Bishop Explains How Her 'Extraordinary' Experience Of The Love Of God Inspired Her
The Bishop of Newcastle, England, Christine Hardman has shared her personal testimony, and how her 'extraordinary' experiences of God and community inspired her convictions about church today.
Speaking on the Church of England's 'Stories Worth Sharing' programme, Bishop Hardman said that her own story of coming to faith is 'almost at the heart of everything I do. It's how God has touched my life, and that's been extraordinary.'
Hardman grew up on a council estate in the 1950s. Near her home, she said, 'There was a church on the corner of the estate, but it didn't touch the lives of our family, and I don't think it touched the lives of anyone else I know either.'
After the birth of her second child however, Hardman was provoked to reflect more on questions of God and the meaning of life.
'I think when you have children, you do start to ask some of the deeper questions. The question that came to me was, "Is life, in essence, with no meaning, or is there a deeper more profound meaning in everything that we do?"
'That question started to nag away at me. At about the same time, I had an extraordinary experience of God...I was looking at a tree and the sunlight glistening through it, and I felt bathed by God's love. I knew I could explain that away - that would be easy - but I knew also that I'd be doing something almost to betray my own soul if I did that.'
Hardman was then inspired to see what church was about. She said she took her four-year-old daughter 'as an excuse to go into our local church'.
'I encountered there an extraordinarily warm vibrant worshiping community full of welcome, and a deep conviction about the good news. That was the start of the journey.'
Her experience has shaped her personal convictions about the important of welcome in Christian community.
'As a bishop I continue to reflect, what would have happened if I had gone into that church and it was dreary, boring, unwelcoming, would I have ever gone back? And that's a very frightening question.
'I'm always saying, it really matters what people encounter, when they pluck up the courage to come through the doors of our churches.'
Hardman went from her initial discovery of faith to deep involvement in the church, and an interest in theology. She pursued a call to become a Deaconess in the church. Now as the Bishop of Newcastle, she leads the shaping of the whole diocese, with an interest in '24/7 discipleship' and honouring 'every member of the body of Christ.'
Hardman seeks to encourage a 'confidence in significance of love of God for each one of us [so] that we are seeking to find ways to share that truth in ways that resonate with people'.
Her diocese is launching the 'growing church, bringing hope' initiative, which she explains in the video above.
She said: 'Unless we crack this one, of lay and ordained people working together, we will not be able to serve with God to the fullest that we can.'