- My journey through Christendom began when I was 8. My parents who left school at 13 & 14 and who never owned a Bible and only went to church for weddings and funerals, wanted me to be better educated than they were. They sent me to a Baptist Sunday School on my own during World War Two. I had been baptised in the Church of England as the majority of children were in those days. My Godmother bought me a ‘war economy’ KJV and I remember carrying it in my hand as I walked along the main road to church.
- There must have been times when I questioned what I was being taught because I had been told by my parents that when I was 14 I could make up my own mind whether I went.
It was two weeks before I was 14 that there was a lesson on the trinity that just did not make sense – and that was the end of church attendance until I moved to London.
- I had been in the Cubs and the Scouts for 8 years and after National Service in the RAF I moved to London when I was 22. I met Ken who was running a Cub Pack attached to a thriving Anglican church single handed and immediately offered to help him. The average congregation was around 250. My social life revolved around the church. It’s where I met my wife.
- After getting married and moving away from London we found ourselves in a church that had ‘seen better days’. We were 2 of an average congregation of 9. The Vicar had been a Scout leader before he became a missionary in Nigeria. Barbara and I started a new Cub Pack. The Vicar was very disillusioned and that’s when I realised that I can be quite a good listener.
- Barbara’s mother had Multiple Sclerosis. We made the decision that she should move in with us, but that meant moving away from the area. The Vicar moved back to Nigeria the following year.
- I was persuaded to become the treasurer of the local church when I was 27. The Vicar had previously been the Principal of an Anglican Theological College.
I had always had a problem understanding the trinity (but that’s a separate story in its own right). When I asked him if he could explain the trinity to me, he told me that greater minds than his had wrestled with this problem for thousands of years and he just had to accept what he had been taught. A couple of years later he became a Bishop and I found myself wondering how could a Bishop not explain the trinity. Bear in mind that I had had no theological training and at that time knew nothing about church history. That knowledge didn’t come for almost another 50 years!
- Apart from being treasurer of the local church that was selling the ‘village hall’ to the local authority, I became the secretary of a new Community Association that was going to lease the hall from the local authority. I also had a full time job. Looking back that was a crazy and exciting time when I learned so much about ‘people’!
- A bit later I ‘accidentally’ became a trainee computer programmer; a job that I later learned was one of the perfect jobs for someone living with Asperger’s Syndrome, but that’s another separate story.
- Later I was leading a men’s discussion group and asked the question, “What is the purpose of life?”. The immediate reaction of the new Vicar was, “Peter, you can’t ask that. That is the 64,000 dollar question (a lot of money in those days). Let’s go on to your next question”. That was when I realised that I had become disillusioned by a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity, and my inability to get answers to some of my questions.
- I finally walked away from ‘church’ in the early 1970’s into what I have described as a ‘wilderness experience’ that lasted several years before I became a member of a Sabbath-keeping Christian church that rejected the teaching of the trinity and the traditional teaching of hell. Theology was very important. We kept the biblical Holy Days and considered Christmas and Easter to be Pagan festivals. The biggest event in the church calendar was the biblical Feast of Tabernacles that lasted eight days every autumn. Teaching sermons were seldom less than 45 minutes and many of us made extensive notes. I particularly enjoyed annotating my wide margin Bible (Revised Standard).
- We were part of a very close worldwide family of over 100,000 members. For our two children one of their highlights was the three week Summer Camp on the banks of Loch Lomond every year.
- It was in 1980 that the only English speaking site in Europe where church members were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles was in our home town (now City) of Brighton where about 4,500 members from around the world gathered for 8 days in The Brighton Centre. That was an amazing experience.
With hindsight we were a tribe of generally like-minded people drawn together by a belief that we were God’s chosen people.
- It was at the end of 1994 that the leadership of the church announced that much of their theology was misguided. The result was a major ‘church-split’ worldwide. It destroyed our own family of 14 related by marriage.
- The changes were welcomed by several leaders of churches associated with the National Association of Evangelicals in America, and later by the Evangelical Alliance in the UK.
- I was already retired when this happened. I had never believed in the traditional teaching of hell and I was ‘forced’ for a second time to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught.
Some Discussion Topics
Some Earlier Material
(the foundations of the blog as I saw them about 15 years ago)
Some Awkward Questions