Originally published on our old website in December 2016 after 3 years of blog silence!
It's been a while since I blogged - I just haven't felt the urge for a long while - but I felt with all that has happened over the last 6-9 months or so, the easiest way to digest it personally was to write stuff down.
Many of you will know that earlier this year, we took the decision as a family to move house. But more than that, we decided to move to a new area. The reason was partly to do with my work which from February has been solely based in Edinburgh but in the future could be anywhere around Scotland. Being over in Glenrothes was lovely and we had 10 really great years there, but commuting distance was a little too great for some work I could have gone for. Even the commute to Edinburgh was getting a little long, yet we couldn't afford to move to Edinburgh. And if we were to move at all, this was the time to do it as Kathryn, was about to head into P7 - her last year before High School. We did not want to be moving just ahead of this big school change, so it was kind of a now or never (well, not for a long while) decision.
So, after much searching and discussion, we settled on Falkirk. We had a few friends there and it would put us in central Scotland for ease of commuting. The commute is 30mins less each way for me just now and £100 a month cheaper on the rail season ticket. Both huge positive factors in this decision. But it was still a huge leap for us with very little knowledge of the area. Our friends in the area were very helpful when we found houses we thought might be good. A few texts soon told us what the area and schools were like - the latter of which was more important that anything. And after a couple of aborted attempts, we ended up with a house that we'd put to one side a few times from our thought process, yet it still kept appearing on our searches. It's in the Camelon district on the western edge of Falkirk, which is a mixed area in terms of need but is recognised for levels of deprivation. As you often find in such areas, there are good and bad bits - we seem to be in one of the better bits! Plus we have picked up on a strong community feel as well and are beginning to get integrated into that. We have lovely calming views from the front of the house across a park space and towards the Falkirk Wheel, and are just around the corner from the local primary school - Easter Carmuirs - which the girls attend. The girls have settled extremely well into their new school and the community and have quickly made new and good friends, plus they're enjoying the chance to see friends they've grown up alongside, on a more regular basis. That they have settled so well is in itself a huge relief for us.
However, this blog isn't really about the house, but suffice to say all is well and we're busy making it our own.
This blog is really about our Church life.
Those of you who know us well, will know that we have both grown up within The Salvation Army. It's been a huge part of our lives and for me, has also been a place of employment for all but 3 of the years between 1998 and 2016. But for some reason, we felt that God wanted us to be somewhere else - the trouble was, we didn't know where or why! So, unsure as to what the plan was, we did a quick internet search for churches in the area and, for the few weeks prior to our move, started "church surfing". It's not an official terminology by any means, and there was no real plan. We just looked at churches that weren't too far from the house, discounted a few, then went for it! We purposely didn't want to be travelling too far as the local church is important. We were slightly spoilt by living more or less opposite Glenrothes Salvation Army for 7 years but do enjoy the link between local community and church. So with that in mind, and with the involvement of all the family, we headed off into the unknown. The girls really engaged in this and it was a strengthening experience for us as a family.
I won't go through the list of churches we tried - that wouldn't be fair - but we have ended up at one that wasn't on the original search list - Falkirk Vineyard Church. The reason it wasn't on the list was that at the time of searching, it met in nearby Polmont which was outside the search area. But unbeknown to us, at pretty much the same time as we moved, this Church moved to a central location in Falkirk and we passed it with its exterior banners on the way to another church! A quick internet search looked promising so we went along and felt pretty comfortable. The girls also enjoyed the children's programme and we've all been made to feel really welcome but without feeling any pressure to do anything other than be part of the church family - for now!
So, a house that we'd passed over a few times, and a church that wasn't even on our list! Readers of this with any element of faith within them will perhaps recognise the Hand of God in all this, and you would not be wrong in that assumption. We are already sensing that we're living in the Camelon area for a reason although we're not sure exactly what that reason is. And we're feeling that the Vineyard Church is where we're meant to be but again, we're not exactly sure why! Suffice to say, we're taking our time to understand these reasons and are enjoying having the time to do so. This is a time of preparation in our lives and it's quite exciting.
