Hello, I expect some of you here will know who I am already, but for the rest, my name is Ben Scoones. I’ve lived in Cambridge for almost all of my life, I was raised in a Christian family, and it was to Eden that me and my family used to come every Sunday for church. From that perspective, you could say my Christian life began from birth. Besides the Sunday morning sermons, life at home was thoroughly permeated with God. My Sister and I used to watch The Story Keepers and Veggie Tales, say prayers before meals, be read Bible stories before we went to bed, and have hymns sung to us to help us sleep. That was how our life was. But as I began to grow older I realised my life was different to those of my friends at school. They got to watch TV and play video games on a Sunday morning, and I got to come and hear Julian preach. I certainly knew which of those I’d choose. When I was 14, my parents decided I finally could choose, and I chose to stop coming to church.
I wouldn’t describe this as a move away from God, however, at least, not a conscious one. I never really knew who God was, or what being a Christian meant; there was no personal relationship there, on my side of things at any rate. I stopped going to church because I enjoyed staying at home more, and there was no inkling that this choice meant anything more than that. And that was the choice I continued to make for some time.
Growing up in such an environment did leave some impression; I wasn’t a Christian, but I didn’t not believe in God either. Whenever the conversation came up among my friends I would always err towards believing in God, and I certainly maintained a strong sense of right and wrong. But again, there was no sense of choosing to live according to my own rules instead of God’s, I was just living. What was missing was Christian input, but of a different kind to what I had grown up with, something I couldn’t just dismiss as a boring sermon or my parent’s ravings.
Around two years ago I began working at the Round Church as a doorkeeper. For one of the first times in my life I’d decided to pad out my CV a little bit, and, fortunately (for me, not so much for them), the Round Church is always in need of volunteers. Whilst working there I met David Illman, one of the directors, and we became friends. Having a friend who was Christian meant I could ask someone all of the questions I had, but also that I could hear the answers with more humility and respect. Through these conversations I started became much more interested in God and taking the idea far more seriously. I started reading a lot of C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller, and asking more questions, and through this really came to believe in God in Christianity. But I was still lacking what I had always lacked, a personal relationship with God.
Two things led to me realising this. The first was the other aspect of my relationship with David. Whether talking about God or not, he always made time to disciple me and minister to me. There was a care and a selflessness there which hadn’t been present in my other relationships. To hear someone I’d only known a few months tell me they loved me and were praying for me made a huge difference. That’s just not something you hear every day. Nothing before had shown me so clearly what God’s love and grace looked and felt like, and I’m very grateful I had such a clear example of that. On a similar note, since becoming a Christian, I’ve learnt that a lot of you here have been praying for me over the years, and that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for as well.
Perhaps less conventionally, the second thing was when the girl I was seeing told me she would only date a Christian. Nothing makes you take stock of your life in quite the same way as rejection. Quite aside from wanting to date her, this made me think differently about my relationship with God, because it made me think about what I could do to change it. It was then that I realised that I had just been waiting for God to make the first move, when in fact He’d been moving towards me my entire life, and it was me that needed to make the move back. I knew I believed in God, and I wanted to follow Him, but I finally realised that I needed to actually do it, and not just intellectually, but personally. I realised God had already committed to me, and I needed to make the choice to commit to Him, and so I did.
Since becoming a Christian, my life has remained much the same. I’ve continued reading, and working with the Round Church, but the purpose of those is no longer merely academic, but to learn more about God and grow in my relationship with Him. If I could do that purely on my own, then I certainly would. But I can’t, and what’s more we’re not told by God that we can succeed by ourselves – we need community. I’m being baptised as a symbol of my commitment to God and to Christianity and to the new community which I’ll be a part of and want to contribute to as well.