The difference a church can make
Faith Bowers on the impact of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church's support for her son Richard throughout his 50 years
Our son Richard, known to many in the Baptist community, celebrates his half century this June. At the dedication service, when he was six weeks old, a rather floppy baby with Down’s Syndrome for which the prognosis then given to parents was dismal, our prayer was that God would somehow make his life useful - because it seemed that rearing him would demand great effort for little achievement. At that service we became keenly aware of the Bloomsbury Church’s promise of support for this child. That corporate promise has never wavered, although few there now were present 50 years ago.
In the early years the church was the only place beyond the immediate family where he was always allowed to be an individual, just Richard, rather than constantly stereotyped as ‘one of those children’. He was made welcome in the Sunday School and as a child began to join in various church activities. Patient people made the extra effort to help him, so Richard grew up loving the church, enjoying worship, especially hymns, and feeling valued within that community.
Aged 16, he asked for baptism ‘because I love Jesus’. We were grateful that ministers and church members assured us this was appropriate: it is unfair to ask parents to assess such a youth’s faith. He has taken church membership seriously, seeking opportunities to serve. His friendship with successive ministers helped him develop his own devotional life. We were surprised once to be told that his Bible was ‘no good’ - because the much-used Psalms had fallen out!
How much the church has done for Richard really struck us when, as an adult, he joined classes at a Further Education college with a new department for adults with learning disabilities. Tutors told us his self-confidence was an asset in those early classes, where most students had to be taught confidence before they could learn anything else. As Richard was certainly not alone in coming from a supportive home, they realised he had been valued within a wider context and that must be the church of which he spoke so often!
In later years Richard became known as part of the BUild team and something of a figurehead for that work. He continues to be a loved and active Bloomsbury church member, some years after elderly parents have had to worship closer to home. We marvel at the way that desperate early prayer has been answered in such abundance, thanks to a considerable extent to the church that through five decades has remained faithful to that early commitment. As Richard himself declares when something delights him: Alleluia!
Image | Richard Bowers delivering a Bible reading at the 2012 Baptist Assembly
Faith Bowers is a co-founder of BUild and was a long-time member of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church