Confirmation service 15 May 2022
Last Sunday 15 May 2022, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we were delighted to welcome Bishop Karowei, Bishop of Woolwich, for our Confirmation Service. Our candidates from St Alfege Church - Janson Harrison, Dawn Herbert, Neil Jenkins, Arno Levin, Anna Robinson and Mary Binta Winsure and Parlalhoih Vualnam and Timothy Ingham from St Michael's, and Natalya Reutova from the Old Royal Naval College Chapel were well supported by friends and family and members of the congregation.
My journey to today has been a mixed one. I have attended St Alfege Church since my eldest daughter was five and attending Sunday School and she is now 14. I attended church simply because I believed it was the right thing to do and I wanted my children to understand that there is a God, he exists and is greater than ourselves. Whilst these intentions were truthful and honest I myself did not fully embrace what I was trying to instil in my own children. To put it another way as I said to Revd Simon, I sat on the fence. One foot in and one foot out and this continued for a number of years. I just wasn’t fully committed although I knew in my gut I needed to get serious.
Fast forward to 2020, just as the UK went into its first lockdown, and I was diagnosed with cancer. I am fine now but it was an 18-month journey which changed everything. I quickly realised that not much brought me comfort. Friends and family tried their best, but as you can imagine there were many tears and the inner turmoil was quite significant. It was a close friend of mine who said; Hang on to God Dawn he will never leave you nor forsake you- and so I got serious and picked up my bible.
Diving into psalms and watching a multitude of services and teachings on line from T D Jakes to Joel Osteen. Somewhere in the midst of that 18-month period I began to feel calmer and lighter. I began to reflect on what really is important and asked myself some very significant questions - some of which I have answers for and some of which I am still searching for.
The biggest eye opener for me has been the fact that I can look back and clearly recognise the grace of God and where the path was cleared for me. In a worldwide pandemic where patients couldn’t even get GP appointments I was diagnosed and operated on within four weeks and by a leading surgeon in the field. I was then led into 10 months of chemotherapy with no disruptions or stoppages. Others were not given this opportunity. As a freelance worker, if I don’t work I don’t get paid. Clearly, I could not work through chemo but was paid a fulltime wage for 18 months even though I did nothing. All around me people became unemployed and lost their homes none of this impacted on me. I could give more examples but will stop there.
Two years ago I would have said ‘How lucky’ but I genuinely don’t believe in luck anymore. What I know for sure is that it was God’s grace and favour that carried me through.
Today’s confirmation marks the start of a real journey where I no longer sit on the fence and where I can acknowledge that I’m not quite where I want to be but can look back and see how far I’ve come.
Arno Levin - My testimony
God works in surprising and unexpected ways. Thanks to my loving and faithful parents, thirty-nine years ago, in a different time and in a very different world, I was baptised in a South African town thousands of miles away. Church has since been a part of my life in one way or another. But I tried to hide from God for a long time, persistently ignoring his presence. I had to move to the other side of the earth, away from family and friends to find his voice in a church again. That church is the Church of England, particularly St Alfege, Greenwich. This faith community welcomes me as I am and for who I am. They do not let race, gender, sexuality, creed, age or language exclude anyone from this place of worship and togetherness. And for that, I am ever grateful to God.
None of this has any understanding or explanation. But in front of my family watching on video from South Africa, my friends who joined me here tonight and my new church family, I can confidently reaffirm this mysterious belief in God through the love of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. I trust God to take me on a new journey of faith, reconciliation and service. Thank you to all who share in this journey with me.