First Larne Presbyterian Church

First Larne Presbyterian Church

"Braver" - Do we really put people before programmes?

It takes courage to step into a church building – and those who do don’t always return.


In a way, I don’t blame them. Some of them are cold with bad coffee or hard seats; others offer comfort breaks in facilities designed before comfort was invented. Worst of all, some aren’t even welcoming.


I met my husband in one such building (our eyes met across a crowded pew). I was only there because I’d met a woman on a train before starting a job. Newly single and apprehensive about the future, I told her I didn’t know anyone in London and was anxious about living there.


She helped me with my case and showed me where to find a taxi. She said she had friends who were part of a church in the area and would give me a warm welcome. I had given up on church for the above reasons, but I went anyway. Her friends were looking out for me and invited me to lunch that day. I’ve been involved with local churches ever since.


The woman, who I never saw again, reached out to me with friendship and care. She didn’t know I’d be on that train, perhaps planning a peaceful journey with her book. Her friends had no way of anticipating my arrival either. But both were willing to change their plans and lead ‘messier’ lives, prioritising people over programmes, time over to-do lists. They were brave, listening to the nudge of the Holy Spirit asking them to ‘be with’ me as our God, in Christ, was with them.


Believers are called to invest in friendship and community wherever they are. My conviction about this is a central theme in my book, Braver, a fictional account of unlikely friendships and a church committed to helping others. A woman cooks for a neighbour; a boy helps dig a garden; an anxious person is taken shopping; a heartbroken woman is comforted. When disaster strikes the local community, they face it bravely, together.


According to one reader, the book shows how fear and shame can be soothed by the healing power of friendship and acceptance.


Isn’t this how the body of Christ should be – compassionate, caring, kind? This is what matters when we’re scattered as the church on our frontlines. As Jesus said: ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me’. (Matthew 25:40)


How can you be braver where God has put you today?


Deborah Jenkins

Deborah is a freelance writer and primary teacher. She blogs at  Braver is published by Fairlight Books and is available from all good bookshops and Amazon worldwide.