What St Peter's means to me
When John King first asked me to speak at the funding supper about what St Peterís means to me I was rather daunted. After all, it is not very long since the Parish Statement was produced in which so many people put so much effort into expressing their opinions so eloquently. I couldnít hope to match those standards but I would like to share my views with you and hope that most of the congregation will identify with at least some of the things that I have to say.
Many of us at St Peterís come from very different backgrounds. I had a fairly conventional childhood introduction to the church, regularly attending Sunday School in my local village hall. I left home at eighteen and never attended a service again for the next ten years other than weddings, christenings and funerals. (Fortunately it was mainly weddings.)
I moved to Nottingham in 1995 and after a few months decided to satisfy the voice at the back of my mind that had been calling me to explore the possibility of a return to worship of a God whose very existence I had at best doubted and at worst denied for several years. I initially attended another church in Nottingham but quickly came to realise that it was not for me. It would have been very easy to say ďwell, at least I triedĒ. Fortunately for me, Wally is the Commercial Chaplain to the firm of solicitors where I work and after talking to him several times he convinced me to give St Peterís a try.
I have to say that I was nearly put off at my first visit. It was the first Sunday in Advent. When the sermon was delivered I became aware that the person in the pew next to me was making copious notes. ď Oh noĒ I thought, ďI donít think I can see myself staying here, not if one is expected to make notes on the sermonĒ. Fortunately, after the service the writer turned and introduced herself to me with a very warm smile. Her name was Eileen McLean! (making notes for discussion with a visiting preacher, it was later revealed.) That was over three years ago. I have gradually become more involved in the life of St Peterís during that time, firstly through the Monday Group and later through the PCC and the Overseas Committee.
So, what has St Peterís come to mean to me? On reflection the essence of St Peterís is that it is a place to be oneself. It is a place where I am accepted, in a non-judgmental and friendly environment. It is this open and tolerant environment which has helped me to understand that God loves and accepts me as I am, with all my shortcomings and faults.
Anyone coming to St Peterís is assured of a warm welcome - whether a newcomer, a regular or an occasional visitor. I was initially reluctant to stay for coffee after the services. I am not good, at and hence do not enjoy, small talk. It wasnít very long before I realised that the post-service chat isnít small talk; people are genuinely interested in other peopleís lives, their fortunes and misfortunes.
Surely no one could talk about the significance of St Peterís without mentioning its history. For me it is a great joy and comfort that it is a place that has been in continuous use as a place of worship for hundreds of years. The sense of history was most recently brought home by the opening of the South Door which I found exciting, even if it does mean that it is colder from my regular spot in the back pew!
Music is of course another important part of St Peterís life. I studied A-Level music and love music of many types. I like to listen to the choir, particularly after communion. I enjoy the concerts and unfortunately for those who sit near to me I also like to sing. If only we could get rid of the Psalm it would be perfect! (hiss from parts of the audience.)
St Peterís is a place of celebration, both of Godís goodness to us on an everyday level and at the special times such as Christmas and Easter.
St Peterís is a place of action. For me that means the PCC , the overseas committee and Christian Aid. It is particularly rewarding to realise that so little money can make so much difference to those less fortunate than me, especially in other continents. Many others are involved in activities in our own and our wider community in diverse ways such as the Coffee Room, the Education, Finance and various other committees and groups.
It is often said that faith is a journey. For me there has been no blinding light, no sudden revelation and I donít think that there ever will be. I often find it a difficult journey but I am helped immeasurably by the members of St Peterís congregation, its worship and ministry.
Long may it continue!