Monday, 8 October 2007

Why I wanted to go back after 22 years

Twenty-two years after I left the Jesus People I made arrangements to go back to "Bugbrooke" (as the fellowship was more commonly known in evangelical circles in the early days) to attempt to draw a line under my experiences. You can't stay angry for ever and with time I'd found that my most dominant memories of life in community were happy ones. Noel had always said that there would be a God shaped hole in my heart, but he was wrong; the hole in my heart is shaped like the brethren I was close to. And though I know people say of any important event in your life, that you should never go back, and though I knew that many would regard me with suspicion and even animosity, part of me wanted to try to see if I couldn't fill the hole.

One particular handicap to this plan is the fact that relationships back then were formed on the basis of our shared faith, and more importantly on our over-riding sense of being called to Zion; not merely the universal church, but uniquely THE church blessed by God. Would it be possible to be friends after all these years with these people, when not only am I not a member of the elect at Bugbrooke, but not even a believer any more?

Further, could I possibly be accepted by people who, if they remembered me at all, had regarded me for the last two decades as "Judas"? In speaking out about the JFC (Jesus Fellowship Church/ JA) I'd never made it personal. I had never openly criticised any individual, except for members of the leadership. In many respects I'd felt I was speaking for the brethren who had no voice. So, while I'd changed in their eyes - becoming a persecutor - they remained people I'd loved and always missed.

Why would I still miss these people, after all these years? Well, that one is simple. I am middle aged now and acutely conscious of my mortality, so that, like many my age, I am going through that stage of looking back to my childhood, youth, etc...and trying to track school-friends, talking to aged relatives, contacting old girlfriends etc. It is what you do. It is what has made Friends Reunited so much of a success.

It was simply that - a desire to be catch up with old friends. If the community had changed as much as David said they had and if they regretted the mistakes of a more intense age and had indeed opened up to the wider church, as they claimed, then many of my criticisms had been addressed and this was a different church to the one I'd left. And if that was the case, little need stand in the way of a reconciliation.