Tag Archives: support

St Mark’s Church, Kempshott. Photo from the air, church covered in snow.

What is church? A matter of perspective

Having had a massive dump of snow in Basingstoke we recently experienced seeing the world in a different light. My husband, Steve Coleman-Williams, took some beautiful photos of our church from the air with a drone (see feature images) and it got me thinking about how different people see the church (both the building and the people).

Picturesque church in sunlight“A pretty building for my wedding”

The Church of England owns some beautiful grade 1 listed buildings and for a fee they can provide a lovely back drop for the wedding photographs. Of course, the buildings costs a lot to upkeep, this falls to the regular worshipers and you’ll often see them holding fundraisers to ensure the buildings remain as stipulated by Historic England. Contrary to what some people think, the Church of England is not rich – we rely on donations to survive and it’s a huge responsibility to keep the buildings maintained.

“An institution for my funeral”

I recently heard an member of a congregation say they didn’t mind what happened to the church after they died, as long as it was around long enough for their funeral. I find this incredibly sad because if everyone thought like this the church will die. Fortunately, not many people think like this and statistics show that the church (the people, that is) is growing. For example see some stats for the Church of England here.


“Perhaps people used to need the church but it’s old fashioned and hasn’t really moved with the times.” Unfortunately, this is the impression lots of people have about the church. They do not see how singing hymns and reciting prayers together has any relavence to their life. My experience of church is that is more than the habitual attendance; being a Christian is a way of life and attending church with my friends is part of what makes me me.

“Judgmental and holier than thou”

“Christians live by this rule book, they look down on people who don’t share their views”. Yes, we are guided by the Bible, it is full of messages from God about how we should live and ways we should behave. Many of the “rules” people talk about are taken out of context. When the Bible is read and understood, we see that God speaks to people within the context of the culture in which they live. Although we still use the Bible today, God speaks to us in other ways too. I have heard messages from God through other people and through the simple facts of certain doors opening and others closing.

Some people focus on controversial topics and say the Bible doesn’t stand up as a relavent today. Arch Bishop Justin Welby advises Christians to “read the Bible carefully…see how Jesus treated those who thought themselves holy and those who thought themselves sinners”. The Christians I know are well aware that they are sinners, we know we are to seek God’s forgiveness every day.

I think being judgmental is one of the ugliest characteristics a human being can express, I live in fear of being judged. No one can truly know what someone else has been through so how can we pass judgment on the way they behave, the way or how they talk, the things they do or the beliefs they hold? It simply is not my place.

People holding hands, praying together“A community where I can be myself”

To me, although I love the old, traditional buildings with the history, knowing that generations of people have worshipped the same God on the same spot for hundreds of year is important – what is more important is that the church is alive today, the church is the people, a community of people who care for one another like a family.

At work I have to be professional, in most social settings there are expectations to behave a certain way but when with church friends I am just me. Through times of illness, the habit of going to church on a Sunday stayed with me – I didn’t always talk to anyone, I just went, sat at the back and came away – this was what I needed, some stability. When I’ve wanted more support, the church family have been there for me every time. Whether it’s during/after a Sunday service, sitting with me while I cry my way through a cup-a-soup or visiting me in hospital – it’s a community like no other. I Don’t feel judged within the church, I feel accepted and loved.

“A place to nourish my spiritual health”

If doctors, nurses, physios, psychologists etc look after our physical and mental health, it’s the church that looks after my spiritual health. I am fortunately that although my mental and physical health have taken hits, although I’ve had doubts in my faith, my spiritual health has been the part of me that has remained relatively healthy. To people who do not value their spiritual health, perhaps this seem a bit untagible. It’s diffciult to put into words but I’ll give it a go! My spiritual health is my inner peace, my inner fire, my moral compass; having Jesus by my side means I am never alone – even if my mind distorts reality and my body malfunctions, there is something inside me I can call on to give me the confidence to keep going.

