Liminal Podcast

Losing Faith

June 15, 2020 Gordon Hall and Joe Pearson Season 2 Episode 1
Liminal Podcast
Losing Faith
Chapters
Liminal Podcast
Losing Faith
Jun 15, 2020 Season 2 Episode 1
Gordon Hall and Joe Pearson

It’s time for Series 2! Liminal Podcast is about dealing with change, and this season we’ll be hearing first hand from people who’ve had the rug well and truly pulled from under their feet.

This week Liminal Podcast’s very own Gordon Hall is kicking us off with possibly the biggest change in his life, telling the story of his faith transition, and how four years ago he almost became a vicar before his entire belief system fell apart. See the show notes below for links related to the episode.

Show Notes

Check out this episode on YouTube
Last week's episode - Black Lives Matter
Homosexuality and Christianity
Peter Rollins
The Liturgists Podcast
Selection of Gordon’s old blog posts

Related Reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About God: Faith for the 21st Century - Rob Bell
Honest to God - John Robinson
The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read - Peter Enns
The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith - Peter Rollins
Fear and Trembling: Dialectical Lyric by Johannes De Silentio - Soren Kierkegaard

Liminal Podcast is about dealing with change, be that through humour, self-care, science, or spirituality. Join Joe and Gordon as they laugh and ponder, as well as speak to experts and friends, trying to figure out how to deal with life when the rug has been pulled from under your feet.

We’d love to hear from you! If you want to get in touch click here.

Liminal Podcast couldn’t happen without the support of our team, as always massive thank you to Harry for writing the theme music, Haley for creating our logo and Leah for everything she does behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone who rates and reviews the show, we really appreciate it.

Subscribe to Liminal Podcast

Apple Podcasts
YouTube
Spotify
Stitcher

Follow us on social media

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
TikTok

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/theliminalpod)

Show Notes Transcript

It’s time for Series 2! Liminal Podcast is about dealing with change, and this season we’ll be hearing first hand from people who’ve had the rug well and truly pulled from under their feet.

This week Liminal Podcast’s very own Gordon Hall is kicking us off with possibly the biggest change in his life, telling the story of his faith transition, and how four years ago he almost became a vicar before his entire belief system fell apart. See the show notes below for links related to the episode.

Show Notes

Check out this episode on YouTube
Last week's episode - Black Lives Matter
Homosexuality and Christianity
Peter Rollins
The Liturgists Podcast
Selection of Gordon’s old blog posts

Related Reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About God: Faith for the 21st Century - Rob Bell
Honest to God - John Robinson
The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read - Peter Enns
The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith - Peter Rollins
Fear and Trembling: Dialectical Lyric by Johannes De Silentio - Soren Kierkegaard

Liminal Podcast is about dealing with change, be that through humour, self-care, science, or spirituality. Join Joe and Gordon as they laugh and ponder, as well as speak to experts and friends, trying to figure out how to deal with life when the rug has been pulled from under your feet.

We’d love to hear from you! If you want to get in touch click here.

Liminal Podcast couldn’t happen without the support of our team, as always massive thank you to Harry for writing the theme music, Haley for creating our logo and Leah for everything she does behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone who rates and reviews the show, we really appreciate it.

Subscribe to Liminal Podcast

Apple Podcasts
YouTube
Spotify
Stitcher

Follow us on social media

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
TikTok

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/theliminalpod)

Gordon Hall :

Hello and welcome to the first episode of season two of Liminal podcast

Joe Pearson :

we have upgraded we are in the second generation of Liminal podcasts. Why have we started this this season to God and explain to the listeners?

Gordon Hall :

Yes. Wow, as many of you know Liminal podcast, as we've said, is about dealing with change. And for the first kind of portion of episodes on the show for the first season, we were focusing on quite a big change that was going on in the world, which was the Coronavirus pandemic, and how we can deal with that. And so we've spent you know, a episodes talking about that last week we touched on Black Lives Matter, which is a conversation that we definitely think They'll want to keep going in the future. But this new season it marks is moving to more personal stories. So going away from looking at changes this big collective event that we're trying to all deal with, but more. Now we'll be talking to guests who've been through big changes in their lives, ranging from dealing with addictions all the way through to massive career changes, or what we're talking about today, which is a faith transition, which we'll get into a bit later. I'm sure Joe will do a good job of introducing that guest. But essentially, yeah, we're we're looking at trying to have these conversations with people. And here's some incredible stories of changing people's lives that will hopefully give us some stuff that we can apply to our own lives as well.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, we've got some very exciting guests that we're going to have a little moment and share some of the teachings that they've learned from their own lives and how they've applied it in turn. Pretty bad experience in situations and really turn the life around. And this week we're going to go into Gordon's story and how he went from an all in faith to where he is now where he completely transitioned out

Gordon Hall :

of that. Yeah. All I really want to say just before we start, the conversation that we had earlier do is just to reinforce the point that this is my story. I'm not speaking on behalf of Christianity. I'm not trying to convert people away from Christianity or draw people out of their faith or anything like that. This is what happened to me and my experiences. Hopefully, if people are going through something similar, it's helpful. But I don't want this to like cause somebody to have an existential crisis or anything like that.

Joe Pearson :

So Gordon, as you know, this podcast is about dealing with change and those liminal spaces that you often find yourself in in life. And you probably more than anyone I know went through some very, very big changes not too long ago in your life.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, I mean, I Well, I grew up for, you know, the first probably 20 or so years of my life, I was what I'd call like a super Christian. I was very, very hardcore in terms of my beliefs. I went to church pretty much every day of the week, not just every Sunday. I was involved in, you know, growing up, I was involved in lots of youth groups and stuff like that. And then pretty early on, moved into leading those youth groups. Basically, as soon as I left the younger youth group at my church and became part of the older youth group. I became a leader in the younger youth group, and then right kind of cycle continued I was playing drums in church I was doing like sound production in churches while I learned most of the skills that I am applying, making this podcast in churches and doing the sound for like the vicar on Sundays and stuff like that. So it was my world for the first 20 or so years of my life. And then it wasn't and that was a massive change for me.

