This is the story of one of our very first members at St Clare’s. A story of how she found us, and left us; a story of angels and of God’s healing love.
It shouldn’t be like this but sometimes it’s very difficult going to church.
Especially if there are tough things happening in your life, if you can’t put things into words, if you don’t feel able to pretend and put on a happy face and do the small talk, if it’s just not appropriate to share your story with anyone and everyone. And furthermore you are finding it difficult to cope with other people’s problems too and it all feels overwhelming.
And yet I knew I wanted and needed to be part of a Christian church but was scared of all that might come with that. Friends gave me a letter about the idea for St Clare’s during the summer of 2017. I felt a pull towards it. Then in the autumn I walked past the shop, looked in the window and loved what I saw, the turquoise wicker chairs, all the blues and greens on the walls, and I wondered if they met on a Sunday? I reached my desk at work nearby and straightaway received a message from someone I had met a few times saying, I’m going to St Clare’s, do you want to come? I was so surprised! I didn’t know this woman well but she knew I was looking for somewhere.
I arrived the following Sunday. Apparently it was just week three of St Clare’s journey and there were only three people there. The ministers, Charlotte and Naomi, and one other young person. But that didn’t freak me out and I felt welcomed and comfortable and above all safe. I loved the simplicity of the service and that there was space to speak, or to stay quiet if that what you wanted. I felt safe, wanted, included, happy!
I also quickly realised that St Clare’s is more than just Sundays. There’s a close community of people there to talk to if you need support. And you can always pop into the shop during the week and generally find Charlotte there and have a cup of tea and a chat.
My highlight of my time at St Clare’s is the Christmas service when my daughter came too and Naomi read the Christmas story whilst throwing chocolates into the group, and then Secret Santa and exchanging gifts with each other. It felt like family time which was wonderful as Christmas has always been a tricky time of year with complex emotions.
I loved bringing friends and family to the church or the shop and felt very proud of St Clare’s and a real sense of shared ownership, especially as I did regular shifts running the shop.
So thank you Charlotte and Naomi for starting this wonderful church and space, for the sense of friendship and family and laughter and creativity you’ve created here, for all of the regulars for being part of my journey and healing, and for the confidence I feel that yes there is a church for me wherever I go.
How will I ever forget that moment one Sunday morning, just over a year after I joined St Clare’s, when after a discussion on angels and their different qualities when we were invited to pick up a scroll from the angel we felt most drawn to. The services are always visual and creative. I took a scroll from the guardian angel bowl as I felt that my daughter and I needed looking after. The scroll said that an angel would protect us as we travelled, and had gone before us to prepare a place for us (Exodus 23 v 20). I’d been starting to feel it was right to move to North Devon to be near family and start again but I hadn’t told anyone yet at church. A truly awesome moment for me and so I blurted out to all, “we’re moving away!”
A couple of months later, in January, we set off straight after our last service at St Clare’s, where we were sent off with a lovely wooden carved bowl and prayers and verses and little gifts to remember all the people at St Clare’s and to remember that Father God is sending us on, and has a place for us ready when we get to where we are going. I can only be in awe and excitement and thankfulness.
Thank you St Clare’s.