John Stacey Marks
From being a little boy I had always wanted to be a Christian minister (although there were subsequent phases of wishing to be a bus conductor and an engine driver amongst other things!) However basically, in those days, it was the desire to promote what I felt was the best and most important way to live life both as an individual and for the world at large. If the values and principles of the Christian faith, in whatever faith or walk of life they may be found, were truly lived out the world would be a happier, kinder, more just and peaceful place for all and as the Creator intended.
I was always a universalist believing that ultimately no-one would be outside the love of God for, as a hymn has it, “the love of God is broader than man’s mind and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind” for God sees the whole of people’s lives whereas we only see a part – a snapshot. I believed that for many people belief in God is sometimes almost impossible because of the circumstances, sufferings and experiences of their lives which have skewed their view of life. However when lifted by love, kindness and forgiveness etc and at the same time when feeling a sense of awe about existence, the wonders of science, beauty and the cultural things (music, beauty, art, nature) one cannot fail to feel there is an eternal and spiritual dimension to our existence. These are feelings which resonate with some of our deepest yearnings and often beyond words to express but finding this dimension does not remove pain and suffering and the things which disturb and challenge us. However to have a faith does help us to live with greater confidence that there is “something more” than just what we see. For life, as you get older, is not about finding answers with all its curious twists and turns but to have worked out what you truly believe does give one the strength to live with greater serenity and with the thrill that there is always much more to learn and understand. To exist in such a universe is awesome and humbling but to fail to appreciate this, taking it all for granted, is surely a great sadness.
Motivation comes from the example of Jesus whose life teachers us many lessons about how to live with one another, that in the dark times there is often light and that it sometimes takes the “dark night of the soul” to reveal light. Each of us have crosses to bear as we journey but the load is to be lifted by the compassion from others, sharing, understanding. The Christian community should be the one place where we will not be judged and whoever we are, whatever our background and where we will find a genuine and solid feeling of acceptance and belonging. In a sense belonging is more important than believing (whether it be family, church, pack or tribe) for it can bring hope and healing into our lives. The frustration is that the church has become an institution with all kinds of irrelevances attached to its teaching, practice and doctrine and which seems to me a far cry from anything Jesus intended or envisaged. To belong to the Kingdom of God which Jesus spoke about was to belong to a community of love, inclusiveness, healing and forgiveness and this was an experience to be lived out and shared in every walk of life.
Hope and inspiration comes from meeting and engaging with people of like mind who are often found in the most unusual and unexpected place but are not always those who are naturally or overtly religious. What a privilege it is to meet such folk especially if their lives are lived in sacrificial and self service to others.
I have always had a passion for helping young people find this way of life and belief .From being a child I was always very interested in gardening, sowing seeds, taking cuttings and watching plants grow. To cut a plant down if it has any life in it is tantamount to killing something that should have the chance to live if at all possible. So too in the world of people it has always been my goal, especially when working along side young people, and particularly those in trouble or marginalised, to help them feel valued with a belief in themselves however long it takes and even if it means walking with then the “extra mile.” Each one, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. The sadness is that many young people in this age have been gripped by drugs and other addictions which has endangered their lives and sometimes prevented them from making sensible choices or finding lasting happiness or fulfilment. Positive role models, mentors, good parenting, families and possible welcoming places to meet (including some churches!!) are essential. Places and people who can say, “ Let me walk along side you for a while so that you can see what my faith means to me in the hope that, in time, it will root itself in your life and begin to mean something for you.” It can never be done by coercion but only by example and sustained relationships and by people who are prepared to be available, accessible and patient.
“I thank you God that I have lived.”
Rev. John Stacy-Marks MBE.
John is a supporter of young and vulnerable adults from a base of strong spiritual values.
Between The Lines is a dynamic art project in which each subject nominates the next subject based on the principles and ideals of the project.
Nominated by: Glyn Pooley
Nominated in turn: Considering