Joe Pearson :

So you were completely devoted It was pretty much your life. I mean, was it almost your work at times? If you're really angry? Surely that devotes most of your week? Yeah. And actually doing the things you're organising.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. And and part of actually, what caused me to leave was that where I was getting involved in stuff in the church is very difficult where, particularly with smaller churches, If they're completely run on volunteers, they will try and get you to do as much as possible. And I'm not very good at saying no to stuff. And so quickly I would find myself involved in lots and lots of different things. And experiencing burnout, feeling like I'm giving out loads and loads but not getting too much for myself. You know, I was, I actually left the church that I spent the majority of my youth in because of that very reason I was leading and preaching and doing all kinds of stuff almost every day of the week and I wasn't getting any time when I could actually just go to the church and actually just receive and take part and not be up at the front or at the back with headphones on playing around with a mixing desk or running out to the back to lead a youth group or putting their tea and coffee on outside because I'm on the tee for that week. So yeah, I was I was very heavily involved in everything. And it was it wasn't just like a social thing as well, it was, the beliefs were central to the way that I structured my life. I would pray every day, I would. The way that I thought about myself and thought about the world and related to people was through this lens of God, I believe that the most important relationship in my life was my relationship with God and every other relationship I had was in the context of that relationship, if that makes sense.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, completely. And for someone who's not had that kind of experience in my life, it sounds very intense. I'm sure there's a lot of people listening that simply can't picture until now that could you compare it to anything where you get so devoted and it kind of takes over your whole life. I mean, Classic image that is used to describe the church is like a family.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, the Bible describes the church as the bride. And Jesus is the bridegroom. And it's almost like the, the, the church is that it's almost like you're married to Jesus in a way you're, you're you're in relationship with the community in the church, but you're also in relationship to God. And everything is is kind of comes from that.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, so you will have to come together in order to have that relationship properly. Absolutely. idea.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. And one, the kind of flavour or strain of religion that I was in was evangelical Christianity, which, on the face of it when you're in it, it's really cool. It's very flashy. They have kind of upbeat, me Music The talks are usually filled with examples that are from the real world and stories and stuff like that. It's very engaging. I went to a lot of Christian youth festivals from run by an evangelical organisation called soul survivor, which is based in Watford. And I would every week I'd every summer I'd go for about a week or two to field, there'd be about 12,000 other people there. And we'd be camping for five or so days we'd have morning and evening meetings where we'd have worship. So like songs that we sing about God, that'd be a talk that would go on for about an hour. And then there'd be ministry. Do you know what I mean? When I talk about ministry in the Holy Spirit or anything like that, Jay, I heard of the Holy Spirit. That's where

Joe Pearson :

they try and come together and sometimes turn someone around or even one yeah, in some sense. I'm not yeah industry, though.

Gordon Hall :

So well, that said, The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. So there's the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and they are all God. So it's a bit confusing. God is three distinct things, but God is also one and asked me how it makes sense. But there's millions of articles out there that can go into the complex theological reasons why that is the case. Yeah, but essentially, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. So it's something that when you become a Christian, you accept the Holy Spirit into you. And then, with the Holy Spirit living in you, you're able to channel the Holy Spirit to live out God's plan. And saying that having not been in that world for a couple of years, while about three or four years. It feels ridiculous to say I'm sure you It feels ridiculous to hear but when I was in it, It made complete sense. And so when I left the church for a long time, my understanding of myself and my belief in myself, my love for myself was something that I didn't really know how to access because I'd always accessed it through this relationship with God. And this, it was almost like the the road had been blocked off. And I couldn't get to the destination anymore. And I needed to find some other way around, does it? Does it make sense what I'm saying? Like,

Joe Pearson :

yeah, totally. You're so devoted that a lot of your emotions are attached to God rather than your own personal things. Yeah. To align with the beliefs that you obviously believe in at the time.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. Well, it's like my entire reality was was shaped by this. It was it was the one That I saw the world. So to adjust to not having that in my life, the only parallel that I can give is what I imagined it would be like to lose a loved one, like a spouse or something like that, like someone that you've been with for, you know, a long time, like, decades to lose that and not have that person in your life when you've made every decision that you make. you're considering that person. That's how it was. So yeah, so, so sense. Yeah. And so for, and I'll go into kind of how my face fell apart and how I left it in a bit. But what I would say is that it's it's something that I'm still dealing with now I'm definitely not at the point that I'd like to be in terms of my, I guess my relationship with myself and stuff like that. There's definitely still things that I struggle with. But one thing that although I've not had any, anyone who's from a clinical background or anything like that, say this to me, officially, I've started to as I've done more research into people going through similar things to me, I've realised that the word trauma comes up quite a lot. And I, until recently, I didn't think of what I'd been through as any kind of traumatic experience or anything like that. But when I actually look at the dictionary and the medical definition of trauma and PTSD and stuff like that, it it does make sense and that feels really weird to say because I, you know, when you think of something like PTSD, you think of someone who's been in the Army or been in an abusive relationship or something like that, not somebody who's left of religion, but that is what The best way that I found to describe the feelings and the emotions and the kind of state that I've been in for the last few years following leaving the church, yeah. I mean, you were in that

Joe Pearson :

world, and it is a separate world or most of the world we live in now because of how different some of the day to day stuff is that I think it will affect you and it probably will affect you for most of your life. Because, yeah, a lot of your early memories are probably attached to the church and you'll look through it in a lens sometimes maybe quite negatively, because of where you are now and sometimes positivity. I'm guessing that's a switch that will flick all the time. Definitely. Yeah.

Gordon Hall :

I you know, the what, what kind of caused my faith to fall apart was me questioning things and me. You critiquing and questioning the nature of what's in the Bible, And all of that kind of stuff. And so I can argue with a Christian against Christianity very passionately, and not to kind of make myself out to be kind of something I'm not or to say that I'm anything special or anything but I'm quite good at arguing with I, I could hold my own inner debate with a Christian about the existence of God. But equally, I could argue the opposite. And if as we've had when we've been talking, and if somebody insults religion or insults Christianity, then those defence mechanisms in these still kick up. And yeah, I still find that I want to defend something of this faith, something of this belief, there is still something in it that I think I don't know whether I still identify with it or whether I'm just I don't know whether there's part of me that still feels attached to it. But I guess it's the same way that you know if somebody insults like, it's okay for you to insult like your family or your ex or something like that. But if somebody else insults then then that's not okay. It's a similar kind of thing.