The trauma of looking in the mirror

Who would have thought, the simple act of getting my eyes checked could be so traumatic?!
Fortunately my eye sight isn’t too bad so, although advised to go to the optician every couple of years, I push it out to 4,5,6 years until the guilt of “not looking after my eyes” gets too much.
So, I find myself here again. Not only is making the appointment hard enough but I’m now sat in the waiting room for a “test”, for which I have received no training or education. Why have I not revised? Why do I not feel more prepared?! What if I get it all wrong?
The first room is darkened and just involves looking at a hot air balloon going in and out of focus – don’t think I can get anything wrong there can I?!
Next, I appear to be greeted by someone more qualified but she didn’t tell me who she was so I have no idea! She spends a long time looking in my eyes, telling me to look at various things in the room I can’t see! And then, why do they tell you too look down? This is going to cause you to effectively shut your eye! After a while, blinking away the bright spots, she tells me that my eyes are perfectly healthy – phew! Is that it? Can I go now? Please?!

Next, I have a large contraption pressed against my face and I’m asked to look through the holes towards the wall ahead. There are a number of different lenses inside…what happened to the funky glasses we used to put on? I have to say whether letters look more or less clear with various options so I quietly voice “1” or “2” depending on which is sharper but to be honest, most are so similar I’m struggling to tell them apart. I have no idea what this is testing and I have no idea if I’m giving accurate answers or even if it matters!
Next on the screen, I do not have the familiar optitian’s chart with the big A at the top, I just have a single line of letters I’m being asked to read and I’m not sure I can. I can guess? But what if I guess right and she assumes I can read it fine? I work along the line with a shaky voice and the optitian doesn’t give anything away – did I get it right?!
Next I have some paragraphs of very small text slotted very close to my face. I’m asked if I can read the top paragraph, to which I reply “yes”, expecting I would need to demonstrate. Apparently just saying “yes” was enough and I did not have to go through the ordeal of reading out loud in public!
After what feels like a couple of hours, our 15 minute “test” is over and my “results” are printed on a little tiny card. My eye sight is a bit worse but not a lot worse. I feel satisfied that I didn’t make a fool of myself but have I passed or failed?!
Next, comes the worse part…I’m advised to buy new glasses. This involves a number of impossible activities:

  1. Looking at myself in the mirror
  2. Deciding whether I prefer how I look in glasses a or b (or c or d…)
  3. Not breaking down in tears about the whole process!

I’m greeted by a 3rd member of the team, a lovely young chap, to whom I confess my difficulties looking in a mirror. He was lovely, asking if I’d like similar glasses to those I’m already wearing, also advising me to go for slightly smaller styles, as I have a “small face” apparently! He leaves me while I try a few on and quite honestly, I just cringe when I look in the mirror – I look terrible, how is a pair of glasses going to solve that?! The young chat comes back with a couple of his favorites but I’ve already had enough! Why am I fighting back tears over such a simple task? It might sound rediculous but I have a feeling verging on panic. I hate how I look and my internal voice shouts insults at me. I explain to the assistant that I need to come back with my husband so he can help!

So, a little while later, husband in tow, I step over the threshold again. We look over the offerings, noticing that “fashionable” now means quite bold. This is not going to suit me so my choice is quite restricted – maybe this is a good thing! I try on a few pairs, again, it’s a disaster when I look in the mirror. The kind shop assistant says they can take photos so I can look at them on an iPad (this would be useful if you need your regular glasses to look at what you look like in your new glasses) but that sounds like my idea of a nightmare…looking at numerous photos of myself in different glasses that all add to my ugliness, while some kind person adds their opinion…hummmm, no thanks! I know the assistants are only ever trying to be nice but when I already have a negative commentary in my head, I’m afraid they just add, “I’m just being nice to make a sale” plus, “I’m being nice cos we need to get you out of our shop as quickly as possible, you’re a terrible advert for our glasses”.
Eventually…shop number 4…Steve’s trying to reassure me that there isn’t a budget, what’s most important is that I’m happy, or at least satisfied with how I look. I finally find some that don’t make me want to vomit when I look in the mirror, I manage to say “these look ok”. I then have a few measurements of my face taken to ensure my prescription can be added to the frames. I’m not really sure what made those glasses ok over any others, maybe I’m just getting used to my image but it’s such a relief!
Of course, this is a 1st world problem and we are incredibly lucky that we have access, not only to people who can check our eye health but also we can have glasses of an accurate prescription so we can perform any everyday task we wish. People in developing countries rarely have access to glasses, let alone an accurate prescription glasses… Next I’ll be taking my old glasses to Vision Aid Overseas