After becoming a regular member of this quiet & beautiful church in the well known town Guildford, Surrey, UK, I was invited to write a article for the church of my experience here and this was what I had given them.
Thanks Father Andrew for this nice little opportunity.
I am Monish Matthias, if you can’t recollect who I am; it’s not your fault. I am the person who hijacks the church warden’s chair at the back of the church and runs out headlong once church gets over only to find Father Andrew’s smiling face, warm handshake and nice words of comfort.
Let me give you some background information, An Indian, came here initially for 6 months (Feb 2008) on work which is now extended by 6 months and I expect to be on my way back soon. I was born in the southern land of spices in a state called TamilNadu. The chance to come to the UK was a dream come true as Europe and in particular, the UK always had a special place in my dreams and in my country’s history
The first few days sped by predictably in acclimatizing to the cold. I spent many hours in trying many different ways to keep myself warm ,Suddenly, hibernation in the animal kingdom made perfect sense!. As I started exploring Guildford, the beauty of Guildford started unraveling itself in the most poetic and subdued manner, the cobbled high street of Guildford was a marvelous piece of work and especially seeing St Nicolas Church and the mount behind it was worth many photographs to be taken.
In Chennai, we are members of St Georges Cathedral, a beautiful English-built church built in the 18th century. Like many children I have also feigned sickness, tiredness and tried other tricks in the book to evade my dad and mom waking me up for attending the early morning church service at 7:30 AM. Matters improved somewhat once I started attending Sunday school ( with all the chocolates and gifts from my Sunday school teachers), However, year end exams there as well seemed to put a temporary end to my affection for Sunday school classes. However over the years, with Gods presence and blessings I have now morphed into a regular church attendee. Despite 100% Sunday church attendance remaining a far dream, I console myself with the thought of aspiring to 100% commitment in DESIRING to go to church and pray.
Despite being a resident at recreation road with many churches close by, I used to walk down to St Nicolas church. I recall being filled with nervousness on my first visit as I was fresh in the UK and hadn’t got a hang of local cultural habits, .I walked in, occupied a seat in the last row like a school student imagining he has maximum security and fun when farthest from the teacher! The church looked beautiful and I reminded myself that I was fortunate to be in such a beautiful old church in a country where Christianity roots are so well spread. Then service started and I was instantly calmed. The service is similar to the service back home, the biggest change being the peace offering that we give each other here. Back home, the members of the choir carry the peace to each row and pass it to the first member and they in turn pass it on to the next person in the same row. Here when I saw people greet each other with no particular order, my heart missed a few beats again as I was under the impression that only familiarity bespoke greetings and I knew none then but some people were kind enough to offer their peace handshakes and I instantly was put to ease. Thank you, all once again for your warm and welcoming ways!
At end of service, I started to walk out and was instantly spotted by Father Andrew. Recognizing me to be a newcomer, he warmly asked about me and made me feel instantly welcome and wanted in the new church. Such small gestures really make a person feel good. This is also essentially different from the Indian churches as we have more than 500 – 1000 visitors on an average crowded Sunday church service. It would take the church father a couple of hours to speak to each one of us individually. A highlight of my church worship in the UK has been Father Andrew’s visit to my house on two occasions. I felt both humbled and happy to have the church father visit me at home especially when he knew that I would be around for a short time. Other cherished memories will be that of the young kids playing and creating the much desired fun atmosphere, the senior members who have asked me for my name and made me feel welcome. This church made me feel so at home that I had invited a friend Shashank from India to experience a church service (Easter vigil service) here. Though he practices a different religion he loved the experience. Some of the best churches I have seen are our St Nicolas Church Guildford, Notre Dame Paris, St Georges Chapel Windsor, St Georges Cathedral India and Christ Church Oxford. I am sure this church will rise to great glory under the Lords blessings, Father Andrew’s leadership and the great commitment of each church member. I will remember you all in my prayers and do give me a call / mail when you visit India. I am sure all of you would love India and the different culture there; I extend my warmest welcome to all of you to visit India. Looking forward to spend a happy Christmas with all of you and advance wishes for a lovely run up to Christmas and a happy Christmas.