A Market Square Miracle

In the town where I grew up there is a large rather magnificent market square. I had walked across that square so often in sunshine and in rain, as a child, teenager and adult. And in earlier years I noticed that occasionally there would be a large gathering of apparently churchy people making a lot of noise, all looking very chatty. An interesting crowd but not a crowd that I was a part of.

When I discovered my own faith in Jesus and started going to church in my thirties, those market square services took on a whole new meaning. There was something quite wonderful about seeing different denominations working together, about being in that friendly crowd. Differences of theology and doctrine were laid aside, and a new spirit of togetherness was born. God was clearly at work in our town.

Several years ago, on one particular Sunday in June at the time of Pentecost there was such a joint market square service. Hopes were high for a good service to mark the Church’s unofficial ‘birthday’.

Today, I’ve been a Christian for nearly thirty years now and even been a vicar, but I have to come clean, and admit that I had ‘lived’ a little when I was younger! I’d done the usual adolescent things in local pubs, wandering the streets, hanging about the park, and hiding in bus shelters… ‘nuff said…!.  Now, much older and a little wiser (and forgiven!) I love being part of a familiar town, knowing that there is invariably someone I know to say hello to; it helps me feel like I belong.

So with that in mind, back to that Pentecost Sunday service. Each church had been allocated a particular role, ours was to lead the worship. Now I had no illusions about leading such an activity, which was a pity because in my head I can sing like a nightingale and dance like a prima ballerina. It’s just a shocking pity that I couldn’t- still can’t, transfer that imaginary skill to either my voice or body.

Meanwhile, I had a bee in my bonnet about being part of the service, not just in the general crowd. I could picture the market square filled with hundreds of people, many of whom I knew. I wanted to tell them how my life had changed since I had met God. I had flashbacks of things I’d done, people I’d known and hurt, things I’d been forgiven for, and how much God had transformed my life. On that Pentecost Sunday, I wanted to be counted publically as one of God’s gang.

It was just a silly thought really. Bit egotistical perhaps. Most people avoid standing up in front of hundreds of people, and I appeared to be seeking the limelight, so not a very humble thought.

Weeks went by and the service was arranged down to the last detail. I had considered asking our Pastor if I could say or do something, but decided it would look pushy. I dared not share my secret ambition with anyone, not even my family, but I did pray about it to tell God that I wanted to stand up and be his witness in my hometown.

As the day drew closer, I was kicking myself. I’d not had the guts to ask to do something, anything- even if that was just collecting the offering, announcing where the toilets were or what time the communal picnic lunch started. But it was now Pentecost Sunday and too late, so I consoled myself by thinking that I could sing loudly and jiggle around to express my love for God in my own way. And of course, just being there would signify something wouldn’t it?

The morning of the service dawned bright and sunny and my musical husband set off early with his drum kit for he was an integral part of the worship band. I lagged behind packing up the picnic and young son. It was an hour before kick-off and we were dressed in Sunday best and surprisingly ahead of schedule when the phone rang.

It was our Assistant Pastor, ringing from the Market Square,

‘Bryony, are you still coming this morning’ he enquired.

 ‘Well yes’, I answered, wondering what vital piece of equipment or picnic lunch that had been forgotten.

We have just realised that there is no one to do the bible reading at the service this morning, how would you feel about doing it,’ he said, ‘Sorry it’s a bit late notice’.

This is a joke, I thought.

Oh ye of little faith!

Having been persuaded it was a genuine request and not a set up, I agreed, heart in mouth, and quickly got out my bible and read the designated passage. It was the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-13 with several unpronounceable place names to stumble over -nothing that a few days practice wouldn’t help; I had less than 30 minutes. The urge to visit the loo was now become overwhelming.

I sat down, read the passage again and felt God whisper. ‘I know the desires of your heart, what you thought was impossible I have made possible for you’

God had answered my prayers, which meant my motives must have been ok, so that was a relief! I drove into town and spoke with the service leaders about where and when I should read the passage and then sat down. My knees were knocking, and my hands were all of a tremble.  As we started singing, I felt my spirit soar and sang at the top of my voice.

When it was time to do the reading, I was conscious of the click clunk of my heels echoing around the market square, and standing before the microphone I looked across a sea of faces. In those few seconds I saw people of my parent’s generation who had known me for 20 or 30 years, I saw friends from different churches who had shared my journey to faith and known me both ‘before and after’  I saw my history in the faces of the people I now stood before. I saw my future, as I knew this was just the beginning of a new adventure with God.

I’d been given the chance to declare my love for Jesus, and read the passage about a large crowd of people who witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit 2000 years earlier. God’s words sharing God’s love, spoken aloud with God’s intervention in the heart of a little market town echoing the life of this rather awestruck child of God.

Later after the service, as we all shared picnics in the park an old family friend came up,  ‘You did well this morning, Your Dad would be so proud of you, I’m going to write and tell him about today,’ she said.

‘Yes’ I thought, ‘please tell him’, I wanted him to be proud of me, but the real joy of that day was knowing that my heavenly father was proud of me, and that felt really good.