I was invited into the home of a man who exudes warmth, friendship and a mysterious depth of character. Despite a devastating recent burglary, and serious health concerns, he smiles and laughs with a light exuberance.
I came to hear his story - that of a man in despair who came into unfathomable love at Christmas. A story of coming home.
Kentish Town is the area Clint grew up in. He was even baptised at St Luke’s as a baby. This has been home for a long time. Beyond that though he did not attend church or have any interest in God. He felt he didn’t need it. His idea of a vicar was a grey haired, Irish, elderly man, reeking of bad aftershave.
A few years ago, Clint had been through a bad breakup which hit him hard, life was looking rather dim. He was drinking more, feeling pretty rubbish about himself, unmotivated and profoundly hopeless. Nothing seemed to lift him out of that horrible darkness, he was just so low. Clint’s dad and brother had invited him to church; but it wasn’t for him.
Christmas was coming up and it was not the hopeful time of love and light that it should have been. Clint’s Dad said there was a Christmas carol service on down the road at the local church; perhaps it would help cheer him up. The last Clint had heard, that place had been shut down for a good 20 years, he didn’t realise it had reopened. With a little arm twisting he decided to go.
But what he found there was nothing at all like he expected. The lights, the music, the people, the singing, the atmosphere. He was blown away by the welcome. The carols were unbelievable. There was even a smorgasbord of mince pies and mulled wine.
That evening during the singing, warmth flooded Clint like he had never known. He felt light, invigorated, energised, like a battery being recharged. He knew it was God. The songs touched him deep inside, really hitting home. He felt God healing him from the hurt and darkness of the past.
From that point on he didn’t look back. With encouragement from his dad Clint attended the Christmas Day service. Then another service, another and another. At Christmas he remembers shutting his eyes during the message, and it was as if the Vicar was talking directly to him, speaking straight into his situation. It just made so much sense; he was someone Clint could relate to. Each time he went to a service he felt that presence, the warmth, the love that he had been looking for. It was like coming home; really home.
After Christmas Clint went on his own to church. It was strange first of all. He met Dave going in one time and felt the love and kindness of people there. Then he met Bee who hugged him – being hugged by a stranger was awkward but amazing. He quickly realised it was a church of worship but also a church of community. He found his extended family here.
Clint says he never knew he needed God in his life at that time. But after going to a few services he felt he had found his home.
His eyes glow as he talks, saying he feels cleansed at church – like everything emptying out of him – all his worries being taken away. Ruefully he mentions how he does cry a lot, emotionally letting things out. He has now married his fantastic wife Sally. He also has found a loving home with God.
“If it wasn’t for my dad taking me there at Christmas, I may not have ever gone to church and met God. I’ve lost nothing and gained everything in my eyes. That’s the best present for me.”
Each year as the carols come around, Clint feels that special place in his heart for St Luke’s.
He says you haven’t got to be a staunch Christian to come along to the carols services, just give it a go.