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Finding Out More

Try a Book
We think a really good book for someone who doesn't mind reading a bit is our friend Michael Lloyd's Café Theology - Michael was Doctrine Tutor at St Stephen's House in Oxford, where the Rector studied, and is now Principal of Wycliffe Hall theological college after a sojourn in the City of London as Vicar of St Andrew's Holborn. Café Theology gives you an overview of Christian doctrine from somebody who understands doubt and depression. It even has the odd joke. 
You can also download our own 'Farncombe Catechism', a straightforward guide to Anglican doctrine based on the most recent Catechism, by clicking on the picture.

Try the Bible
The Bible isn't a magic text. It's a collection of ancient documents - myth, history, poetry, letters, biography - that tells the unfolding story of God's relationship with the human race. Most Christians believe - in a weaker or stronger sense - that God speaks to us through it, that is, he has made sure that what he wants said has been said. He's revealed himself to us primarily in Jesus Christ, but the Bible is the witness statement about Jesus. It's a fascinating story, if nothing else.

Have a read of it. Cover to cover, if you can. It seems a bit daunting, but at a couple of chapters a day (and there are bits that it does you no harm to skim through) it'll take you 18 months or so. Much of people's Bible reading these days comes through books which provide little excerpts and reflections for the day; but that doesn't bring you a sense of the story of humanity's developing awareness through history of what God is like. I found the Bible was a wonderful landscape to be discovered, and far richer and more complex than I'd imagined.

Try a Church
People often say, 'You don't have to go to church to be a Christian'. There's something a bit odd when someone claims the faith of Jesus yet doesn't feel the need to express it in worship with other Christians. Our relationship with God isn't just as individuals enjoying his company wherever we happen to be. We aren't complete without other people; God calls us into community, and the Christian community is where we learn how to love and act lovingly, because none of us has the resources to understand everything on our own.

So, find a church. Don't do what a lot of people do, and continually shop around to find one that suits you perfectly, because there won't be one. Don't turn up at a church and continually have an eye on the one down the road which might suit you better. Every church will have liturgy which occasionally makes you cringe, people who you don't like or who clearly don't take the faith they profess on board at all, or just sour coffee after the service. You won't get everything you want. (And God may rather want you there to start providing for that church the very thing it lacks!) The important thing is to find a community of Christians who are attempting, probably quite inadequately but in hope and faith, to follow Jesus Christ, and become committed to that community. We hope that will be your local Anglican parish church (even, perhaps, St John's), but it may not be. Don't worry if you don't believe it all at first. God calls you and wants you there no matter how strong or weak your faith is. If you're baptised, you've every right to be there even if you're a heretic; and if you're in England, your Anglican parish church is there for you to use. You can join in with as much or as little of the services as you feel able. For most people, we find, belonging comes before belief.

Try Praying
Get started talking to God. Try to say in your own words whatever's on your mind. It doesn't have to be eloquent, and it doesn't have to be overflowing with wonderful sunny feelings. God wants to talk to the real you, not some assumed identity based on what you might think you should be like. If this is a bit much for you at the moment, start with the Lord's Prayer or something else hallowed by tradition: that'll free you up to pray through the words, rather than worrying about coming up with something impressive. As you go on, a mixture of the structured and the spontaneous is a good idea.

Try and get a rhythm going. Discipline in praying - praying something whether you feel like it or not - is really helpful in the long run. So say a prayer when you get up and before you go to bed, and try not to let anything else interfere with that time of contact with God, however short it is. Later on you may like to try some sort of Office (a structured time of prayer with Bible readings).

As you go on, things will change. Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed with a sense of God's presence; sometimes nothing will happen at all. Sometimes you will feel so miserable and desolate the words will hardly come, let alone any Godly thoughts or feelings. Sometimes (if you try meditating for a while) you'll be tired and nod off. That doesn't matter. Talk to someone who seems as though they might know what you're going through, and keep going. 

God's still there and still loves you, whatever you feel. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth'!

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