I had an absolutely awesome day on Sunday. I can't put my finger on what it was, but I had a really good day :)
One of the last events I went to was a service at Trent Vineyard Church in Nottingham.
Trent Vineyard is the church that the two Doctors that I'm out in India come from, and the church supports both the Doctors and Compassion Care. The teams that we've had with us out in India came predominantly from Trent Vineyard, though we also had a couple of independent helpers too.
Trent Vineyard belongs to the Vineyard group of churches. They are a pretty charismatic Christian Church that have a much younger congregation than my Catholic Church back home. Coming from a relatively conservative church, I was a bit wary of what to make of Trent Vineyard, but as I knew a few people from there, and wanted to catch up with them after meeting them out in India - I couldn't resist visiting.
Anyhow, I'm really glad I did. I comparison to my church, where there are about 6 or 7 people around my age that attend- Trent was full of people my own age - hundreds of them. Initially it was a bit of a culture shock, but I soon got used to it. I guess having people ones own age is something pretty useful, as we're all going through similar problems and similar anxieties in our lives. I got to see many of the people who I'd been out in India with - and with a complementary coffee given out to all attendees (which I was later convinced was _not_ to keep people awake, as it might have been useful for back at my church) - the service began.
It's more like a concert than a service to begin with. The band got up and played quite a few songs - all of which were modern and lively. Having been to places like Soli House and hearing the music from CJM Music - these weren't as foreign to me as I might have imagined. It was a bit funky having people lifting up their hands and singing their hearts out - but having visited the Pentecostal Voice of Gospel Church, it was pretty conservative in comparison. People were just singing, having a good time, and I guess thanking Jesus for a great week (and good weather).
After about 40 minutes of this, we had a 5 minute break where the collection plate was passsed round, as well as a quality street. It was nice to be able to talk to a few people. I wish this was something we'd do at my church. After the break there was the traditional notices. What really strikes me about Trent Vineyard is how much they are getting involved with the local community. It really humbles me in comparison to hear what these guys get up to day to day, yet it's these same guys that tell me what I'm doing is more amazing out in India.
The way I see it is that it's about choice. I have to make one choice, whether to go out to India or not. If I make the choice yes, then I have chosen to live and help the children of India as much as I possibly can whilst I'm out there. There's no way that I can change my choice when I'm out there, even if I want to. If things got tough, I can't wake up in the morning and stay in bed all day then go down to the restaurant with my friends and have a meal - I have to continue - my choice was made and I have to stick with it, no matter what. However, for these guys doing the work from their homes. They have to make the choice every day as to whether they go and help, or whether they go and do something else. For me, the temptation to forsake the people who need help to satisfy myself, by going to the cinema instead of going to the soup kitchen for example, would probaby be too much.
I think it's great that these guys make the correct choice day after day, despite the peer pressure of a society which says 'me first.' What I'm doing out in India is what attracts the headlines - but the real heroes are the guys that do it quietly. I respect these guys so much, so proud to be able to call some of them my friends.
The second part of the Trent Vineyard service was a really good lecture by their senior Pastor, John Wright. It was a great talk, filled with great quotations and a really good account of multiple interpretations of the same source. Rather than preach a dogmatic sermon from a singular view - it was really great to hear lots of different interpretations which give us plenty to think about for the next few days. It's a different approach to what I'm used to, and I think it works really well.
The sermon ended with a quote from the dead poets society - which really made me think. We were told that the 'woods' meant the wilderness, a place away from the day to day struggle to reflect and understand and meditate on what we're doing. It's a great quote which I intend to keep with me in India. Take time to reflect on what I'm doing, and wondering whether I'm 'living for the day' - or just getting through the days.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
--Henry David Thoreau