My name is Andy Clark, I’m 37 years old and I’ve recently been appointed as the new minister of Chessington Methodist Church. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for the wonderful welcome I have received among you over the last few weeks. Moving to a new area can be daunting but it has been made much easier by seeing so many friendly faces. I have learned a few names too, but it will take a while so please forgive me if I’m still getting yours wrong!
I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, moved when I was 2 to Cheadle Hulme, not too far from Manchester (and became a Manchester United fan), and then moved to Nottingham where I spent my teenage years. Not having a glittering school career in Nottingham, I got a job as a shelf stacker working for the Co-op. It had never been my dream job, but it proved to be the best move I had ever made. I worked hard and enjoyed my work and, as a result, had a better Co-op career than school career.
Having moved away from the church as a teenager, it was while I was at Co-op that I really felt something was missing in my life. I tried numerous ways of filling this gap but all failed and I began to wonder if church was something to do with it. One Sunday night I went along to a local church. I was the last one in and the first one out and although nothing magic happened I felt led to go along again the next week.
Some of the songs, and some of the things the preacher said began to stay with me throughout the week when I went to work. This went on for a while until I was invited to join an Alpha course which was held in the home of a young couple who went to the church. The course talked about the potential of living in a relationship with God. I had always believed in God but somehow the course gave me the chance to think about faith in a way I hadn’t done before.
It was several weeks after the Alpha course, and after a sustained attempt to live what I thought was a Christian life, that I happened across a book by John Stott which spoke of nominal Christianity. It defined nominal Christianity as that which thinks Christianity is about ‘what I do.’ The writer went on to explain that at its core Christianity is not about what we do but it’s about what has been done for us. Over time I began to realise that no matter how hard I tried there was no way I would ever deserve the love that was freely offered to me by Christ. Accepting this, I accepted Christ as my saviour and gave my life to over to Him.
Since then, I have not so much walked gracefully with Christ, as I have stumbled, limped and crawled! But again and again I have come back to the forgiveness and loving presence of Christ, and again and again I have been thankful for the sense of purpose that comes from following Him.
I come to Chessington after studying at Cliff College and the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, and working as a student minister in Middlesbrough, before serving for 10 years in Birmingham. In my spare time I enjoy football, food (not leeks), and walks with my dog Max.
This is some of my story -I look forward to hearing some of yours!
Yours in Christ,
Rev Andy Clark