Family Evening in Birmingham
FFWPU Europe: Continuing our Family Evenings – Birmingham, United Kingdom, October 2014
Although it has not been possible to hold our Family Evenings every single week, especially during the summer, we have been meeting at least 2 or 3 times a month, sharing the Principle with guests and friends who are at various stages of understanding and progress. We try to have an Introductory Talk every other week, for new guests, and on other occasions give more advanced content.
It is so wonderful to have such a diversity of friends who come and study with us, but of course challenging as well – to make the Principle relevant to the lives of such a variety of people, coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds. We can definitely feel we are a miniature United Nations on many occasions.
On July 4th, we were privileged to have at our Family Evening a 93 year-old Jewish lady (still driving her car!), an 80+ year-old lady who has devoted much of her life to supporting the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and many other organizations, and an elderly Catholic sister who served the people of Africa for countless years. The atmosphere is always very high when such amazing people are together with us, bringing with them lives of incredible devotion. Even if such people cannot grasp the entirety of the Principle, we feel certain that we are forging a deep bond of love with them, something which will last for eternity. They always have amazing comments to share, based on so many years of life experience.
Around 20 people have signed FFWPU membership in the last two or three years, and we have a stream of potential new members amongst all those who are studying the Principle currently. Our most recent members, Jean and Pulcherie, attended a 7-day workshop in Chiselhurst in July and signed membership forms shortly afterwards.
Having the evening programs in our home is both an advantage and a disadvantage! It requires a lot of cleaning, moving furniture around, preparation, etc., but generally people feel very comfortable and at ease in a home, and it is a ‘neutral’ environment ideally suited to create a family feeling.
Most of our friends really look forward to seeing one another, and having the opportunity to meet other people from different parts of the world. Some of those who have studied the Principle for quite a while feel the value of coming to the introductory talks to support new guests.
All of this has encouraged a number of our members to gain confidence in witnessing and outreach, first of all by attending the Family Evenings themselves, engaging with the Principle again and feeling its value, and then seeing its impact on the lives of our friends and guests, and its potential to draw people together into a common fellowship with one another. From an initial core group of 3 or 4 members, about two thirds of our Birmingham members are now involved in some way or other. Recently, we had an occasion when 6 of our members all brought guests to the Family Evening. That brings such a joyful, rewarding feeling.
Of course, all of this is still relatively small but we can feel that something is stirring, giving us hope and optimism for the immediate future. As long as we can see and feel that God is working with us, and through us, then it’s genuinely possible to continue on the journey together.
August 29th was our ‘record-breaking’ evening, in terms of age. Our youngest participant, Vanessa, was just 3 months old, and our eldest was a 92 year-old lady ! We don’t know how much Vanessa understood, but she didn’t cry for the whole evening. In addition, we had an 82 year-old lady present, and one very faithful couple from a family where 5 generations are still living, including 14 great-grandchildren!