Joe Pearson :

But it's because you have such a personal relationship with it. Me. Absolutely. And, yeah, it's not all negative. There's probably a lot of times when the church and the beliefs you had maybe gave you such a positive mindset. Yeah, but it's hard to detach yourself from that.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. And I think that's what makes the situation all the more difficult when I've talked, talked about it with therapists in the past and stuff like that. They've said that, because this is something where, yes, there has been some negative stuff. Yes, there has been some stuff that has caused me real pain that the church has done and I can't deny that I shouldn't hide that or anything like that equally. There's also a massive amount of good that the church did for me. I was bullied relentlessly growing up. And the church for me was a safe place where I found community and friendship. And I wouldn't take that away for anything, despite the complications, that my kind of belief in God and my going to church gave me later in life, it was what kept me going, growing up in life, and growing up in school and stuff like that. So it's one of those things I don't regret my time in the church, and I wouldn't undo it. And despite how much stress and how difficult the last few years have been trying to process the fallout of leaving the church, I wouldn't change any of it because it's made me who I am today, and it's got me to this point.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, exactly. And you probably benefit a lot from certain parts of it. You know, for example, the thing is talking about the audio. And yeah, all the experience and skills you learn from that they're all applicable to life and you're using them right now.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, absolutely.

Joe Pearson :

So how did it kind of unravel? Because, yeah, by the sounds that so you moved to this new church, which is a bit more open, and you were getting a bit more responsibility and maybe free? Yeah, if that makes, if I'm understanding correctly, what I saw

Gordon Hall :

there. Well, so the, the story is, it's not like a simple story. It's not like this happened, then this happened and then everything fell apart. There's Yeah, multiple kind of threads that were playing out. But to, I guess, explain, broadly what what happened. So when I was about twin, I was about 18 or so. I was In sixth form, I just graduated from the youth group. And so I started there's the festival that I told you about. So survivor, I was no longer a young person going there. So I started joining the teams to help put the festival on. And one of the teams that I joined was the fringe team. Now the fringe team's job is to basically connect with any of the people that had been dragged to their to survivor by a friend of theirs. They weren't interested in any in any of the god stuff. So our job was to go out and talk to them and try and get them engaged in the god stuff essentially,

Joe Pearson :

start a conversation

Gordon Hall :

and and so it while all of the main meetings were going on, a big part of our job was to walk around the campsite and talk to people. And so the first year that I did that, I remember we hosted a night in our cafe space called grid, a Christian Where we would invite the young people to ask us questions. And then we formed a panel and we try and answer those questions. And me as a kind of 18 year old, I think I was 19. At the time, actually, I thought that I was pretty well qualified to answer these questions and all of this kind of stuff.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, we've got the kind of big headedness and confidence that a young man slowly often possess.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, because I was a white guy in the church. So they were throwing all kinds of leadership opportunities at me and stuff like that. And, and so white privilege absolutely means true. Yeah. In the church. Oh, maybe more than something more so than anywhere else. Yeah. Yeah. And so, I was on this panel, and one girl asked the question, I remember the question very, very clearly, I can remember how I responded as well. So the question was, I'm gay. And I'm Christian. Why is it that I'm not allowed to have sex with the person that I love? Why Why is that not okay? You know, I believe in God by have these feelings, why don't they kind of add up? And I'd add until that point I never encountered anybody that was both gay and Christian. My understanding was that either you were a Christian and you believed in God, you had a relationship with God and therefore you were straight or you weren't a Christian and you were sinful and being gay was a sin. So that was what I did. I didn't even have the emotional maturity to comprehend that somebody could want to be a Christian and be gay because I thought that they were completely mutually exclusive. So yeah, because that's what the teachings

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, point to and

Gordon Hall :

yeah, yeah. And so when I first heard the question, it It took me by surprise and they answer that I gave was incredibly mature. It was not at all taking into account the feelings or the, like emotions of the girl asking the question, it was very clinical the way that I answered I basically said, well, the Bible says that you cannot have sex unless you are married. And at the time, the law in the UK was that you cannot get married, if you are not married to a person of the same gender. gay marriage wasn't a thing then. And so therefore, you can't have marriage. You can't get married to therefore you can't have sex. So that's the answer, essentially. So you shouldn't even have to worry about it. Because if you're a Christian, you won't be having sex. And then oh, no, it was completely like immature answer. Yeah.

Joe Pearson :

Was that the right answer, though, in the eyes of the church at the time,

Gordon Hall :

in the eyes of the church that I was in certainly. Yeah. And yet broadly, that was, I guess the kind of accepted answer And so that that happened. And then we left the festival went about I went about my business for that year. But every so often, the question of engaging Christian would pop into my head and that girl's face and the question that she asked, and my stupid immature response would come into my head. And I think about it, and it I felt convicted as to the way that I'd responded and the hurt that I could have caused her and so I started researching what like being gay in a Christian in the bible verses all about homosexuality in the Bible, what the original Greek and Hebrew says, what the context of that is to try and get some clarity and I became a more liberal Christian I became more affirming because I found evidence that suggested that Essentially the way that the Bible talks about homosexuality when they refer to the words that they use to translate into homosexuality more often than not, are if you look at the context that they're written in talking about things like paedophilia or rape, or people who were basically they wanted to cheat on their wife, but they were having sex with a man to get around the loophole because the law was You must not lie with another man's wife. So they lay with another man instead or stuff like that. So it was people basically, who were using, it wasn't ever two people who love each other that are having sex, or like in a relationship with one another. Yeah. So once I understood that context, that meant that I became a more affirming accepting Christian, but it also meant that I was at odds with the theology that the church I was in was breaching and so I felt very uncomfortable in that church. And it got to a point where I was forced pretty much to sign this petition. Basically against gay marriage to it was set up by an organisation called Christian concern for a nation. I was forced to sign that petition. And I actually ended up after I'd signed it, I felt so bad that I signed it. I contacted the organisation that had put out the petition, requested that my name be removed, and then looked through about 800 pages to make sure that my name wasn't on that petition. Wow. Yeah. And, but essentially,

Joe Pearson :

all of that differs kind of problem you had, yeah, that's where your faith shot went, Okay. Yeah, I really don't agree with this.

