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'Time to go back to church?'

Power of prayer: Many families believe in the saying ‘a family that prays together, stays together’

FEAR NOT brethren: this isn’t going to be a religious rant. In fact, as a young woman who has (ashamedly) fallen into the bracket of Christians who only find themselves in church for weddings, Christenings and funerals, I have no intention of taking the moral high ground.

But after my sister and I recently attended church on Mother’s Day – much to the delight of my mother, who paraded us around after the service, gleefully telling everyone who’d listen “these are my daughters” – I started thinking: would more young people benefit from going to church?

Like so many black Brits of my generation (pushing 30 and thereabouts), church has become a rarity for me. As a child, my mum would take my sister and I every week; we would attend Sunday school, listen to the subsequent sermon (well, as much of it as we could understand as kids), and even attend church youth groups.

This is a recollection that is mirrored, I’m sure, by countless black Britons (and indeed, non-black Britons) of my age. But despite having childhoods that were firmly rooted in Christian values, many of us hit our adult years – or even our teens – and decided we didn’t fancy going to church any more; certainly not every week when the Sunday lie-in proved so hard to resist.

As a result, many people of my generation have gone on to have their own children and aren’t taking them to church.

They might occasionally ship their young ones off to grandma on a Sunday so that she can take her grandchildren to hear the word of the Lord. But heaven help those parents when their children come home and ask them about what they learned in Sunday school.

Suddenly, mummy and daddy wished they could remember the name of the fella in the Bible who ended up in a lion’s den. And what was that one about Noah putting all those animals in an ark? And why on earth did baby Moses end up floating down the river in a basket? It’s all a blur! (See how much you can remember in our quiz below.)

But beyond the teaching and preaching, church also provided values and a sense of community. When I was younger, if a child misbehaved in church, out of their parent’s sight, they would soon find themselves on the receiving end of brother or sister so-and-so, who wouldn’t think twice about setting the child straight.

In short, discipline wasn’t reserved to just your parents – church was a community where everyone looked out for each other.

Church also stresses the importance of family values. And with society often bemoaning the state of “broken Britain,” surely an institution that encourages families to eat meals together, talk to one another and pray together has to be a good thing?

I found the Mother’s Day sermon at church last week particularly inspiring. I couldn’t help but chuckle as the visiting pastor urged mothers to “tek you children off Facebook and direct them to God’s book!”

After also sympathising with parents whose teenage children “went to a club last night and all now, dem don’t come home yet,” she went on to address more serious issues that some parents face.

“Some of you have children who are in prison,” she said. “Some of you have children who you fear are heading to prison because of the company they keep.”

I admired the fact that the pastor used Mother’s Day to address such issues that the church is often accused of turning a blind eye to. And it was at that point that a woman in the congregation broke down in tears. As the pastor called her to the altar, it became clear that this woman was worried for her own child/children.

The pastor began to pray for the woman and within moments, the tearful mother was joined by her two teenage boys who were also in the congregation.

As the pastor prayed for the whole family, the boys also broke down in tears. By the end of the prayer, the sons hugged their mother and she testified through joyful tears: “I’m really not sure what has happened, but I feel a release. God has helped me.”

No doubt the cynics amongst you will roll your eyes, (assuming you haven’t already flung down the paper in anti-religious rage.) But that service really left me in awe of just how much good the church can do.

Not only did prayer give this worried mother comfort and “release” from the pain that had clearly been burdening her, it also provided a safety blanket for her sons, whose lives she feared for.

Within seconds of the pastor calling for men in the church to help guide these two teens, a young (20-something) male member of the church stepped up and volunteered to be a mentor for the troubled young men.

Now isn’t that the kind of thing our community is always calling for? Role models for our young people, especially our young boys?

So many of us are tired of hearing these seemingly never-ending tales of young boys growing up without father-figures and subsequently finding a ‘family’ in gangs – and role models in gang leaders, who appear to have it all. Could any of these tales have taken a different route if these youngsters had been regularly taken to church from an early age?

Maybe they would have grown up inspired by the fulfilment and sense of aspiration amongst the church members. Perhaps their values would have been shaped differently so they wouldn’t be so easily drawn to ‘man on road’ who endorse criminality in order to get rich fast.

Maybe they’d feel protected and looked out for by their church ‘family’ and not even contemplate the idea of needing to find a ‘family’ within violent/criminal groups.

Maybe they’d have more respect for their elders because they’d be familiar with the concept of being disciplined not just by their parents, but by any church elder.
Church life doesn’t guarantee a perfect life. But I’m certainly grateful that I grew up exposed to Christian values and when I have children, I want the same for them too. Can I get an “Amen”?

l Tell us what you think? Email your thoughts to: davina.hamilton@gvmedia.co.uk

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