More Than A story?
Imagine it. Imagine you know someone from the most understated of upbringings who lives a completely perfect life - a life laden with friendship, wisdom and miracles, who then dies a painful, harrowing death and finally rises to full life again. It’s almost completely unbelievable. How are we supposed to react to something like this?
Imagine it. Imagine you know someone from the most understated of upbringings who lives a completely perfect life - a life laden with friendship, wisdom and miracles, who stands up for the oppressed and calls out social injustices, who then dies a painful, harrowing death and finally rises to full life again. It’s almost completely unbelievable. How are we supposed to react to something like this?
There is so much reliable historical evidence to suggest that this story is more than a fable. Evidence from Christians, evidence from the Jews, evidence from the Romans. Numerous reliable accounts written 2000 years ago speak of hundreds of witnesses. The historical evidence testifies that these amazing things actually happened. A man called Jesus died an horrifically painful death, was buried behind heavy stone with a twenty-four-hour guard in position. Three days later, not only are the guards scared off and the huge stone is rolled away, but the man who was dead and buried was suddenly alive and walking around again, performing miracles, still bearing the scars from when he was killed. Jesus lived, died and rose again.
When we each reflect on who Jesus was, what He did and whether it matters to us, we might have different responses. Sometimes when we think about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection it's not easy to make sense of what difference it makes to us today. It was so long ago, and such an amazing thing to happen. That's not at all surprising.
Whatever your response, the fact that a man lived, died and rose again is a story that is worth exploring. There might be more to life, death and beyond than what we currently know.
What Do We believe?
What do Christians believe about Jesus? Christians believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again for you and for me.
What do Christians believe about Jesus? Christians believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again for you, for me and for the whole earth.
We believe the story starts with God creating this world full of life, beauty, love, freedom, creativity, peace, hope, joy and goodness. We believe that is God is good, that He is always loving and present to His creation, and that creation is an expression of His goodness. We believe His purposes for this world are wonderful, His hopes for us are glorious and His ways lead to life in all its fulness.
Christians believe that all the beauty and goodness that God has entrusted to us can get tarnished. Our mistakes can have a real negative impact on ourselves, those around us, our world and our relationship with God.
Christians believe God loves us and it grieves Him to be close at hand and yet still not be in good relationship with us. We believe He is stirred with compassion when He sees His beautiful world lying broken and weeps for us living outside the fulness of life He intended. So 2000 years ago, a huge, seismic, historic event took place. Because of His great mercy, God sent His only son, Jesus to bring about a revolution of loving restoration. Jesus lived, endured the cross and rose again to defeat sin and death, to bring us into new life, to unite us with Himself, to restore us to our true identity and release us to share His redeeming, recreating love with all creation - that we might see His beautiful world as intended - His Kingdom here on earth.
Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended because of His great love for each of us and for all creation.
The Ongoing Impact
Jesus had so much impact on the world 2000 years ago and so the story continues.
Jesus had so much impact on the world 2000 years ago and so the story continues.
It was such a big deal that Jesus rose again that when He ascended His friends were so amazed and confused that it took them a while to figure out what they needed to do in response. And then they went about exploring and telling the good news - that they had seen Jesus live, die and rise again for you, for me and for all creation. That good news led them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to helping and loving so many people. That good news has transformed our world beyond recognition.
And we believe that we are now partners with God in continuing to see the out-workings of His restoration project fully realised - that the goodness of His Kingdom will come completely and that we can enjoy it with Him forever.
"I knew God in years gone by, but kept drifting away from Him..."
I knew God in years gone by, but kept drifting away from Him.
In 2017, I decided to go to the summer Christian festival called NewWine with good friends from the gateway and St Swithin’s. I took my three-wheeler walking frame with me, because of my arthritis in my knees. But I was able to walk away from NewWine no longer needing my walking frame, and also God healed my cataracts. Now I just use a walking stick. God had healed me. NewWine gave me a candle to remind me of all the amazing things God did that week.
I am walking as new person now. God has given me great opportunities to serve Him and enjoy life. One of those is being involved with the cafe. I love meeting new people and being able to walk freely as I serve.
"St Swithin’s feels like an extended family to us. We’re very much at home here..."