Gordon Hall :

And so that happened, I started to become a bit more liberal in my theology and other things. The previously that I'd said Oh, well that's obvious that's black and white. That's no that's the answer. I I started to look into things like sex before marriage whether that's completely wrong, whether divorces Okay, whether all of these questions and these things that I've been told by the church are completely wrong and Central. I would question them all of these assumptions about the Bible and the fact that it's the literal Word of God and that nothing in it is wrong or or anything like that. The more that I looked into it, the more I realised that there's holes in this and stuff like that. But while all of this was going on, I was still very much involved in the church. I was involved in leadership in the church, I moved to a bigger church, the one that you alluded to earlier. It's a church called HDB. I'm saying the name of it if it is sorry, but Yeah. And it's a massive church in London. They've got thousands of members. And they started a course about 20 years ago called the alpha course, which has now been done by over probably over 30 million people. Now it's 27 million when I did it a few years ago. Wow. While

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, is an online course then I'm guessing you're not getting that man through the doors. Well, so the church that I was at,

Gordon Hall :

they run it three times a year and they got on average about 1000 to 1500 people each time. They ran it over two sites. And they had like that, basically, essentially, what it is, is you'd go you have a meal in a your everyone split up into small groups. So you've got about seven or eight people that you sit with each time. You have a meal together, you then hear a talk, and then you discuss the talk and then go to the pub. And so we do that every week. But because I was at the church that started it, we weren't just doing it. We were also live streaming it to hundreds of other churches around the world. And so I quickly got involved in helping out with stuff like the production at our church because it was a much bigger job, I got to learn a lot more stuff. And I was involved in the student group at that church as well. And eventually, I was, I ended up going to the, what's called focus, which is their yearly church holiday where about 5000 people would come together near the beach, we took over something like Pontins or something, and they had similar to the sole survivor thing, but with the addition of bars and alcohol, and a more kind of family vibe. We'd go there. And in one of those sessions, again, I had all of these questions, but Because I was in a big church with a lot of people my age, there were a lot of other people that were asking this similar questions. So, yeah, it felt more okay to be asking those things and questioning them, even though the leadership at the top of the church was either silent about those issues or disagreed with that kind of direction I was going in. It was a it was a safe place for me where I was at that time,

Joe Pearson :

as a collective. It wasn't something you were experiencing. Yeah,

Gordon Hall :

yeah. And that was also a great community as well. I was in a place where I had a lot of friends my age. And so that's, you know, makes it more likely that you're going to go back if you've got people that you're, you know, that you want to see each week and stuff like that. And you I'm guessing you made a lot of friendship groups, and yeah, definitely see aspects

Joe Pearson :

of it through another level.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. And so, essentially, I would I worked at the Sorry, I I was on this Retreat thing that church holiday by the beach. And I felt during one of the sessions, that I was getting a message from God to Inc. And I was being called into leadership in the church and there was a call from the front for people to come up and get prayer if they felt that they were being called towards ministry at that point. So I went up to the front, and they spoke a little bit about Church of England leadership. And I said, well, but that sounds like something that I'd be interested in. So I spoke to one of the pastors of the church about it. And he recommended that I sign up to the leadership course that the church was running. And so I signed on to that. And I was basically it was leadership and preaching and pastoral leadership. So we would have a day of lectures in the theology college where we were training with for spective priests, learning about the Bible and the ins and outs of that. And then we also had training on how to talk to people and do public speaking, how to talk to small groups, but also how to deal with pastoral issues like what to do if somebody tells you they've been abused, or if they're dealing with financial struggles and stuff like that. So it was quite a broad kind of skill set they were giving us but the idea was, by the end of it, we'd be able to lead either a Connect group or a small church, like thing basically. And while we were studying the, in the Bible College part of it, I was introduced to a much different way of looking at the Bible, rather than reading it as this text that can give you I guess, like advice for living your life and there's this kind of, well like, like a Bible And I was introduced to the more what's the word I'm looking for? The background and the context. Yeah, like the, there's a word. It's like the not literature, but the, that side of it, the the academic side of it. So we were looking at the authorship of the Bible, and I was saying, well, this book was written in this time. And then this book was written in this time. And they kind of tell the same story. But if you actually understand it, then this book was written to this group of people. So it's telling the story of Israel with this goal in mind, whereas these books, well, essentially, there's there's a couple of sets of books in the Bible called kings and Samuel, so there's one and two kings and one to Samuel. And then there's also one and two Chronicles as well. So there's these six books. They all essentially tell the same stories. But they were written at different points in Israel's history. So the message they're getting across is slightly different. So one of them is, was written just as they had gotten the kings and like a king, so they had a very strong monarchy in the church. So with that strong monarchy, they were kind of wanting to communicate that message of you respect the king. And so there were a lot of likings to Gordon King and stuff like that. Whereas in another passage, the monarchy is just fallen, and they Israelites are now in slavery. So the message and the retelling of their history was from a different point of view. And so they tell the story slightly differently. And one of the accounts I can't remember which one you see the story of David and Goliath and this big giant is killed by a guy called David who later becomes the king of Israel, whereas in another one in the in the other set of Books. It's a completely different person that kills Goliath. So I was confronted with these contradictions in the Bible. And they didn't really offer us any answers. They were just like, so these are the contradictions. Some people think it might be because of this, but some people think it might be because of this, but honestly, I've got no idea. And so that meant that I was not necessarily questioning my faith. But I was questioning the validity of the Bible as being this ineffable. I like, completely reliable text. There are

