It is the end of college term and I have appeared with a rucksack and a guide dog at a Christian community house. This was a planned trip, I know someone who lives here and in need of somewhere to stay I took her up on her offer of a bed.
The house is large, almost like a stately home, with five acres of green space spanning it’s perimeter. On entering I was ushered through a bustling kitchen and into a room of many chairs. I had previously thought that a psychiatrist’s office is the place with the most chairs in this world, but this room was serious competition. I was directed to a large leather sofa facing the centre of the circle of chairs. I had been guided by the hand of T, a Northern man who I initially thought had a verbal tic; he seemed to say ‘bless you’ between every sentence. We talk about the city we both coincidentally come from and I am introduced briefly to the many faces coming through the room conveyer-belt styli.
I started to become aware that the people around me were intensely kind. They were interested in my story and my view of faith. Everyone ate together in the room of many chairs, starting with the grace accompanied by guitar and then everyone being served from large pots fresh from the kitchen. It reminded me of brownie and guide camps from the past.
Over the ten days I got to know all the residents in the community. I made friends and got into the routine of living in such a big group. Everyone refers to each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ so this makes it feel even more family like, though a family of twenty plus people would be pretty impressive. Staying in such a religious environment was great as it gave me an opportunity to ask all of my questions about christianity. I also learnt how to knit, bake many cookies in one go, walked in sunshine, sang and played the guitar.
On sundays two meetings were attended. One was for the ‘serious and committed’ christians. Everyone was hugging and dancing, at first I found it slowly overwhelming and felt personally that the sermons were too overbearing. I viewed this meeting as an outsider, so instantly felt a bit removed from the praising. However the second sunday meeting was for those who needed ‘milk not meat’. This I found a lot better, I felt I could join in more and I could follow the sermon easier. I have always loved modern christian music and hearing so many people belting out the words was very powerful.
I also met and played with some lovely children who are growing up surrounded in this environment. I asked one eight year old what the best part of community was, and she said: “There’s always someone to play with”. Noodle had a good time, being generally adored by all and playing with the other guide dog in the house. Overall an amazing experience.