Around the age of 16, I joined a Baptist Church youth club, mainly because I had started to take an interest in the opposite sex and I was told that this was the place to be on a Friday night in Luton. Strangely, it seemed that you were sort of expected to turn up on the occasional Sunday night as well, so I did – occasionally.
It was at the youth club that I met Sue and we dated, got engaged and married – nearly 40 years ago. It was a defining moment! But what I didn’t fully realise at the time was that I was marrying into a family for whom their Christian faith was so important, then I gradually began to discover that they had ‘something’ special that sustained Sue and her sisters and parents through every event in their lives. … So I had a perfect example of what the Christian faith should be like, but still I didn’t hear God talking to me.
The next defining moment for me was at 10:15 pm on June the 18th 1997. By then I was working for myself as a partner in a management consultancy and due to travel to Brussels that evening to stay in a hotel prior to spending the next day with one of my clients. As I was preparing to leave home, the client ‘phoned me to ask if I could postpone the visit, as they had some unexpected problems, and I reluctantly agreed. At 10:15 I collapsed with a brain haemorrhage, was rushed to Broomfield. Had I been by myself in my hotel room in Brussels, instead of at home with Sue and Joanne, the consequences are obvious, I wouldn’t have survived.
6 weeks later having made a speedy recovery, I was waiting to see the surgeon for what became my final appointment and noticed the patient before me limp slowly out of the consulting room dragging her leg and leaning heavily on her husband for support. The surgeon called me in, gave me the all clear and told me how lucky I had been, firstly to survive, and then to recover so completely. He mentioned that the previous patient had suffered an almost identical haemorrhage to mine 6 months before me, and would probably never improve much more.
From that time, I had a strong feeling that I had survived for a reason and remember saying to Sue that I would like to go to church to say ‘thank you’, but I wasn’t sure who I should say it to. I still didn’t hear God talking to me. I’m not sure what I expected – was it that there would be a sudden enormous flash of light and God would descend from heaven in a chariot surrounded by angels to talk to me? So I carried on as normal, working hard and putting religion on the back burner.
I had always been a regular churchgoer – you can’t get more regular than once a year, at Christmas, can you? And 2 or 3 Christmas’s ago; part of the service included a short piece on the subject of ‘Is the story of Christ the most wonderful truth or the most terrible lie?’ It struck a nerve with me and I went away thinking that if it was indeed the most wonderful truth, then maybe I should do something about it. I didn’t, of course, I was far too busy doing other things, but nonetheless this was another defining moment for me and the question kept nagging away at my subconscious.
Each year for the last 6 years, I have taken a week off to have a walking holiday with 3 old friends – it gets more like ’The Last of the Summer Wine’ each year. One day last year, we set off from Edale for a day’s walk in changeable weather, walked for a few miles in beautiful rolling countryside; had an exhilarating climb up a path called Jacob’s Ladder, with wonderful views; then crossed some miles of peat bog in bleak conditions during which one of our number fell in up to his chest and had to be pulled out – quite an ordeal; finally we turned for home, the sun came out and the views again were breathtaking. I felt that we had been through the complete repertoire of scenery and emotion that day. On this last stretch home, I detached myself from the others and called Sue to inform her that there was indeed a God. This of course was no surprise to her (she had actually mentioned the fact to me once or twice over the previous 40 years), what surprised her more was my request to her to get me enrolled on the Alpha course starting in October.
The last defining moment for me … when I made my commitment to Christ.
My final comment is this – don’t be too busy doing other things in your life so that you don’t have time to consider the most wonderful truth. Take time out before you get to 61 if possible, or if you are over 61, you’d better get on with it quickly!!
— Barry Linger on the occasion of his baptism.
Central Baptist Church Chelmsford is a community church which is open seven days a week. We are a Bible-believing Baptist church with a multicultural and all-age congregation.
You can find out more about us here.