In despair following a cancer diagnosis, a Baptist minister experienced a sudden burst of creativity on an oncology ward which has resulted in him penning a series of songs about God and faith
The Revd Andrew Gardiner, minister at Hope Baptist Church in Plymouth, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May. The cancer had spread to his liver by August.
As he underwent aggressive treatment, deeply frustrated and in turmoil at being “snatched” from his place in local church ministry, he discovered God was enabling him to do something new: write a succession of songs, poems and even a book.
‘To my astonishment, it started in the middle of the night in a hospital ward,’ Andrew said.
‘Three songs came. I haven't done anything like this for decades – no time!’
In total Andrew has now written 20 songs, as well as a number of poems. He is also 11 chapters into a book, called The Tunnel, for which he is looking for a publisher.
He's called his new ministry Rising Hope: ‘a ministry of light, emerging from a dark place,’ he explained.
‘Rising Hope is me seeking to minister to others when I have been taken out of local church ministry due to cancer treatment. I have been dragged against my will into a dark place – “the tunnel”. It’s a place of darkness, fears, loss and confusion.
‘But in this place I have discovered God does some things which are surprising and new.
‘I still have a calling to proclaim Christ and spread the gospel, so I have to find alternative ways of doing that.
‘Rising Hope is a new vehicle....until I can get back in the old one that I love.’
There is a website and a Facebook page. The first song was released on iTunes last Wednesday. Called True Identity, it looks at who we are in Christ. A friend who fronts a band has recorded it, while his daughter appears in the video that accompanies it. (It can be viewed here on Youtube.)
‘I have had to ask myself some big questions about who I am when I'm not ministering anymore,’ Andrew said.
‘I have had to learn afresh about who I am when I'm NOT doing (ministry), but being.
‘I hope that hundreds of others will get the message about who we are In Christ, what he has done to make this possible, and how that changes how we see ourselves, our lives, our present priorities and future dreams.
‘I am desperate to see people released into being who they really are, coming fully into our inheritance.’
He is now about to embark on a third course of chemotherapy, after the first two failed to shrink the tumours.
‘I still don't feel ill from the cancer - I hardly have over the 8 1/2 months to be honest. But the treatment has made me very ill, off and on.
‘I did have pain in my liver and colon, but after an evening of prayer with friends who came to our house it disappeared the next day....that was November, and its not returned!
‘I am emotionally very up and down, and have physical (unexplained) abdominal pain, all day, every day.
‘But I carry 2 Corinthians 4: 8-12 in my soul.’