Vicar's May Letter
Recently I attended a conference at the ‘City Gates’ church in Ilford. I was inspired to hear the story of their building and the life of their pastor Stephen Derbyshire.
Stephen grew up in St Helens and hated going to school he was gripped with fear, he eventually rebelled by skipping school and hanging around with his mates drinking. His parents attended the local Methodist church and Stephen hated this too; he found church boring. Inside he was full of anger and relished a fight. Eventually he turned to drugs and soon became addicted to hard drugs. Eventually leaving home he ended up living in digs with other drug abusers. Stealing to fund his life style and violence were all he knew. But his father was a man of prayer and he prayed constantly for Stephen. Eventually Stephen tried to commit suicide but it was a failed attempt.
In his own words he says, ‘life was spiralling out of control, I was unable to break free from addiction and was enveloped by a suffocating blackness that seemed certain to extinguish my life.’ At his lowest ebb he cried out to God for a miracle and he got one. It was the beginning of a process of supernatural restoration that would see a life of purpose rise out of the ruins. Since then he has committed his life to helping others experience this same transformation.
His story is a story of restoration from ruin where God miraculously stepped in and saved him. He is now a Christian and a pastor of City Gates church in Ilford. But the story of the building of this church echoes that of his own life as during the build, the whole church collapsed. What was initially to be a nine million pound building turned into a twelve million pound project. The church stands five floors high in the centre of Ilford and is an impressive structure that attracts over thirty nationalities to worship each week. Stephen tells his story in his book ‘Out of the ruins’ by Stephen Derbyshire published by RIVER publishing.
It is a dramatic story of a life rescued, restored and filled with purpose.
God is in the business of changing lives, but for some people that seems to translate into, God wants to stop me doing what I want and make me live by his rules. For myself and for those I know who, like me, have given their lives to Jesus this is not our experience. The experience of becoming a Christian is much more like that described above of a total transformation. God rescues us from darkness and brings us into glorious light.
At ‘New - Wine’ Christian events many people experience this life transforming encounter with the living God. Michelle who also turned to drugs and suffered from psychotic episodes ended up in hospital. She eventually cried out for God to save her and he did. She then had prayer to be filled with the Holy Spirit and she says ‘it was like a light being switched on inside me. I feel alive in a way that I never felt before.’
There were stories of people being healed, relationships being restored and people encountering a God of love that healed their emotional state and left them knowing they were loved beyond measure.
Rather than life with God being defined by rule keeping, life with God is more like an exciting journey. Sometimes you never know where you will end up but it always turns out better than you expect it to be. I have encountered God personally so many times and in so many ways that I know he can transform anyone, no matter how difficult their circumstances are. All it takes is a real desire for God.
I shall be going back again this year to New-Wine summer camp to be refreshed in the Holy Spirit and looking forward to all that God will do in me and in the lives of others as we gather to worship him. However, before that we will be running our prayer room in the St Mary Church Room in Sole Street again from the 29th May – 3rd June why not come along and seek an encounter with God for yourself?
Every Blessing Revd Angela Walker.