Joe Pearson :

a lot of the teachings are based on

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, absolutely. And, and so what, while all of that was going on, I was still heavily involved in leadership in the church and stuff like that. But these questions were going on and so I was, on one hand, very successful in church and it was almost like it was becoming what could be my career. I guess I finished that leadership course and I got a job at the church working in media marketing, putting on the alpha course that was running the church. So I was in the meetings each week where they were deciding what they'd talk about. I had to make all of the slides make all of the stuff that will go out to the small groups to put together we had like weekends away as part of the the alpha course where we'd go down to Chichester and take over the Pontins there. And we had a an entertainment evening, where we do like a cabaret quiz thing. I had to write the whole of that and include like video rounds and stuff like that. So with loads of stuff that I was doing, I was really enjoying it. I introduced a whole new way of promoting the course within the church to to the church was in South Kensington. So I was like coming up with ideas for like us doing adverts on the tube and all of this kind of stuff. And it got to the point where my probation, my six month probation review was coming up. And that happened to coincide with the churches. And well, six monthly giving Sunday where they would host two Sundays in a row. And they basically asked the church to give them lots of money so that they had the budget for all of the stuff they wanted to do for the next year. And the budget that they'd set out the Sunday before I had my probation review meeting was that they needed three. So 3 million pounds to do all the work that they want you to do.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, that's a lot of money. Yeah,

Gordon Hall :

three, 3 million pounds is a lot of money. And they had that giving Sunday and then the week after that. They had a we had like a staff meeting and they told us that they had not made, they basically weren't where they needed to be. That they raise I think less than a million And not like just under a million or something like that. And so they were having to kind of work out what they were going to do to try and cut costs because they weren't. They didn't think they were going to make as much as they wanted to that year. And, and so then I have my probation meeting, bear in mind that other than the unpaid intern on our team, I was the last person to join the team. And it just so happened that my probation review was coming up. And so it was, it would have been very easy for them to find me at that or to get rid of me at that point. without too much fuss because, you know, it's my probation review. I've got no contractual obligations, keep me on for a month or anything like that.

Joe Pearson :

Yeah. Is that decision?

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. So I go into the meeting with my linemen with my line manager and her manager, having just a couple of days before had a chat with my line manager about how well I'm doing and how happy with everything that I've done. They are My line manager is very quiet. Her manager basically says so, Gordon, that you've been with us for six months now. We set you these targets at the start. And unfortunately, you've not met those targets. So we're going to have to end your employment here, you're more than welcome to go down to HR and see whether there's any other jobs that are available. Other than that, essentially, it's it's your time to like that, you know, we'd ask that you got a week's notice or something like that. You don't have to work that out. Other than that, you're gone. And so that, to me, was heartbreaking. It was devastating because it was my first kind of proper job. It was, like my only source of income I didn't really know what else I could do because you're working in the church, because it's so a lot of the

Unknown Speaker :

the way that you

Gordon Hall :

get jobs and interview and stuff like that. It's not just based on your ability, but it's also based on whether God feels like it's the right thing for you. So they'll pray about it. And they'll say, Well, what does God think? Does God think this is the right person for this job and stuff like that? And so there was a lot of anxiety over that.

Joe Pearson :

Not a traditional way. Yeah.

Gordon Hall :

And I'd also recently started leading a small group in the church. So I kind of threw myself into that. But all of my doubts suddenly became a lot bigger. And the I guess the thing that had kept my doubts at bay was the faith that I had in the church. And the picture that I had of the church is this institution that can do no wrong, and then suddenly, I'd been wronged by it. And so yeah, for about a year, I kind of was still leading this small group. I became a Like the sole leader of it, so that was about 40 or so people that I was kind of looking after organising small groups and, and like preaching schedules and all of that kind of stuff for it. And these questions just wouldn't go away these doubts wouldn't go away. It was almost like you have a worn a jumper, and you've been like pulling on one of the threads. And at first, it doesn't seem to do anything. But the more you pull, the less jumper that you end up with. And eventually you don't have anything left. It was kind of like that happened.

Joe Pearson :

And then not that you took, huh, force you to start pulling because yeah, okay. Well, they're not perfect. So let me let me have a look at my own beliefs. And yeah, how much do I really want to go for this now because I'm not sending my head now. And as well, it was

Gordon Hall :

as much my beliefs evolved. I'd say it was never a case of me trying to go away from God or trying to get away from my faith. It was almost like these new questions come up. But I still feel like there's this this thing that I can't explain this connection that I feel to other people to myself in the planet and it's God like the idea of a God still felt very attractive to me. It's just that the way that Christianity presented, it felt more and more alien to me. So the way that I describe it, is that it's almost like It Wasn't that I went away from it. It's that I went further into it. If that makes sense, so, yeah. And the analogy that I I used, and that kind of became very prominent to me, as I was trying to process all of the feelings that I had was that of a glass, if so, like a glass of water. So if you imagine you've got a glass of water in your hand, and that glass starts to crack, the water is going to start seeping out. For me, the water in that represented God and the connection I had with this power that sustains the universe, if you like if that's what God is in this, whereas the container the glass represents the church and the religion. For me, the glass had become so cracked and so broken that I wasn't able to connect with the thing that was inside it anymore. And so I almost needed to smash up the container to the point where there wasn't anything left in order to get the content Does that make sense? It's a bit of a weird analogy. But but essentially the, the way that I saw the church was that it was this broken glass that had this beautiful thing in it that was so good and I could see the power of the good that the church could do in the good that the church still does do. And I do 100% still believe that the church can be a powerful for good in the world. But there's so much extra shit that they've got in their systems and institutions and religions that is just holding them back and stopping this from happening that I just felt that I couldn't be part of that church anymore. So I left out that the actual I've kind of missed out a little part of the story and, but but essentially, yeah, left and then I'm at where I am now.

Joe Pearson :

But how did that How did you do that though? Was there a day that you just for this is it I'm not going today?

