My experience of other traditions and denominations was widened further when I made a decision that would change my life, in many ways. I applied to study at what was then London Bible College, now London School of Theology (one of my favourite places in the world). The story of that decision is an important one, but I won't go into it here - perhaps I will tell it another time, if people are interested. Let's just say it was made very clear that this was the next step on my journey. (Very rarely have I ever known anything beyond 'the next step'.)
LBC/LST is an inter-denominational evangelical theological college, thus attracting students from all traditions and cultures. It was a time of incredible growth for me - in knowledge, in faith, in friendships - and also a time of great challenge, being stretched and at times disassembled, but all the while knowing I was in a safe place. My passion for Christian unity did not lessen, although it was so much a part of life I rarely thought about it in a very defined way - constantly in conversation and community with those of different traditions meant it was a very practical, very immediate, fact of where I was. And it delighted me.
It was also where I started getting an inkling that I may, in some way, be going to be involved with those in the Baptist tradition. I came aware from one chapel service with the odd sensation that in some way I would eventually be connected with Baptist ministry,of all things, but I really didn't know how!
Then I met my future husband, who, I discovered in the course of our new relationship, felt called to Baptist Ministry. I remember quite clearly deciding perhaps I should know more about this, and picking up a book about Baptist theology. It was extraordinary. But...but this is what I think, about so many things. It wasn't where I'd started, but I felt I had come home.
And now, here I am, she who hates labels but who will, on very special occasions, call herself a Baptist. Because this is where God has put me and where he has led me. For a while I worked for our regional association in an admin position, which I loved - churches working together! The Baptist church is so diverse in its congregations, styles and opinions. Within this medley, I have found my place.
Here in this place, I am still keen to keep on working with other traditions, to work within our agreements and accept the fact of our disagreements, to rid people of their prejudices against each other, to find a way of working together for the good of our communities and our world. To exercise friendship, respect and tactfulness. To pray together, seek God together, express our longings together.
To bring together the pieces of the broken sword not in a way that forces people into one mould (the pieces are different shapes, after all) but that expresses the love of God in a dynamic, beautiful way.
To be the church in all her pieces, in all her humanness.
A body of many parts.
The body of Christ.
This is the third part of a personal story, which I have been inspired to share during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Links to the previous posts:
Part One - the broken sword
Part Two - under the waves