Sunday 4th September was a Red Letter Day in the Chase Benefice when over 50 people from all our parishes gathered in Spelsbury Church for the Baptism of one of our adult congregation. Despite the lead having been stolen from the roof of Spelsbury Church two weeks before, nothing could take away from the joy of the occasion as we welcomed Ilona into the family of Christ’s church. During the service Ilona gave a moving testimony of her faith and as we stood around the Font after her Baptism the prayers of intercession were led by two of our young people who will be Confirmed with her in October. It was a powerful and moving service which will live in our memories for a long time.
With Ilona’s permission, we publish below her testimony:
I was raised in the tradition of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and I believed in God as a child. But as I got older, I drifted away from him. I led a pretty full life, travelled widely, learned a lot of things. When I came to live in the Cotswolds, I felt quite content. I was married to a wonderful man, had two extraordinary stepchildren, a great job, good friends, and I lived in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I came to church to keep my husband company. I enjoyed singing the hymns and I liked the people I met.
But, as time went on, the liturgy took on meaning and significance. I began to see God coming back into my life. During Holy Week, as we accompanied Jesus to his crucifixion I felt grief, sorrow and wonder. Sunday worship became a weekly highlight, prayer a daily comfort.
But I have been brought back to God, not just through Jesus, but in and through this church. I have been welcomed and gently invited to participate. I have seen everyday acts of kindness, compassion, endurance and love. I have learned that reverence can be expressed in laughter, that doubt and belief can co-exist, that I can be a sinner but truly forgiven, and that words that once felt threatening can bring reassurance and hope. That giving my burdens to Jesus to hold makes them easier to bear. That faith is intellectually, spiritually and emotionally demanding, and constantly surprising.
Most importantly, perhaps, I have come to understand that God loves me as I am. That he never left me, but I am now returning to him.
It has not been an easy journey. I have often found it disturbing, even distressing. Old wounds that I had shut away for many years had lost none of their power to darken and distort my life. Prayer demanded intense honesty and critical self-reflection that was not always comfortable. But I have also found peace and healing, and great joy.
I have read, discussed and prayed at length over the last six months. Now I gladly choose to commit myself to Christ with some understanding of what this will involve. Of course, this amazing journey isn’t over and I know that sometimes I will stumble and lose my way. But I know that I will be sustained by your support and understanding.
Finally, I want to thank:
Mark, for his patient guidance and companionship on my journey.
All of you here and those who could not be, for your warm welcome and inspiring example.
And I thank Christ for searching me out and bringing me home to God.