Unknown Speaker :

So that was

Joe Pearson :

obviously that's probably the biggest decision you've ever made in your life, or one

Unknown Speaker :

of the decisions. Well, so I

Gordon Hall :

while I was having all of these questions, I discovered a podcast called the liturgist podcast. And that became almost like my church. There was kind of a community aspect to that. So I'd listened to the podcast, there'd be like a Facebook group where I could engage with discussions about what they talked about, because essentially, this podcast was people who had been through a faith transition like the one that I'd been through or that the one that I was going through, so it was people talking about situations that I thought I was the only one experiencing So, listening to that podcast and discovering the community with that definitely helped me to realise that it was okay to ask the questions that I was asking. But also it gave me some form of, I guess, like, route to, to maybe find some answers to those questions or to, to explore those questions in a more healthy way. And so, through that, I discovered a philosopher called Peter Rollins, who organises it who specialises in what's called radical theology, which looks to kind of take religion and use it as a disruptive technology almost to transform us so it's, he, his work does stuff like he word organisation organised something called the evangelists. projects where he would say his community, which was kind of like a church, but they weren't. They didn't follow a particular religion, but they would meet. And they would ask, say, mosque to invite them, and talk to them about their faith, or they go to a Buddhist temple and asked the Buddhist temple to talk to them about their faith. And it was this kind of almost being willing to learn from these other faiths rather than sticking to just that one faith. But what Pete Rollins did, and he does it every year is he runs this thing called atheism for lamb.

Joe Pearson :

Where, which we've talked about before. Yeah, interesting. If you've not heard that, yes, you can talk about it now. Yeah, we did that on the would I not sodoku

Gordon Hall :

episode? Indeed. Yeah. So I did this atheism for long course. And it was essentially a reading each day from a philosopher or a thinker, or sometimes even likes people like Mother Teresa, or people like Richard Dawkins critiquing Christianity or the idea of God. And they were essentially the idea was that you read these throughout Lent. And it allows you to critique your own beliefs in God to give you the opportunity to, I guess, ask those questions in a safe place. And then there was also community and he would do like a weekly talk about the content as well. And I kind of did it as a bit of a laugh. I thought this will be interesting. We'll see whether it works. But I didn't really think that I would actually be an atheist by the end of it. But as I did it, I was still leading this small group at the time, but I did this atheism furlan. And I got to a point where I realised that the concept of God that I had, was incredibly I don't want to use the word mature, because that could be offensive to some people. But it was it was very limited. And I kind of came to the realisation that the word God in itself is quite a loaded word. When you ask, if you ask 100 people what God means to them or what God is they'll probably give you 200 different answers. And the atheism furlan course, allowed me to see the different ways that humanity in people have explained God. So some people talk about God as God is this projection of ourselves and so it's, you know, like, you look at people's image of God and It's similar to like a very best version of what they manage on a human to be. But that's a very limited understanding of what a God could be. And if a God does exist, then it's not gonna be like, why do we assume that it's going to be something that we as humans can relate to? Why do we assume that this Yeah, like it's, and it gave me all of these new things to think about and new questions and stuff like that. And I I think it got me to a point where I realised that while I wouldn't say that I'm an atheist, I wouldn't say that I don't believe in God. I also wouldn't say that I'm a theist, I wouldn't say that I believe in a god i think that the the word God is, as I said, very loaded, it can mean so many different things and I think until we actually know what we're talking about, then saying whether or not you believe in God, it it doesn't really make sense because You know, I could argue that in many ways Kim Kardashian is a God to many people. For some people, the phone in there probably in their hand right now is a God to them because it's the thing that they put above everything else. Yeah. And so the is not as simple I guess what I'm trying to say is that my my journey hasn't just been a simple case of going from being Christian to atheist or anything like that. It's right now I am and have been for the last four or five years spiritually homeless. I don't really feel like any mainstream religious group really defines where I'm at. Because I've been through so much and I've seen things when I was in the church that I can't explain. Aside from the church, if that makes sense. Yeah.

Joe Pearson :

You You were so devoted to it. It was Yeah, you know, it had such an impact on yourself people around you, but you've seen so much positive but but not just that. It's just

Gordon Hall :

the feeling of that deep connection that I had when I was praying or when I was feeling like I was filled with the Holy Spirit. That's something that I have experienced since but it's only been as a result of deep, deep intense meditation or as a result of some kind of substance altering my brain or something like that. It's not been like the feeling of that. What I would have described as the presence of God is something that I cannot explain. Now in my understanding of the world without saying that there is some supernatural element there, and I think the belief in the supernatural for me is something that while it's convenient for me to say that it doesn't exist, and while it's easier to say, Oh, yeah, like that's, that doesn't exist. It's not there. There's to me that maybe it is just that I've got like an innately spiritual way of looking at the world or being or something like that. But

Unknown Speaker :

it's

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, I feel like there's, there's definitely the kind of a supernatural element to the universe, there is definitely more than we can see going on. And I think that religion can be helpful in understanding now those aspects of reality and answering those Yes, one

Joe Pearson :

question that we all ponder of why why does all this happen? Yeah, why do we feel the way we feel? Hmm You know, there's still a lot of questions to be answered and I think can be great and we've talked about this in a couple of episodes go

Gordon Hall :

you know that community aspect

Joe Pearson :

for you doesn't change your life. Yeah. What path you would have gone down had you not found that? Yeah. would have probably been a lot darker than where you are now.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. But that also the, and I guess I, I will say this just as a Firstly, I probably said this in the intro as well. But this is my story. This is my experience. What happened to me and my experience, personally and also with the experiences that I've had since with other Christians is in tirely, my own experience and I don't want to say that I'm speaking for all Christians or, or ex Christians or anything like that. I'd hate for anyone to cause a bet to take offence of what I'm saying and think that I'm attacking your religion. This is my experience and what happened to me. That doesn't mean that it's it's your experience. And I think that's important to say. Yeah, but one thing that I did find when I left the church, and when I stopped believing is that very quickly the friendships that I had in the church, the friendships that I had were I I saw who my true friends and who weren't. There were a lot of people who treated me very differently when they found out that I didn't believe in God anymore. There were rumours going around one of my old churches when I left the church, I coincide it with pride and I was posting a lot of stuff about Like injustices that happened to gay people as a result of the church on my social media. And as a result, rumours started going around that church that I was gay and I was in a relationship with someone who was in my profile, there was a profile picture that I updated to a picture of me and my friend and there were rumours going around, I got messages saying or I hear that you've got a boyfriend and like, people saying that they were like prayer meetings going on for me and all of this kind of stuff. And it was really fucking weird that people who were massive parts of my life would almost flip in their opinion of me and I was a figure who was the subject of the gossip that I'd heard going on on a Sunday morning that to me was quite a difficult thing first to comprehend now I don't really care like they can talk about me they like all they like but

