Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Anniversary Road Trip: ACC125

It's not as romantic as it sounds..... the anniversary in question was the 125th of Ashford Congregational Church (in Middx), and my wife wasn't able to come with me. Nevertheless, it was- in many ways - a really special trip. I was brought up going to 'The Cong', and for the anniversary, many members both past and present came for the day. The morning and evening services had  'retrospective' and 'forward looking' themes respectively; and were punctuated with a meal and fun-stuff for the kids during the afternoon. As well as having the enormous privilege of taking part in the morning service (thinking through some of the lessons of church-history), it was good to meet up with many old friends. Many of these characters have long moved away from the area, and visit there as rarely as I do, so our paths almost inevitably wouldn't have crossed in normal circumstances.

I owe a huge amount to the folks at The Cong, it was through them that I became a Christian back in the 1980s. Although my main focus was on Joshua 4, the words of 2 Cor 4, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" were also in my thoughts. The fact that they are a group of ordinary folks doesn't conceal the fact that it was in these 'jars of clay' that I found the 'treasure' of the gospel. I also gained a huge amount from them in other areas too, including a lifelong love of the outdoors in general and cycling in particular. Standing up at the front and speaking at Ashford Cong was an interesting experience. The last two times I have done so it was in the context of grandparents' funerals when I was doing a memory/tribute of them. It was great to be there this time, but doing something that was far less stressful!

The other reason it was 'interesting' is due to the strange effects that memory has on me. Had I been in The Cong week-in-week-out over the last twenty years I'm sure that the effect of resurfacing memories would not be so strong. Re-visiting my childhood after so long was extraordinary however, as memory after memory of people, events, incidents, characters, laughs, disasters, and countless things which sound mundane but are all stored in the deep recesses of my mind awaiting some suitable trigger to make them re-surface; appeared. So I stood up to speak, with long-lost-memories bombarding me in random order like a kind of stream-of-consciousness rush. I also stood there feeling about ten years old, and just like I did standing up to do the Bible reading at the Sunday School Service at Christmas when I was a kid. Such feelings of juvenile inadequacy were only heightened by the knowledge that 'The Cong' has hosted many word-class preachers in its day. 

My wife wasn't able to come (our boys had too many things on over the weekend), but my daughter came for the journey with me, which was great. She did manage to pull a trick on me on the way home, however. While I was threading my way out of the suburbs and towards the M25, she got my phone and texted my wife to let her know that the morning had been a disaster. Without even cracking a smile to me, or letting me know that she was up to no good, she texted home that, (and I quote), "The words wouldn't come, so we just left" which obviously caused some anxiety at home!

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