During this preparation time, we've also been looking back. This has been a big change for us as a family and we wouldn't be human if we didn't wonder if we've done the right thing. But through the benefit of hindsight, we can see how things have been brought together in order for this move of house and church to happen and for the next bit of this blog, I will write for myself not necessarily the whole family.
For a little while, well, maybe a year, I had begun to feel a little unsettled in church. Little things were bugging me. Nothing major - and there were no arguments. But something wasn't right. If you'd asked me I wouldn't have been able to tell you what because it's only now, looking back, that I see it. Although to be honest, there wasn't one thing I could put my finger on - I was simply unsettled. What I did know was that whatever this was, was starting to affect other areas of my life as well. Having talked about this with some people now, and heard our pastor preach along these lines, I think I get it now. This was God moving us on because, well, again I don't know why for sure! My feeling is simply that He had a plan for us elsewhere. But it took the relocation of my family in order for us to hear and act on this leading! I'm sure there could have been a simpler way but, actually, and again with the benefit of hindsight, maybe this was the 'simplest' way in order to not cause hurt to people we love. You see, leaving a Church and going to another one in the same area is not an unforgiveable act by any means - it happens a lot - but it is difficult especially for friendships you may have and also to those around us who are not in the church. I do wish to publically thank those who have been leaders around us in recent times for their forbearance and support in spite of everything.
Now there's a big question that some may have. What does this mean for us and The Salvation Army? Well the simple answer is I don't know! But the slightly more in depth answer is that nothing has really changed other than, for whatever reason, we are not an active part of that section of God's Church on earth at this time. Will we return? I don't know! We're certainly not going to be strangers and have ensured as best as possible that no bridges have been burned. We have been open and honest with key people so they can understand (as best as we can) what is going on. And I for one am still proud of all I have done in and through The Salvation Army, and still feel empowered by the ways of William Booth that led to that great missional movement being established. I am still passionate for the salvation of the world and will still do what I can to assist that mission in my small corner. To use Booth's words, I will "fight to the very end".
During the 'church surfing', one phrase was key in my mind - church in the community. As I said, we were fortunate to live opposite Glenrothes Salvation Army for the last 7 years and really engaged with our neighbours in some very practical befriending and outreach activities. Community was, and still is, very important to us. I've already mentioned the feeling of community that we sense in the area we live, and so I'd naturally (well, naturally to me!) looked for local churches but nothing felt totally right. On our first visit to Falkirk Vineyard Church, I spotted the holding slide on the projector screen. And there, right at the top, were the words "Church in the Community". And there it was - a possible answer to the question I didn't know I was asking! And now, a few months and a few conversations on, I think I'm beginning to get it. It's a bit obvious really and I have even spoken about it through various jobs I've done in the past and in sermons I've been led to preach. Church is not just about the weekly gathering to worship and hear the Word. Church is 7 days a week because the people are the true Church. The Sunday thing is to gather, empower and send out. Then we need to go and 'be' Church in our community. So, for the first time in I don't know how long, I really get this and feel like I want to get involved in Church things again - but yet the timing isn't right. This is a season of rest and rebuilding within ourselves before getting back in to stuff again. How long will this season last? At the risk of being repetitive..... I don't know!
Well, if you've made it this far down this blog you deserve a medal. This has been a good cathartic process that has actually taken a couple of weeks (on and off - well, mainly off) to finish and be happy with sharing it. There are some who read this who will perhaps understand now where we've been spiritually over the last year or so. There are those who read this who will be with us now, and others who we have encountered along the way whether in Church or in the community. Some may take encouragement from this and if so that's great. Others still won't have a clue what I've been rabbiting on about!
As time goes on, I will probably blog again about the next stage of the journey. All I know is that for now, I'm beginning to enjoy our Church 'service' again and look forward to whatever doors open in the time ahead. Thanks for reading.