BLUE PLASTIC & POLISHED WOOD
I sat on a blue padded plastic pew cover, with the smell of polished wood wafting through the air and a pleasant feeling of peacefulness, even though, as a ten year old my life was full of strange complexities that I found hard to fathom.
Our modest rented home on the South Circular Road always seemed massive to me, full of people coming and going through the large front door. Returning some years later as a young adult, my wide eyed view of life at 31, Thurlow Park Road was placed in perspective – now a rather small and dismal place. The wall running up to the front door was nowhere near as high as I’d remembered in those heady days when I sat there with Wendy Rose trying to make intelligent conversation about how Dinky Toy Cars were better than Corgis!
Anyway, back to the blue plastic pew.
I looked up, and there was my hero. Frank Goodwin was a man of great stature, standing at least eight feet tall with a large black preaching gown and a full, gleaming white dog collar round his neck. There is something about that first hero in your life that seems to carry a lifelong impact. Heros come and go, and inevitably fall off their man made pedestals, their followers left in bewilderment and despair. But not the Revd Goodwin. He floated in and out of Chatsworth Baptist Church in a whirlwind of light and love that seemed to waft over everyone within 100 yards of his presence! When he prayed, we all knew we were being transported into the presence of Almighty God, because he prayed from the heart. He preached that way too. No notes, no tele-prompt.
It was during these days when I was tentatively exploring the meaning of life, asking all the questions that 10 year olds ask, that I discovered a God who loved me. When Revd Goodwin spoke, he made God real, tangible, alive. You felt that you could easily reach out and embrace a huge God and hold Him in the palm of your hand, as you would a personal possession. Not that you could ever possess God. But in my childlike understanding, God was so real I could hold Him.
Most people like to make God in their own image, He is more manageable that way. It was never like that for me. And yet He was right there, in every breath, at every turn, in each question. I think I must be extremely fortunate, because this impression of God has never left me, throughout my life. Of course there have been times when God has seemed far away, but even in the most desperate times of life I have turned around and bumped into the eternal God once again.
My life experience of God has been that He has held me in the palm of His hand, especially in the desperate times, when all seemed lost.
This is an image that I have carried since childhood, because at the front of Chatsworth Baptist Church was a large pulpit designed in the shape of an arm coming down from heaven, with the hand forming the place where the preacher stood to speak out God’s message.
My hero, Revd Goodwin presented me with a God who cares. This God, revealed in Jesus Christ, captivated my mind and captured my heart. I have a new hero now.