Joe Pearson :

but at that time, you're still in the transitions. Yeah, I'm sure it

Unknown Speaker :

is. Yeah, much. Yeah. And his family that was a

Joe Pearson :

family member turning their back on you and saying, Well, if you don't believe this anymore, you're not gonna be part of our lives and we're gonna actually look you quite negatively and almost as an enemy. Definitely is, can be the divisive nature that religion can throw up is something I argued very strongly a lot of episodes ago. Yeah. You know, and that's one of the very strong negative things, I think. And that's what we have more than what you actually did. I think it's,

Gordon Hall :

yeah, but I think the reaction, yeah. But I think, ultimately, like I said, it's, it's a positive that this has happened, and I've gone through this, but it was. Yeah, it was just it was odd, because I think I was going down this route of, obviously leading these groups and I was also in, I think I alluded to it I was in the discernment process, which is the process that you go in, when you are thinking about actually kind of pursuing a career in the church and becoming an ordained minister. And so, for that, essentially I had to meet up with a vicar who'd been assigned by the bishop to talk to me and train and gauge how strong faith they had, what my beliefs are on this I intended like weekly talks from different bishops about what it's like to be a vicar. I've read tonnes of books about ministry. And then, while all of that was going on, I then stopped believing in God, but I was still on the books for my was called ddo guys see in discernment officer. He was still messaging me up to about a year after I'd left the church saying well how is this situation got because the servant process can take years like some people will kind of think, Oh, am I being called into this but they won't start their training for you know, five years down the line or something it's so it's it's quite good in the sense that they get make you take your time in it because if I hadn't been forced to go through that process I could potentially be standing at the front of a church right now. Like leading a church service for God, but I don't really believe in but you know, that's that's the way that it felt, I guess, but I didn't know

Joe Pearson :

any people that did that. I wonder if there's any people in a very similar position to you who did get the job and are sort of kind of on the fence? I'm,

Gordon Hall :

yeah, I must. I know people who have been through that kind of situation. And it's difficult. I don't want to I won't mention their names to protect their identities but it's it's not a knock Not a good situation to be in when you Yeah, make your money from a belief that you don't have and talking about it in a way. Yeah, definitely. It almost feel criminal in any way in a way of is going against yourself. And but yeah, essentially that's kind of I guess how it all happened and now I'm at a point, like I said, where I still am figuring out a lot of stuff for the last couple of years, I spent a lot of time in therapy trying to get a sense of a way of interacting and processing and relating to other people in the world that doesn't go through that was like the God's circuit in my brain if you like. Yeah, and to try and to work out how to love myself, inherently without again, feeling like I'm inherently sinful or something like that. And so that's been a massive journey for me. And it's been something that's been incredibly difficult. And yeah, he's still ongoing. But I, like I said, I wouldn't take it back because I think if I hadn't gone through that I wouldn't be where I am now.

Joe Pearson :

And generally, people that are attached to religions and stuff tend to be slightly nicer and better people generally. I've seen to find that in my my life meeting quite a few people in various jobs. Yeah. That is one of the very good positive things that people and people can be more giving and a lot more accepting sometimes other people, yes, especially after they come out with religion. Yeah, because they've seen what putting people into certain boxes can do And how damaging that can be. Yeah. And to have a group mentality on very serious issues can be very dangerous sometimes as you thought the homosexuality thing.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, I think it's is one of these things as we said a couple of weeks ago, there's, there's good and there's bad in religion, religion in itself I don't think is inherently good or bad. It's the way that people use it. And it's the the people that are in power and the way that they talk to people that affects it more than anything.

Joe Pearson :

It's because it's an organisation and with organisations, you get power. And that can lead to people making very, very big decisions that a lot of people and abusing that. And that's how it happens, unfortunately, and I think we're going to keep coming back to this because I think it's a very interesting chart. We don't have to keep going back into your exact experience, but you have a unique perspective because you've been on the inside for a large part. Your life and you cannot leave aside and an argue you're probably still in the liminal space right now, where

Gordon Hall :

definitely, you've not

Joe Pearson :

quite made your complete identity without that lens of God and Christianity. And I think it's gonna be very interesting to keep kind of coming back to this and that you've learned. Yeah, biggest thing that actually interested me is the fact that you mentioned podcasts and a lot of people that without the internet, you probably would have never been able to get in touch with. Yeah, I think that's an incredibly powerful tool. Hmm, that would have helped me so much in the journey and would help other people as well. Definitely.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. I don't know where I would be if it hadn't been for me being able to find people who were experiencing similar things to me through the internet. I think it's

Joe Pearson :

Yeah.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. If it hadn't been for that community, I don't know what I would have done.

Joe Pearson :

And it's one of the better aspects of the incident. The fact that people can find similar groups, people in similar situations. And sometimes that gets abused for the wrong reasons. Oh, yeah, of course, what you'd argue very extreme views. But on the good side of that, you can go on a massive journey, and you can go on a journey with other people as well. Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing that I've learned from that actually is it's good to go out there and find the resources because there's so much out there. Yeah, people if you need it.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah. I think for me, and I've just thought of this. So sorry for slight Change of topic. But for me, one of the things that really has been the biggest struggle and it's still something that I'm really find difficult, even today is my relationship to music. I kind of alluded to it a couple of episodes ago when we were talking about songs and stuff. But because music is such a central part of the Christian faith, particularly the evangelical faith The sun worship is something that is very prominent. And it's also when you're singing to God, you're worshipping God. It's something that I would feel connected to God while I was singing worship songs, essentially when I was doing that, and listening to them

Joe Pearson :

as well, in a way, I guess, yeah, basically.

