• Keith Anderson

The power of friends 

The power of friends I stand over the lecturn I look down at my notes my mouth hurts with thy dryness of nerves my heart beats that hard I can feel it I cast my eye across the gothic chapel full of a myriad of people from many different backgrounds the powder blue tunics of the carers contrasted against the smart suits of the admin staff , patients and family members in there midst . It was only the night before I'd finally decided on this sermon again my eyes nervously scan the audience how much things had changed from the planning of the homeless shelter that had set me on this path. The chapel is full the organ player only arrived a few minutes ago the grandest of organs sits at the opposite end of the old chapel from me each of the old wooden pews has a festive bow on it and a brightly lit Christmas tree stands next to me , I begin to read I look up and try to appear calm as my heart races and I feel beyond sick " in the beginning was the word ...... " I put on my nurses uniform for maybe the 2nd time in 4 years , I had signed up with a care agency , agency work had always been good to me and I enjoyed meeting different people but I hadn't done it in so long I felt out of my depth . I made sure my fob watch lined up perfectly with the dove on the other side of my powder blue tunic , I was nervous and not only about the care shift , I'd took a massive chance I'd give up my job as a chef to pursue the Divine , to try and end some of the hurt id seen in the world all my life I guess but over the last two years it hurt me it broke my heart I couldn't be a pedestrian to the plights of modern Life . I'd enrolled myself at spurgeons theological college and everybody including myself thought I was crazy and that wasn't the only dramatic change in the last few months my relationship had failed in the most dramatic way and I found myself in the unfamiliar town of Warrington some 20 miles from the church in my last tale. I buttoned up my nurses tunic had one last glance in the mirror drowned myself in issey miyake if nothing else I looked and smelt the part I thought I pulled on my helmet and hit the road . I was heading to a place called the Turner home my head phones in my helmet directed me sending me down the m62 and then through Liverpools many terraces and built up areas factory's takeaways blue motorway signs sandwiched many layers of thoughts motorcycle riding gives lots of time for thought sometimes to much . As I pondered what awaited me when I got there , in no time at all i was I turned into a carpark and was presented with a rather imposing building of red stone which I couldn't get in to ! Everything was secure which isn't unusual in itself but this building was very different from any nursing home I'd seen before . I walked round a few of the doors looking for the entrance until eventually a member of staff saw me wandering round aimlessly in my leathers , great I thought just the start I need to this new job . I entered through the fobbed door into a small staff room the high ceilings of what I now know to be 18th century were imposing I walked along the main corridor noticing a door to my left above it was some ornate carved wood which read " rest in the Lord " a nod to the psalms I took some encouragement from that and remembered exactly why I was doing this . Feeling reassured and calmed somewhat i made my way along the corridor it was a lot to take in there was a marble sculpture of the homes founders. it didn't feel like any care home I'd ever been to before and it wasn't just the ornate architecture there was a different energy about the place . I finally made my way to where the staff were allocating work nurses were chattering about medication and diagnosis as I tried to make my way in without drawing attention to myself I put my arm on a wheelchair nearly falling into a filing cabinet in the process ! What a start I thought . A few weeks had passed I found myself in a conference room in Birmingham sat with other Christians exploring ideas theory's and philosophys debating creation the early church the Reformation completing 4000 word essays reading the likes of n.t wright exploring the Christian faith in an entirely new way I felt completely out of my depth yet compelled to learn more I felt as if someone had given me a prism and allowed me to see the light in a completely different way. however the more answers I found two more popped up in it's place (and long may that continue ) my faith was evolving and changing faster than I could keep up ideas of penal substitution and vicarious representation rocked my faith as now I wasn't simply following my faith which had illuminated my life but I was trying to grasp and explain it with little success To compound this issue My moving to Warrington had also thrown up logistical questions about where I attended church I found myself bouncing from place to place from charismatic Evangelical Church's to more traditional settings however soon both these problems would seem irrelevant and at the same time even more relevant than they had ever been . The taste of pulled pork lingered in my mouth I picked up my ice cold beer and washed down what remained of my pub lunch I made my way to the busy bar to order and amused myself by laughing and joking with a toddler and her mum at the bar my phone rang and it was my closest friend George , she was sick very sick I broke down I didn't know at this point my big sister by all but blood would lose her short battle with illness in 8 weeks I broke down I was lost for days. And I felt a great responsibility to not only to help George but her family as well . The emotions I felt go beyond words I went to see George a few times over the coming weeks and im so grateful to have shared in those times with her and to have shared in her life ♥️ . In the midst of this tragic situation my work load at the Turner home increased as did there level of trust in me and by some strange co-incidence * (I don't believe in coincidence ) they had a chapel attached to the nursing home. the management wondered if due to my training with spurgeons college I would lead the Christmas service there and of course I accepted what an honor what a wonder . And it filled George with pride also this is Keith he's going to be a minister she beamed even in her chronic and dehabilatating illness . And it was shortly after this my beautiful friend lost her battle , I prayed that god may use me mightily to heal and help in that situation and I hope beyond hope I did . On the day of George's funeral the minister a softly spoken blonde haired marvel who the joy even in this hard situation it just flowed from her and I knew from the warm embrace I received on that the sadest of days that she was going to be very special to me . We messaged many times over the coming days about George and the tragedy that befall her as well as the Divine in general and we developed a close bond . I consulted with jean often over the coming service I explained that I was really struggling as the service id written wasn't traditional at all in fact I was so worried in the end I wrote two services i sat up night after night editing reading editing and re editing it was at this point jeans support was invaluable in all this . I am eternally grateful for all the people that took the time to help me with that sermon . in the blink of an eye the day of the service was upon me , I opted for the 2nd sermon I'd written the liberal one . I practiced and practiced and the morning of the service I again put on my trusty gold dove but this time in a suit not a nurses tunic a few sprays off issey miyake and I was on the road at least I looked the part I thought . The organ player arrived with minutes to spare and the chapel quickly filled residents carers nurses family members even my brother and one of Georginas best friends even typing this makes my heart race !!! I'm sure George would of been proud of me and im certain she was there in spirit In the beginning was the word ...... Light and darkness was my theme with hints to the pagan roots of Christmas , and in a flash it was all over I survived by the grace of god !!! For my friend george x

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