It’s late August 1991. It’s coming to the end of the summer holidays as I have just finished 4th year at Junior School, now called Year 6, and am about to move up to Year 7 and secondary school.
I’ve just had my 11th birthday and my mother has had enough.
She has had enough of me getting under her feet, enough of me telling her I’m bored, certainly enough of me kicking makeshift footballs around the house. The amount of screwed up paper wrapped in Sellotape she threw away was unbelievable!
She finds an advert in the local newspaper, The Mercury, about a youth group on Friday evenings just up the road, and she decides I will attend.
It meets in a small hall. A few kids attend, kids have fun.
I interact with the leader. We play table tennis together. I already know I’m quite good. He’s also quite good. We have a very competitive game!
At the end, one of my new friends walks outside with me as we leave to go home and points to his left.
“We go there on Sunday’s. You should come. It’s alright.”
He’s pointing at a church.
And that’s where it all began.
I start attending. My first Sunday is the day before I begin secondary school.
For the first while, it was just to catch up with my new friends. None of them went to the same school as me so it gave me opportunity to see how they were, what they’ve been up to.
Youth activities were run by those same leaders from Fridays and others from the church and then later on taken on by a national youth organisation.
There was so much geared towards us as young people to keep us interested, attending and asking questions.
And as time passed, I began to actually listen and ask those questions as well.
Does God actually love me? Me? Out of all the billions of people in the world? Me?
And when I eventually took the time to open my heart and wait for the answers to these questions. He answered. And I have continued to follow.
Life has taken in lots of turns along the way. The same guy that invited me to church that first Sunday ended up being my best man in my marriage to Laura.
Moving away from the only area I ever knew, to Chatham in Kent after marriage. And then on in following her calling into ordained ministry first to Bristol and then to Dartford. Three children joined us along the way.
And now, here I am nearly 31 years after that first encounter and I have recently moved back into the very same area with Laura taking up a Vicar position. Worshipping 500 metres from that church hall and 500 metres in the other direction from my childhood home that my Dad still lives in.
And in a full circle moment, I am now the youth leader for the East Greenwich Team Ministry.
I think back to my time as the young person and have possibly a unique situation in that I can see it from the perspective of both parties. I was once the young person. Now I am the youth lead. In almost exactly the same location!
I am now the person who needs to find ways of interacting and engaging with young people. Will that be done over a ferocious game of table tennis? On a football pitch? Around a table chatting? By being welcoming? By listening? Or in some other way?
That is the challenge. And it’s a challenge that I am looking forward to.
When we left Blackheath, we were given a poster by friends which stated ‘All Roads Lead To Greenwich.’ This has shown God speaking to myself and my family, almost 20 years before the event. We didn’t know it at the time, but God’s plan was always there.