“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The books of C.S.Lewis, from whose writings this quote come, were a large influence on me coming to faith as a young adult. Beyond this my early faith was largely shaped by attending over many years a number of Evangelical Churches, latterly here in Bristol. As well as providing a good grounding in the bible, I was influenced positively by the energy, kindness and commitment of many people, both leaders and laity. However, I often struggled with the associated black and white, simplistic thinking. Coming from a scientific background I found this especially challenging, where the spiritual meaning of the passages was often lost in seemingly irrelevant literal interpretations of the bible which clashed with my scientific understanding of the world.
After our children stopped coming to Church with us for a year or two my wife (who comes from a similar church background) and I lived in a sort of ‘post-evangelical’ Churchless limbo. However the questions and centrality of faith never went away and after exploring other Churches in Bristol we discovered the two churches of the Benefice and finally settled at Cotham Parish Church.
A light on the hill
What initially drew me to the church, and still does, is the warmth and welcome of the community, and its non-judgemental, liberal and inclusive ethos. If the overall Anglican church is a ‘broad church’, Cotham is a microcosm of this. Although, like any community, diversity can be a challenge, it also brings a richness to our discussions, fellowship and worship.
Cotham, especially through the sermons, encourages an exploratory sort of faith. Rather than offer simplistic answers I see this as leading to a more authentic, questioning sort of faith that helps us to tackle the sometimes hard and ambiguous complexities of life.
Another important part of the life blood of the church for me is belonging to a Benefice based homegroup that meets during a weekday evening. This gives a chance to give and receive hospitality, discuss faith and personal issues in an accepting but stimulating environment.
The weekly Eucharistic service on a Sunday is a central moment in my life of faith. I find the sacramental worship that follows the church year grounds me in the time of the changing seasons and the long tradition of the Anglican faith. This offers a welcome contrast to the anxiety provoking non-stop electronic world of tweets and twenty four hour news.
For me Cotham is a light on the hill which, like C S Lewis’s quote earlier, helps me to understand these dark and troubling current times and see a hope beyond.