A couple of weeks ago we were with a group when conversation turned to telling stories about how we had first met up as couples. When it came my turn I told how in 1965 a group of us in Cambridge who belonged to the Baptist Student Federation went to a mission conference in SE London. Based at Chatsworth Way Baptist Church, West Norwood, it took me into new territory. The old church building had been bombed in the war and a magnificent building erected in its place with a suite of buildings behind where we were billeted.
Students came from all over the country. When our group arrived we were welcomed and put in charge of the most glamorous girl I had ever seen in a Baptist Church. With artful make-up. mini-skirt, gorgeous smile and sparkling personality she shepherded us on a tour of the church. Our group, mostly men, were captivated. In the gallery looking down on the pulpit which modelled the arm of God with the preacher cradled in his hand, I espied a glass which seemed oddly shaped. I asked her whether it was an ashtray or spittoon and received a withering look. Really withering. At our first conference meal she was serving another table with a tall, handsome man and it became very clear that they were a serious item.
Move on two years, in 1967, I had just begun an experimental job at the Baptist HQ in Holborn. Almost immediately my boss fell ill and I was summonsed to lead a student group to an international conference in Switzerland. The 6 British delegates met me on Victoria Station. Who should arrive to join the group but this same gorgeous girl? Oh, yes! Much had changed in her life. She had finished her serious relationship and, very sadly, her mother had just died. Friends had cajoled her to attend this conference with Chatsworth Way BC supporting her financially. I'm pretty sure my chairmanship of the conference was distracted. Needless to say that shortly after returning to the UK we were a serious item.
Next year we were married. Where? Chatsworth Way of course. We lived in W. Norwood close to the church and our reception helped by the church was in the same hall of the BSF conference. This was the church where I received God's call to preach and from where I was sent into ministry. Now that rates as one of the best surprise re-connections!