I’d like to introduce you to my good friend, Terry Street. Terry is a man of God who has no time for many of the frills of traditional church life: for him they are complete distractions from the life of faith.
Terry is from Barnsley, where he spent thirty years as a machine operator at a glassworks factory. The furnace man would drop molten glass into his machine, which would then turn out bottles. Like most others, it’s an industry which has become increasingly automated. When he started, there were seventeen machines, with half a dozen people working at the end of each one; now there are fewer machines, and only one person on each.
His father had been a miner – unsurprisingly as Barnsley was the centre of mining for the region. Terry lived through the miners’ strikes and remembers clearly the destruction of that time – “don’t get me on about that woman Mrs Thatcher”! He remembers how single blokes had sold everything they had in order to stay out on strike, but then had nothing left so that they were forced back to work – only to be condemned as scabs by those still on strike. Now there is not a single pit left open in Barnsley.
Things changed for Terry in November 1998. He’d just been with his dad to watch Barnsley thump Huddersfield 7-1: hardly the expected prelude for what happened next: after the match was over, his dad collapsed. He was wheeled off to hospital, very ill: the doctor told Terry to expect the worst. At this point Terry realised he’d never told his dad that he loved him. He was stuck in the waiting room, waiting for the inevitable to happen: in his desperation he shouted out to God that if his dad survived, he’d follow him. In the quiet that followed, he said to God that he meant what he said.
Shortly after Terry and his brother started to get responses from their dad, which the nurses initially refused to believe. Eventually he made a full recovery, and lived 3½ more years – 2½ of which were really good. He never lost a chance to tell his dad that he loved him; on two occasions his dad replied in kind. They were able to go to Wembley together, to watch Barnsley play Ipswich in the playoff finals for the Premiership. (This time they lost.)
He went to the local Methodist church and found the minister very down-to-earth. He described Mr. Dack as ‘the living embodiment of Jesus’, who told him that we are all sinners, needing God’s salvation in Jesus. Before long Terry was receiving encouragement to consider becoming a church minister himself. As is the way in the Methodist church, the first stage was training to be a local preacher, which he became in 2007. Since then he has been accepted for training by the candidate panel, and started in Durham at the same time that I did. Throughout this he’s been unequivocally supported by his wife: which is no small thing, as they are presently looking after two foster kids.
The church needs men like Terry: down-to-earth blokes who have no time for the fluffy bits of church life.