by Phil Andrews
I became a member of Isleworth Congregational Church towards the end of the previous millennium, having reconnected with the Church following a chance encounter with the then Secretary Pat Burch in the spring of 1998.
I say “reconnected”, because I had previously been involved with Isleworth Congregational as a teenager back in the 1970s, as a regular attendee at the youth club which we ran in those days on Monday evenings, as well as of what used to be widely known as “Sunday school”, when we enjoyed fellowship and instruction during the latter part of the morning service while the grown-ups sang more hymns and listened to sermons.
Sadly as I headed towards my mid-teens I became estranged from the Church, developing interests in life which were in many respects dark and ruinous. It’s a long story, but one for another day and probably another audience because this article is about Church membership – and that came much later.
An informal discussion
Following my application to become a member of the Church I was invited by Antony in his capacity as Pastor to join him for an informal discussion in the Quiet Room. It wasn’t so much an “interview” as a casual chat, over coffee, but as well as advising me as to the role and responsibilities of a Church member he wanted to be sure that I was joining for all the right reasons.
It was a fair question to ask. When I came back to the Church in 1998 it was for me a moment of great joy and elation. Not only had I closed the circle and was attending Church once again, but I had restored the connection with my Church. After a long and sometimes timorous walk in the spiritual wilderness I was coming “home” at long last.
Thus far so good, but as Pastor he was entitled to know whether becoming a Church member was, for me, indicative of a sincere commitment to God or simply a nostalgia trip. In addition, I had only recently been elected to the local authority as a councillor representing my home community – an event which was at the time the subject of some controversy and indignation. Anybody could have been forgiven a slight suspicion that I was looking for a badge of “respectability” to add to my CV. All I can say is that I hope my years of commitment to the Church following that meeting, and my subsequent acceptance into membership, will have provided some reassurance on these fronts.
A great honour and a fresh responsibility
Becoming a member of Isleworth Congregational Church was both a great honour and a fresh responsibility. As a member I was expected to attend meetings on a monthly basis, and to take part in the decision-making process when it comes to the day-to-day management of the Church. This includes matters of great spiritual and organisational import as well as some of the more bread-and-butter issues, from which colour to paint the skirtings to which brand of bun we should purchase for after-service refreshments. As Congregationalists it is both our right and our duty to opine on such fundamental questions.
For those who attend our Church on a regular basis, I would suggest that to consider applying for membership would be a natural and logical next step. It is your Church, why should you not have a say in its development and its processes?
For our part, we would love to see you become more involved. We lose Church members from time to time – through death, incapacity, or just folks moving on to sunnier climes – and if we are to continue to manage the Church effectively it is both sensible and indeed essential that they are replaced. More than that, having new people come along to our meetings will provide refreshing new ideas and new perspectives upon the work that we do. For our part, we would be foolish not to welcome such ideas and to consider ourselves strengthened by them.
If this is you, please don’t hesitate any longer. Speak to one of the deacons, or indeed any of the existing members, and let’s set the wheels in motion soon. We already enjoy your company on Sundays, we really do look forward to hearing your ideas and opinions too.