I finished sixth form in 2007 as an atheist. Really, a very firm atheist. The idea of a God was laughable to me, let alone the concept of a relationship with him. From sixth form I headed to the Academy of Contemporary Music for what I’d planned to be a gap year to earn a diploma in electric guitar. All my friends went to university and most people commuted to Guildford, so very quickly I was left feeling very alone.
A few miserable months later I went to collect my A Level certificates and ended up deep in conversation with the father of one of my close friends in school; I hadn’t seen this friend for months. He told me about how he (his name is Hudson) was volunteering for a year at the church he attended and that they were hosting a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition on the following Friday. Hudson’s dad also said me that I should go and surprise him. I agreed. Not that I expected much. A church?! I had no idea Hudson was quite so into all of that mumbo-jumbo.
Sophie (my girlfriend at the time) and I headed to a building called ‘The Kerith Centre’ and walked into the main auditorium. To put it bluntly, it was not what I expected. Bright lights, cameras and incredibly loud rock music was what we walked in on and all in a building that looked anything like the stereotype I thought I would be walking into. Hudson and his band, ‘Ethos’ eventually walked onto the stage; other than Hudson himself, they were much younger than I’d anticipated, but the quality was surprisingly good. They were obviously singing about Jesus, but the songs were…modern. Moreover, they were…good?! There was a guitar riff in one of the songs that I was captivated by. It was fantastic! (The song was called ‘Break Free’ by Hillsong). In one evening, my perception of church was transformed. However, my beliefs weren’t. I asked Hudson if we could catch up at some point.
As he wasn’t driving at the time, I drove over to his house to pick him up. However, the busy road that I normally used to get to his house was closed, meaning that the journey with Hudson back to my house that should have taken no more than ten minutes took nearly two hours. Normally, it would be painful..but it wasn’t. I interrogated Hudson about his faith, throwing every question to disprove the existence of God that I could, scoffing at the idea of ‘no sex before marriage’ amongst other things, but I was shocked to hear that he had logical, well-reasoned arguments for every single question I threw at him. I was dumbfounded. In a second evening, my beliefs were shattered and I began to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, there was something more out there. As a trained musician, I offered to come to the youth band rehearsals that Hudson ran in order to help him with the musical quality of the group. If I’m entirely honest, it was also an excellent excuse to spend more time with the best friend that I hadn’t seen for so long.
So in the first week of 2008, I walked through the doors of K2 and into the youth band rehearsal. My first reaction was of disappointment. The band were nowhere near the standard they had been during the ‘Battle of the Bands’. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? They were so young. The average age was about 15 and I was 19. I felt silly. But then all those feelings were overcome with a second reaction; one of acceptance. I was blown away by the openness and inclusiveness of the members in that band. They were so talkative, so encouraging. Some of the people I met that day have literally transformed my life over the last few years. I’ve travelled to various countries and all over the UK with them and now work at Kerith Community Church because of them…if it wasn’t for their friendliness, I have no idea where I would be. I’m so grateful for them.
I continued to play in this band for the next eight months, unsure of my faith but passionate about the people in the band. It became somewhat of an obsession to get those guys to a professional standard. Hudson invited me to a conference called ‘Rocknations’ to play in their own ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. This could be our chance!
There was only one problem.
We needed an original song.
As the only songwriter in the band, Hudson asked me to write a worship song that we could play in the Rocknations competition with the hope of winning and playing on their main stage in front of thousands of people. What an opportunity! I was so unsure about my beliefs at the time that I felt like I threw in all of the Christian clichés I could possibly think of and showed it to Hudson. We only had a matter of days, so we went with it.
Having barely rehearsed, we droved to the north of England and to the Rocknations conference. Lee Layton-Matthews, then the Youth Pastor at Kerith Community Church said to me that he thought God was really going to meet with me this week. I laughed, but didn’t really believe it. But it didn’t really matter whether I believed it or not. On the first night during the worship time, God met with me in the most powerful way. I felt God speak to me for the first time and I can honestly say it changed the trajectory of my life. How could I possibly deny God after that?! He impacted and continues to impact my life in the most phenomenal ways. But that’s not the end…
The following day we gathered to pray for the ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. Praying had taken on a whole new significance for me and as we talked through the lyrics of the song we were about to sing, we were staggered by the lyrics. The lyrics that I’d thrown out in haste turned out to be a precursor to the exact place that I was in the day we sung that song. We never sung that song again, but it was special. I believe that God was speaking prophetically through me at the time, knowing full well what was about to come. It was all I could do to push the tears away. But that’s not the end either…
We also won the competition!!
Now, four years on, I’m the Music Director at Kerith Community Church. My faith defines me and the way I live my life. I have seen so many miracles in the last four years that it’s impossible for me to deny the existence of God, or deny the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross. I’m grateful that I even have a testimony to share with you today! It’s such a privilege!