needed to sell our beloved family home and move in to this community of the Itchen Valley for Alex’s ministry. We sold our house, before we had any notion that Chilland Ford might be an option. We are truly grateful to God and the Impeys that we are able to live in such a stunning location. Amanda arrived as our Rector and it seemed obvious that she might need some administrative help so I offered myself for that role. At the same time Susie Brine and I were exploring what we might do to help people in our community who were suffering with Mental Health issues. Out of that we set up Free to Be. It is just a small thing, but for all of us it makes a big impact on our lives.
For those who don’t know about it, Free to Be is a group that supports people who live with anxiety, stress and depression, where they can share their ups and downs confidentially with others who know just how it feels. The group meets once a week for an hour and a half in St John’s, Itchen Abbas on Wednesday mornings and we begin by catching up over fresh coffee and tea and sometimes cake. After a little while we settle round small coffee tables and share in a relaxed, yet more focused way, about what has been happening in the area of our mental health over the last week or however long. Each person has the opportunity to talk and be listened to if they would like. Sometimes they wish not to say anything at all and this is perfectly understood. Sometimes we look at how the teaching of Jesus can help through scripture, Christian writing and worship songs or hymns. Towards the end we bring the session to a close, often with a time of prayer when appropriate.
So that is my journey of faith so far and why I am doing what I am doing now. If anyone is interested in joining me in helping with administration or if you are interested in becoming a Street Pastor or in becoming part of Free to Be do just come and chat to me.
Amanda asked Lucy what difference her faith had made to her life. She replied, ‘The thing that first struck me was coming to realise that Christianity made sense of the world that I was living in. And how learning about God through Jesus affirmed what I thought about what was right and what was wrong. But the biggest difference my faith has made to my life is learning that I am known, loved, cherished and forgiven by God and I have learned how to forgive others.’
Thank you to Isobel for hosting a very special evening.