Claudia and I have been part of the church for a few years now and a lot has happened during this time. We became members of the St Andrew’s congregation in 2003 shortly after moving to Bath from Germany. In 2007, it was quite an adjustment moving from the comfortable chaos of St Andrews’ school hall to the grandeur of St Swithin’s church once the renovations had been completed. But “church” is so much more than bricks and mortar. As Claudia and I look back, we’ve been struck by the strong, genuine sense of “family” at St Swithin’s.
Whether during the highs of life - when Max, Louis and Heidi were born, or the lows - throughout my treatment for oesophageal cancer in 2009, the church has been an amazing source of support and encouragement. Not only our joys, but also our pain has been recognised, shared and communally carried - and that means a lot to us.
The church is on an exciting journey too. With the once-dead crypt coming alive with activity and a growing number of people joining us to worship, we look forward to what God has in store for our down-to-earth motley bunch of the faithful.
"I can see now that God wants me to officially join His family and also to be my friend."
Before I believed in God and heard that people got baptised I thought “what’s the point” and this is probably what a lot of people think when I tell them that I was preparing for baptism. So I want to share how I have come from the “what’s the point” group to the “I want to be baptised” group. My story talks a lot about my friends and family. I can see now that God wants me to officially join His family and also to be my friend.
My earliest memories start at age 3. This is when I met my first friend. Most three-year olds think that these relationships will late forever. So did I. But when I was 8 she had to move. I was sad and upset to hear that she was going, but by the time she left I was happy for her. At this age I didn’t really know much of God, I thought He was just some weird old man who no one can see and is spoken of a lot in school assemblies and church services. But I never really understood why people believed in this man. At that age I just thought He is an imaginary friend to these people. Now as I look back on this memory, I can see how God was in this situation. He was helping my friend to make new friends and to become an amazing young woman. She went on to gain multiple GCSE’s and get into Cambridge University. I can see that God helped her all the way.
He had also helped me. When this friend left, so did two other good friends. Leaving me alone. I ended up making friends with a girl that for years, I hadn’t liked! She would pick on everyone in the class. But when I got to know her, I found out that were sad reasons why she had done those things. I helped her to escape that part of her life. I now see that God brought us together so that I could help her to make positive life changes. Two years later I was starting the next big adventure in my life, secondary school, it was quite frightening. I didn’t really get along with the people in my tutor group. Everyone splits into different groups at school, popular kids, geeks, trouble makers, emos and the unpopular kids. I had a group of friends who were a complete mix of all those groups….except me, I didn’t fit into any of the sub groups. This meant I could often end up alone. When you don’t fit in…..where do you stand? I felt like I was alone again. At the same time my family lost someone every important to me. This affected me a lot more than what I think people realised. The same week that I lost my family member I also lost the new friends I had just made. We had that ‘one too many’ arguments which pushed them away. The arguments were silly and shouldn’t have been friendship breakers but they were, and I was alone again. In a class of new faces with no one that actually liked me.
This continued for a solid year. No one would work with me in lessons, which meant I didn’t join in with dance or P.E, which I actually enjoyed. A year is a long time when you are 12. It was during this time that I found God. I remember the first time I came to this church on my accord. I was asked by my friend Delia to come and help sell cakes to raise money for the youth group at the Gateway Centre. I sat on the benches during the service playing games on my phone. I thought to myself, “why am I even here?” but I kept coming back. Slowly, I found myself enjoying the children’s group even though I didn’t know anyone except Delia. I didn’t even follow the same beliefs as they did. But they made me feel welcome. It was that day that I realised that there was something more to this man in the clouds from my childhood. I have been coming to this church ever since that day. Falling in love more and more with this man that we call our Father. I found that the friends I had made in the first year of secondary school had reappeared. God had given me the year alone as a time to reflect on everything. To help me see that there is more to Him and He is here for me.
When I was 13, things went a lot better. I was in a new teaching group with a good friend. Me and this friend were like super glue. We got into trouble together, laughed together and cried together. She was my best friend. We had ups and downs. We were like a couple with our fights. But we never held grudges. Then suddenly we had an argument that caused us to not talk and to not even want to fix it. We hadn’t spoken in months until someone asked me if she was going to be here today. Now this person knew what had happened and that I didn’t ever want to see this person again. So, the first thing I said was “no! why would I invite her.” The response I got back from this person made me think. But I was still determined not to change my mind. However, when I wrote this testimony I found myself smiling at all the memories we had. And then I heard a voice tell me to invite her. I knew the voice wasn’t me as I didn’t want to do it. I knew the voice was God. So, I asked her. I invited her as God told me to. As a direct result we have reconnected. And I am grateful to God for my friend and for everyone who has come support me today. I am looking for a new beginning with God and I want to share that with all my friends, family and church family.
