Where to start with this one. A huge change, to say the very least.
Since being back in Sutton, never mind Hull, since October I have seen and met up with some old friends. There is Barrie, the Methodist evangelical sometimes feeling out on his own, known when I was agnostic, and Rachel too, met when doing my research when she went to Sutton Park.
I met Rachel again, by chance in College Street and I am in the glow of my evening out after she said come along. Of course she has changed but was instantly recognisable. In 1983 she was just 16, one of the teenagers I researched in a fellowship group. Now she is 43, nearly 44, but definitely the same person. She is through a marriage and has teenage children.
She invited me to the Pentecostal Church earlier. I'd been there before, just to see, when this chap said. "Come on!" and they all made a rather unconvincing treble (?) noise. The place has been done up since then, and is now one of these full-on media centres. It sends programmes to satellite television.
Now I'll talk to anyone and go anywhere, but here we were with this loud stuff going on and she was getting all worked up like most others and I wasn't, really, but this chap came down our row (Rachel on my left) and was touching people - we'd stood out of our seats. To be honest I'd lost the plot as to what was going on, if not bored and waiting for afterwards. So I was just waiting to resume a conversation with Rachel.
This chap, with someone else following, touched Rachel's forehead and said something, and nothing happened there, but he missed mine. Not that it mattered then, but I looked and he turned back and he just said, "You're not part of this, leave you alone."
Now I thought first, 'that's clever,' then, 'that's tolerant,' then 'how does he know?' But then felt I was missing out. And then as this chap behind him followed along, Rachel said (this is all like within a second), "He is part of this, I invited him." So the chap behind said, "Go to him," and she said, "Go on." So I did, to my right. So now I was out of place and facing this chap, who this time put the flat of his hand on my forehead and - well - bang, I felt a surge go right down my back.
I am rather larger than I used to be, and it took this chap and my neighbours to stop me just going straight down on the floor in a heap. But I had to go down on the floor. My legs were like jelly even when I was on the floor so there was no way I could get up. Then I had a sensation of sheer heat, and also a big welling up love feeling. Rachel was there, like she was laughing, and others were around me, but the chap and his friend were gone and elsewhere.
Simply this. When I got up I joined in the singing and the praising and the choruses. But actually, then couldn't I, because there was a huge welling up and almost explosion of emotion coming out of me.
Of course I now love the Lord, and the Holy Spirit chose his moment to come into me. I'm sort of dislocated and unsure what to do, and when I left with Rachel I spent quite some time with her afterwards, but I haven't been able to sleep (not that I do very well presently - perhaps God will help me sleep better) and the dislocation is because of now I am thinking so differently, though it doesn't feel like thought at all. Like my legs were, my brain is jelly-like.
But some things are clearly obvious now. One is that - it is with some regret - that I must say goodbye to my Unitarian friends. I will hand over all the music files and happily explain how to do the software to prepare for each service. Now that I want and must have this personal relationship with Jesus I can't get it there, and indeed I know where I want to be on a Sunday - back where Rachel still attends after all these years.
It is the Church of England, but full on Evangelical and Charismatic, and she says no one wears the robes and stuff, and actually they don't follow the liturgies except early in the morning. It is all praise - praise the Lord.
I think it is great that the Church of England can reach to us at this end of its spectrum, so to speak (difficult to describe - my categories have all shifted - and gosh what God can do). I suppose I still think that people like me as was (is this the 'old' me?) should leave the Church of England because it is for believers and not doubters. I think I'd go further now too.
Anyone who has read me before knew that I didn't value the Bible, and that was true. Suddenly, yes, it is because of how I thought of the Bible that now, like a turnaround, I do more than value it. It is in the New Testament the story of the anointing of the Christian community as faithful carriers of the Gospel of Christ. These are the people whom, it says, and I now know, that the Holy Spirit has anointed. The Larry Hurtado thesis is just as relevant, but this time the rapid escalation of Jesus's titles isn't just some cultural belief, but vital, necessary, driven, bang on. So the point about the Bible is that we are also that community, across time (it is an eternal community, so just one) and those who do not call or do not really believe that Jesus the Christ are not in that community. Of course the Bible is a treasury of sayings and insights for all and sundry, but it is only that for other people; for the Christian it is the vital document because it is the document that shows Jesus at work and then the community saying Yes to him. And just as God has remade me, so I cannot but believe that God remade Jesus and returned him to life in that Trinity relationship. And his death and this new life is like the world's magnifying glass, the focus, the death for our badness and the life for our potential greatness when renewed.
So much is in the melting point. I mean, gosh, I could even value the purpose of the Anglican Communion Covenant. Rachel said, "Ah it's just politics," and it is, in a way, it is, but it is at least one attempt at coherence. I think, though, I must prefer the Jerusalem Declaration, because that focuses on belief and is much more coherent.
What is really bizarre now is I remember that strange chap Madpriest, Jonathan Hagger, saying for his online New Year resolutions that on April 1st I'd blog on 'The Ten Things I Love About The Anglican Communion'. I've done this so it comes below: you must read this first.
I suppose other issues are all up for change too. I know this will lose me some if not many online friends, but we are bound to our Book of the saved community and its special message for us, and this does include our morality. When I think of how bad, how dishonest, how terrible I have been I could weep and perhaps I should. But also we can't deceive ourselves with false, unholy, ungodly things, including the love we think we give when it is not in fact holy and good. I have actually read the Bible before, and it calls all of us to make lifetime sacrifices we might not wish to make, including what we do and do not do with our gift of sex. There are forms of life and living where the Christian should not go and where he is permitted to go.
Oh, I've just edited a bit there because - as I type and I look through my window I can see a certain person approaching this house. It's Rachel. She looks fantastic, even though she says she's not into fashion, not like that online Rachel. She said "baloney" about postmodernism. Sorry, more later, the doorbell is about to go and she is approaching waving at me...
Ah she is here at the moment and I'm just typing a hello from my friend and yes she approves of my cartoon but has told me not to use another cartoon produced today and another blog entry. It just shows how sin grabs one round the throat. Obviously as a baby Christian I need advice. Oh she agrees.
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