It was on Christmas Eve, 1971 that I finally came to faith in Christ in a conscious way. I knew that something had happened to me following what can only be described as a heart response to the gospel message I had heard clearly articulated, perhaps for the first time.
From that moment it was as if I was living in a totally different world from before. I had been born again just as Jesus described in his encounter with Nicodemus recorded in the third chapter of John’s Gospel. Everything was new, both inside my heart, and in the world outside. I found meaning and purpose everywhere. I felt as if I was getting to know Jesus Christ personally. Some weeks later, I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit in a charismatic prayer group that met in a basement flat just off Earls Court Road. Then, I was introduced to a remarkable church called Kensington Temple and was baptised there in April 1972, by Eldin Corsie, the Senior Pastor at that time. I was now an eighteen year-old Spirit-filled, water-baptised, tongues-talking, Jesus freak with a passionate call to preach the gospel, reach the lost, heal the sick and see the multitudes come to Christ! If that seems presumptuous to you – don’t worry, I agree! God had many lessons to teach me, and I’m still learning.
Not long after joining KT I was sitting at the back of the downstairs section of the main part of the church building. The service was over and people were beginning to move from their seats. I closed my eyes and began to pray, asking God when this great “call” I had received was going to be actualised in my experience. I remember the sheer thrill I felt inside when I hear him speak to my heart: “Now! Your time is now!” I opened my eyes expecting a sign, an explosive demonstration of power. Instead, I saw a something that brought a sombre, yet undeniable realisation into my over-eager heart. An old man was struggling to pick up the hymnbooks left strewn on the floor. It was the days before overhead projectors and video enhancement monitors, and indeed, decades before giant LED screens. We actually had to hold hymn books in our hands! Dougie, an elderly deacon, seemed to be single-handedly responsible for picking them up after the Sunday services. I knew I had found my ministry. Still in the Royal Ballet, I became the most graceful picker-up of hymnbooks in London!
I do not believe that the Lord would have allowed me to take further steps in ministry until I had learned the importance of humility, availability and servanthood. Soon I enrolled in a theological training college in the city of Cambridge. After two years I joined a drug and alcohol ministry, based in Clapham, London and supported by Kensington Temple. It was run by John and Dawn Harris, members and ministers of KT. Lyndon Bowring, Eldin Corsie’s assistant at KT, was the chaplain. We enjoyed the challenge of this demanding work and I felt my experience there vindicated my decision to leave the Royal Ballet and serve God through more specialised Christian ministry.
During this time a new member joined Kensington Temple. Her name was Amanda and she had recently taken up an important nursing post in Queen Charlotte hospital. Of course, I felt obliged to make sure she felt welcome in her new church! We married shortly after that. Well, the Bible says that we should not quench the Spirit!
It was now 1979, and not only was I newly-married but I had received an invitation to join Eldin Corsie and help stand in the gap left by Lyndon Bowring who had taken up another post. Lyndon subsequently become the Executive Chairman of CARE (a Christian trust specialising in Christian action, research and education). Lyndon remains officially on the staff of KT and he and his wife Celia are still an active part of our church.
Assisting Eldin Corsie was a delight as I began to learn about pastoral ministry. I found the behind the scenes work as challenging as the platform preaching and teaching that I was allowed little by little to take on. I learned how to visit the elderly, care for the poor, counsel troubled people who dropped into to the church reception area day by day and generally to pastor the sheep. There was not a big team around us and nearly all the responsibilities fell on the two of us. There were some challenges and many joys. Eventually, I applied to the Elim ministry and was accepted into formal training for the ministry.
However, my ministerial training took on a surprising turn. In 1980, Eldin Corsie became Elim’s General Superintendent and KT found itself with a new pastor. His name was Wynne Lewis. Not many months later, I found myself beginning four years in exile from KT, as Wynne insisted that I needed to experience the hot seat of sole responsibility in church leadership. This was his way of encouraging me to take on the pastorate of an Elim church in the South of England.
I had no real choice in the matter and was disappointed to be away from the church I loved, but the years in the Winton Elim church taught me much and it was an opportunity both to mature in ministry and to do further study. I gained my Bachelor of Divinity as an external student of London University. The slightly slower pace of a provincial pastorate facilitated this next stage of my intellectual development. I did not know, however, that God had still greater lessons for me to learn. These were certainly not merely intellectual.
Next month I will continue this story and tell about the remarkable things that took place in the KT of the 1980s.