Meet the Church – Linda
I’m just an ordinary person. I’ve been married 52 years, got 6 grandchildren and we had 3 daughters. I’ve lived in Sidcup since I was 11. We lived in London, in terrible conditions after the war, shared a toilet with 13 other people in house, no bathroom. It didn’t worry me as a child, I had the best childhood going – children don’t notice those things. I just used to play out – I’m an only child but I had loads of cousins and friends, and back then you were close to your families. I saw them regularly – I could go up my aunt’s, go up my nan’s, we all lived near each other. It was a bit of a shock when we moved here, because we were cut off from our family!
I became a Christian about 33 years ago. It was gradual. I went to Sunday School, as most children did then. I believed in God (but then so does the devil!). I had a Christian holiday with school, because we had RE teachers that were Christians (and all we learnt in RE was the Bible!). I went on a Christian holiday to Derbyshire, I’ll never forget it, and the lovely ladies there… it was all girls from all over the country, and they told us all about Jesus throughout the whole week. And we went on outings, singing choruses on the coaches, and there I ‘gave my life to Jesus’. And they underlined in the Bible (I borrowed my Nan’s Bible) Joshua 1v9: “Do not be afraid; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. And I came home and I wanted to go to church. My mum and my dad weren’t churchgoers, but we were religious in the fact that you only married in church, you had your children christened, you were ‘churched’ when you had the babies – don’t know if you’ve heard of that ceremony, I was churched with all of them. My mum said you weren’t allowed in houses unless you’d been churched, you brought bad luck on them! So after you had a baby, you were churched (they did it in the hospitals then, in Queen Mary’s) – a thanksgiving service to God for bringing you through it all, and for the baby, a nice service really. But when we moved to Ramsgate I had to go to the church there, as I had the baby at home. Anyway – I came here, my friend brought me here – and the pastor at the time, he was all hell-fire and brimstone and I was frightened out of my life, and I didn’t want to come again. So then my friend up the road, who is catholic, her family used to go every Sunday to Our lady of the rosary, I went with her and it was all in Latin. And I stood up, sat down, and didn’t understand a word, and I said ‘I don’t understand it, Mary’, and she said ‘No, you don’t’! So I went home, and I said to my mum I didn’t understand and she said ‘No, well, we don’t go to church’ and that was it, I’m afraid. But when we got married I got married in the church, I was very shy and I didn’t want the ceremony, I just wanted us, but I wanted God’s blessing on everything, you know what I mean. And so it went on. And then we moved to Ramsgate, and Jane was ill, and then we moved back. Jane had had her brain operation then, she was doing really well. And then she got ill, and then she died a week before her 6th birthday. And I’d been taking the children to the Methodist church to Sunday school, and sometimes we’d go to the family service (if you were caught, if you know what I mean!). And when Jane died, John wanted to go to the church that night, and we called the vicar, and he came to see us. They were very kind to us in those beginning days, and I became a member there. But I still wasn’t a Christian. I was going there, but I was very angry in my heart, because of Jane, I was very angry with God. People thought I was alright on the outside, I was alright, they didn’t know what went on on the inside. I used to rage against God, I used to really say awful things, you know, I was blaming him for Jane’s death. I knew he was God and I knew he was in control, and I said to him to save her, and I said ‘not for you, for me’, and you know, to bring her back if you… When you – grief, with a child, it’s so awful, you’re not in your right mind. So this went on for years unfortunately. People didn’t know, I used to rage for years. And then, we moved to Burnt Oak Lane, and the girls used to come to Girls Brigade here.
But one day, I was really heartbroken, having a go at God again – ten years later, or longer than that – and I broke down, and fell into a deep sleep, and when I woke, I felt a great peace. And I prayed to God, and then I prayed for somewhere to go, during the day, to study the Bible. And then it was time to get Clare. And I went out the door, and as I was going out the door, the pastor’s wife came across the road and said would I like to come to the Ladies’ Bible study on the Wednesday morning? Well, to be honest, I was shocked! I’d never said anything to her. I said I would go, but I couldn’t believe a minute before I’d prayed for that, and she’d invited me! So I went to the Bible study, didn’t know anyone, that’s where I met June, and Joan, and I thought it was wonderful. Because I always thought the miracles were true, because God is God, and he can do anything. But at the Methodist church, one Sunday, they shared out sweets and things, and said that’s how he did the feeding of the 5000, pieces of shared food – and I’d thought ‘Oh I’m so thick, I always thought that was true!’. And it was such a relief to know that they thought it was actually true too. It gradually went on from there, and you know, in the end, I asked to be baptised; because Jean used to say ‘how long are you going to walk in two camps’. Because they were so kind at the Methodists, I didn’t want to leave the Methodists, but I wanted to be here. So I used to come here sometimes, and go there, and in the end I made up mind, I was coming here. And then – I didn’t want to be baptised, I was frightened of water! I went to my friend’s baptism, and I thought ‘I’m being disobedient; it’s what God’s commanded’. And I went through baptism classes, and I became baptised, and I’ve never looked back really. Jesus has given me peace in my heart. I’ve come to accept his will for things – I’m not raging against him any more. I know he knows the beginning to the end; he knows what he’s doing and I can trust him, and rest on him. That’s what he means to me.