God has blessed me with three very good friends who encourage and support me in all things. I feel at ease when I am with them, like nothing can go wrong. They are my rocks and have helped me on my life journey. My friends and family have brought me to this point with mischief, joy, comfort and happiness. They have shown me faith and given me confidence even when they didn’t have it themselves. Many people here have given me everything you need in relationships. Particularly my family. We have travel far and wide. I used to enjoy these times. They brought joy and happiness to life. it wasn’t always joy and happiness in our family. Like all families we have argued and fallen out. We have had hard times. Yet without those hard times we wouldn’t be where we are today. God has defiantly helped us through those times.
When I started to go to church I could see that I changed from not caring at all…… to caring a lot. I matured. It was the same at The Gateway Centre in Snow Hill. The Gateway is Centre is our community centre and it is run by this church. I started going there when I was 10 and I remember that I didn’t really care what we did, it was just somewhere to be. Seven years on from the first time I walked into the Gateway I’m now helping with every little thing I can. Community teas, bee’s café, activity days, roast, toast, kids clubs and so much more. My personal project is the Community Cinema for which I am the group leader. I remember hardly ever being there before I was 10 and now I never leave. I feel that God has called me to help. The amount of time I invest in to helping is unbelievable! I can look back now and see that God has helped me and been with me through all the dark and good times. At first I couldn’t see Him. He has helped me through school, with friendships and has helped me and my family to get to where I am now. To make the friends I have and to support me and my family though everything.
He has always been there….. Now I’m ready to do the same for Him.
"...The world has changed much, and the church has had to adapt... and is now restored with the aim and purpose of revealing the love of God..."
Having lived all my life within reach of Walcot Parish Church, or St Swithin’s as it is now more properly called, it has always been the place where I “go to church”. As a child I was shaped by Sunday school and Bible Class, and attendance at the church school, now St Andrew’s, then Harley Street Girls’ School. Baptism and confirmation were a recognised part of belonging and a declaration of faith, so I became integrated into church life, finding valuable friendships, outlets for serving in the community, and inspirational Bible teaching. I have known eight rectors over the years, each shaping church life in their individual ways, but always grounded in biblical truth and the good news of Jesus our Saviour.
The world has changed much, and the church has had to adapt its ministry to current needs. The building too has changed, surviving a landslip and the blitz, and now restored with the aim and purpose of revealing the love of God and the saving grace of Jesus to the present generation. Once that is discovered, “going to church” soon becomes a habit of life!
"I have learnt a lot about life and faith since I arrived in this church..."
I have learnt a lot about life and faith since I arrived in this church with no real Christian knowledge.
I was captivated at first by the beauty of the building, and this led in time to the project to conserve the wall monuments. My social awareness was sharpened by the time I spent working on the Gateway Centre, and I think we are blessed to have this link with Snow Hill.
I have listened attentively to the teaching at St Swithin’s and I am now proud to tell people that I am a Christian. In my daily life I try to follow two of the great Biblical injunctions: to love my neighbour as myself; and to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.
"...It is great to be part of a church which is seeking to further the good news of Jesus."
The summer of 1964 brought our family to Bath. A near neighbour, Mrs Butler, invited us to a Guest Service at St Swithin’s where her family had worshipped for many years. This was when Gordon Jones was Rector of St Swithin’s. We found a full, committed congregation with strong evangelical traditions, and we really liked the fellowship at St Swithin’s, and so that is where we have been ever since. Isobel was invited to help with Adventurers (Sunday School) at Snow Hill, where there were many children. She was soon leading for another twelve busy, happy years. When weekly services were held at Snow Hill, Mary Warne (piano) and I (violin) led the music.
I have always had a great interest in the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, having spent my first fifteen years in China as a son of missionaries. So I joined the OMF prayer meeting which I have led in recent years. My heart has been very much in Mission, especially in the Far East.
Some years ago I had the honour of being a churchwarden: a challenging role, particularly in the early days of discussing refurbishment. Weekly Home Group meetings are a blessing where we pray, have Bible study and friendship. It is great to be part of a church which is seeking to further the good news of Jesus.
We believe God was, is and will always be at work.
God loves to change lives and is in the business of renewing our world.
God loves to change lives and is in the business of renewing our world.
If you would like to share your story, please contact James.