Gordon Hall :

And because I was very, very strict in my Christianity and I, I took it very, very seriously. I didn't really listen to a whole lot of music that wasn't Christian, my own my kind of thought process was, if I'm listening to music, then if it's Christian music, then I'm blessed or like that kind of thing, right? If I'm listening to non Christian music, then I'm wasting time. Sorry, my phone just started playing music that is very strange but Anyway, jazzy Girl by Tom Waits. You know that song? No, homie that was on the library anyway. Yeah, so my relationship with music has been something that has been difficult to get back because I had such an intense connection with God to connected with those songs. I've not been able to find that listening to secular music and have not been able to find I've not been able to listen to Christian music since I left the church because I don't believe it. But yeah, it's for me music still is something that because it, I think because I experienced music primarily through my body. And my relationship with my body was so determined by my relationship with God. I've almost had to read Learn how to process that. And that's something that I'm still really struggling with today. Yeah. Which is really weird, because music is something like I studied music technology. But for some reason, my brain is still wired to connect music with God. And it's really hard for me. It's hard to even explain it. I don't know whether I'm making sense, but it's it's a weird thing. me. I mean, I think a lot of people would agree music is inherently spiritual.

Joe Pearson :

It's incredibly personal. Especially these days, you've got access to all the music that's ever been made. Plus, yeah, new music release all the time. Yeah, we've got these apps on our phones that can access billions of songs. You could just search a word if you wanted to. Yeah, if you're really in the mood for something along those lines like it again, we take it for granted, take it for granted. But it also means that discovery can be quite hard. Sometimes Yeah, probably what you're experiencing Yeah.

Gordon Hall :

And as well because I spent the majority of my teenage years listening to solely Christian artists. I don't really know what other kind of hip and happening artists to listen to nowadays. Oh, yeah. Kim got Kardashian someone to listen to or

Joe Pearson :

you know that search daily death. Yeah, I've heard a. Kylie Jenner is a. Okay. She makes a couple of tracks. He's right. Yeah,

Gordon Hall :

yeah, she's got an EP out.

Joe Pearson :

But you've missed. You've always missed like a couple of generations of music, maybe well, maybe at least one decade of music in a way, which must seem really weird. Yeah. It's particularly as a teenager. And you're not going to relate to this. As you just said, maybe you have a similar experience with Christie music, but we would share songs on the bus and we'd like Bluetooth it to each other and that's the way we discover music because other than like music channels on TV, and maybe YouTube There was no other way.

Gordon Hall :

So now you are sharing your sinful music. That's, you know, promoting disgraceful, promiscuous behaviours. I was listening to holy worship for tasteful music from the Lord. I

Joe Pearson :

think that's why a lot of people of our generation have quite a foul mouth really growing up, linkin park and M dubs and yeah, it's kind of weird bands that kind of come and gone Jordans? Yes. To be fair, I did listen to

Gordon Hall :

linkin park a bit. They were right.

Joe Pearson :

I had a very strong emo phase. I didn't look like one by if you took my headphones on listen to you. But Whoa, yeah, I was involved in longer hair than you have right now.

Gordon Hall :

And I was involved in a lot of bands growing up playing the drums and so I primarily did Christian music at church and stuff. But the every so often I'd be in a band at school and I've been told to learn or linkin park or Green Day Song, something like that. So I know the ones that I learned on the drums, if that makes sense, but it wasn't.

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, yeah. I was like You naughty on a sidetrack. Yeah, don't tell these people

Joe Pearson :

I think that's a perfect place to lift it off. And I think it's great that you can actually talk about this because I'm sure there's so many people that can't who've gone through a similar transition and and rightly so, because it's such an emotional and personal thing. Because you almost feel guilty that you devoted so much of that time you know, it's Yeah, you almost feel embarrassed, maybe in a way I don't know. I don't know how its how emotionally that

Gordon Hall :

plays out. is something that up until the last few months, I've not really been able to talk about and yeah, even now it's still trying to kind of processor engager and understand it is difficult.

Joe Pearson :

I'm getting there. It sounds like you are as well, which is the most important thing. So that was our chat about Gordon's incredible phase transition and the transformative thing that he went through all his decision making along the way. And we do have a lot more people who are going to talk similar kind of themes.

Gordon Hall :

Yeah, we've got some really exciting guests lined up to speak to over the next few weeks, but we'd also love to hear from you if you'd like to feature on the show. If you've had a particularly engaging story of a life changing event that's happened or anything like that, please do get in touch. drop us an email at Hello at the Liminal pod comm or head over to the lemonade pod comm forward slash contact and fill in the form that

Joe Pearson :

Yeah, please get in touch man. Follow us on all social media because we Might announce who's coming on and all that kind of thing on there. Yeah, she's at the Liminal underscore pod on pretty much everywhere even

Gordon Hall :

sit sock indeed. And finally, thank you so much everyone who's been rating and reviewing and subscribing that really does make a massive difference. If you're able to please do drop us a rating and a review, if you're on Apple podcasts, the easiest way to do that is to tap onto the name of the podcast. Scroll down and you can leave a review right there

Joe Pearson :

and obviously hit five stars. Oh, yeah, obviously. Yeah. If you're thinking of a four star, I would think I was saying yes, about through. I think desert island serene was was certainly our peak of season one. Yeah. So maybe listen back to that and rethink your choice.

Gordon Hall :

Definitely. Yes. Other than that, though, and until next week, Joe, we'll see you

Joe Pearson :

soon. We'll see you next week with someone else. You will never know until next week. Bye. My

Gordon Hall :

thank you once again to Harry for producing In the incredible music that you can hear right now, thanks once again to Haley for the incredible logo. And Leah for doing all of that amazing work behind the scenes making this show happen. We couldn't do it without you. Most of all, thank you to you the listener for all that you are doing. Please tell your friends. I will see you next week. Bye