John Nichol is a member of More Than Dance which will perform at the Hyde Park Prayer Vigil.
Well I will start from the beginning. All my life growing up, my mam used to make me go to church with her. I used to hate it I really did. I used to think it was stupid and made up. Only bible bashers went to church. So when I hit sixteen I stopped going because I had a choice. That was that.
One day out of the blue my mam asked if I wanted to go to Lithuaniana on an exchange with Beyond the Barricades which is a Christian dance group led by Kevin & Oonagh Atkinson, who worship God through dance. At first, being sixteen, I laughed and said: ‘No way. I don’t dance for anyone. Not even God.’ But then time passed and people kept bring it up. So I thought of it like this. I thought I will go, have a free holiday, and cope with a bit of dance in the background. It will be a good laugh. So I went to the fund raising events and the dance practices.
Soon enough the time came to go to Lithuania. I met loads of new and interesting people, but remained adamant that I wasn’t there for God or anything to do with God. I had a really good time. I stayed with a lad called Damantis. He was great and apart from the dance and God stuff, I had a great time.
Then on one of the final nights we performed for all the families of the young people we had stayed with and the wider community. During a dance called ‘I Hope you Dance’, by Lee Ann Womack, about one quarter of the way through the dance, all of a sudden something happened to me. It’s hard to explain, it was like someone opened a box inside me. It was like an explosion. I felt it. I realised I was praying to God. I was in, well the best way I could put it would be in some kind of communication with God. It was like there was no one else there but me and him, like I was worshiping him. Just me. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
It had changed me in ways I didn’t realise yet and ways I wasn’t ready to except yet. I just carried on as if nothing had happened, trying to forget, to bottle it back up. I didn’t tell a living soul, in a way I was so scared of it, but happy at the same time. It was a lot of mixed feelings that I didn’t want to feel. Also I wasn’t ready to accept them.
So when we got back home I fought with them for weeks. Then I decided that I had to find out more. So I joined Beyond the Barricades. I started to dance and returned back to church. Then all of a sudden I found myself, well in deep. I believed in God 100%. I felt his presence with in me. When I danced it was just me and him. I worshiped through dance and it was fantastic.
That was all good but there was a down side to it. When people asked what I was doing or if I believed in God I said ‘no’. Every time I said ‘no’, I was to busy trying to be jack the lad to let people know that I was a believer. But all that was about to change.
As a group we went to Greenbelt Christian Festival to share our dance with other people. What I experienced there changed everything for me. There was thousands of Christians from all denominations worshiping God. There were other dancers. There were singers, preachers and lots of other ways to reflect on God within our lives. I think it was just seeing all those other Christians, so many of them worshiping God out loud to everyone that would listen. At the time I just don’t think it hit me how much that would affect my day-to-day life.
Because when I got back home I was different. I remember it was a Monday morning and I was looking in the mirror. I just decided right there that I wasn’t ashamed to be a Christian. That everyone would know that I am one.
From that day on who ever asked I just told them ‘I am a Christian and I dance to worship God.’ Yea, I got some stick form the lads. But I just took it and it stopped when they realised that it didn’t bother me.
Since then I have stayed with Beyond the Barricades which has led me to work with More Than Dance, which is Kevin & Oonagh Atkinson’s Christian dance company, I have been on an exchange to Germany and shared our dance worship with young people there. Also they shared their worship with us. We also took them to Greenbelt to show them what a fantastic experience it was.
Since then to now, I have had God and faith, no matter what people say. Faith gets you throw everything. Yes, I have questioned it, not too long ago actually, but I got through it. God loves you even if you are mad with him or hate him. He still loves you.
I personally think its good every now and again to question your faith. Make sure it is as strong as you think, because after you have tested it, it only gets stronger.