I Don’t Do Religion

“I don’t do religion” they say,
“I’m not religious” they retort, and I reply, “No I don’t either”.
The look on their faces when I say this (and mean it), “but, but, you must, mustn’t you?”
“No”, I reply.
Many people are religious but being religious can just be religiously doing something, like knocking on wood, having a very stable routine or religiously going to the gym. Some of us musicians religiously practice our scales (mmm).

When religion, kills, maims, tortures, represses and leaves people without any hope then I don’t want to know. What I have is a faith, not one that I will preach down your throats (unless you ask or turn up to a service), neither will I judge you for being who you are or what your life has been.

It’s not where you have been that matters it matters where you are going.
What I mean by that is that we all have a path and if we have chosen the wrong one or life has dealt us a bad hand we should all help each other to find the right path, give a helping hand and a kindly nudge on our way. Time is also far too short to have religious differences. If we look back in history religion hasn’t done itself a lot of favours has it? When did religious wars get its name, for me the two words shouldn’t go together?

Congregationalism came about through civil war. Those that disagreed with the Church dissented. We were the non-conformists that said no to war, no to being part of a corrupt church and state. Congregationalists ordained the first woman minister, Constance Coleman. This year we celebrates that anniversary and also the anniversary of Martin Luther pinning the 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church on October 31, 1517. What came out of the Reformation for the non-conformists was a sense of community, being church not just going to church or doing what is seen but to do what is needed for the whole community in love with no other motive.

I was asked just yesterday what kind of Minister I was and what my strengths are. Well, what I’m not is an accountant, plumber, painter decorator, computer scientist, man of all the answers, one that can please everyone, I’m not a very good time keeper, I have a terrible memory, and I’m not an administrator or organiser. So looks like I’m good for nothing really…. but am I? I have love, empathy, compassion, I am driven, outward looking and out of the box thinker, a musician, I’m an entertainer and like to make people smile, open minded, want to see people achieve and encourage others to do so. I am nearly academic and I’m a teacher. I love people and have a great compassion for the local community. So that’s what I am, ‘a community minister, The Rocking Reverend.

So, what is my vision, my mission, my goal? It is to bring a community together using the resources that I have. We are not a big congregation at the Congregational Church and neither are most of them, we hang on in there by our teeth. We may not be big but the people have big hearts and a bigger vision of how to grow. My favourite saying is, “Preach the Gospel every day, use words if necessary”.

Our church has been hidden for years, many of you have told me that you didn’t even know we existed. It’s not all about religion or preaching or converting, evangelising, yes it is part of my vocation but when it’s needed, the rest of the time it should be about community and giving out the love. I have seen in the past few years that Wivenhoe people are very good at that and I want to be part of it.

My vision also includes making the Church a Community Centre, youth group, food bank, soup kitchen, wedding venue and music venue. How could you be involved in this exiting adventure? You don’t need to be religious but if you have faith in your town and its community let’s do it together in love. Have you any ideas of what we can do? Do you have a gift that I described that I don’t have? Would you like to volunteer? Can you cook, mend, tidy? Are you an artist a musician, administrator that can help? Do you have ideas for the community, clubs we can put on, activities for the youth, training for the youth so that they learn some skills and are appreciated? Music nights, film nights, themed days, table top sale, arts exhibition, poetry club, comedy club, day time activities?

Maybe you would like to hire the church or hall, or both to put on your own event or we can help you in the organisation. We have a lovely building and resources and I don’t want it to be lost as so many Free Church buildings are today. How do you grow a community, well I say take it to the people in ways that benefit all in that community.

Are you in with me? Please get in touch, I would love to hear from you either by the forum, email, telephone or in person.


Author: Justin

A former professional musician and music teacher, I am now the full time Minister at the Church. I am also the chaplain for Harwich Horse Rangers, Wivenhoe RBL, and the Colchester Homeless Shelter. If you see me rolling around in my wheelchair, give me a shout and I will be happy to buy you a coffee or have a chat.Ask me about: Music, Disability Theology

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