Pastor Gilroy Brown shares his inspiring testimony of how he left church, became a top educator, re-found his faith in God, and became leader of the church founded by his father
My faith journey has been circuitous, and I am thankful to God that today I am back in the centre of His will.
I was born in 1953, the second eldest of seven siblings. My parents, who led Mount Shiloh Church in Wolverhampton, brought us up in the Christian faith. They also taught us to value our racial heritage and to be confident in ourselves as Black children. As a result, I had a positive view of my race and, alongside the Christian faith, I was well versed in the issues surrounding racism, the Civil Rights movement, and icons such as Marcus Garvey. My parents also taught us to prioritise getting a good education and taught us to work doubly hard within a system that was not designed to favour us. I believe it was these values that projected me into doing well in my career in the education sector.
However, as a ‘pastor’s kid’, I faced the challenges of extra scrutiny and increased pressures to uphold church standards. This, coupled with the fact that most of my peers were not in church and I wanted to fit in with them, led me to drift from the Church when I was in my late teens.
I stayed away until I was in my late twenties, during which time I didn’t live according to the godly standards my parents had taught me. It was during this time that I met my girlfriend and became a father. My career was progressing well, but I was feeling increasingly empty. This precipitated my return to church when I was in my thirties. This lasted for approximately 13 years, during which time I still found it difficult to live the life expected of me. One of the complexities was that my girlfriend, by then my wife, was not in church. Our marriage also broke down during this period, after which I again drifted from church.
The next 10 years saw me becoming an increasingly radical proponent of Black culture, roots, and heritage. I was also living further away from God, feeling as if I couldn’t live up to the expectations I perceived my father had of me and, even though I was still excelling in my career – having risen to the position of Principal of a prominent West Midlands school – inside I was a mess; my personal life was likewise a mess.
Three years prior to my 50th birthday, I happened to be listening to a WOW Gospel album. I hadn’t listened to gospel music for years. I began dancing to the tunes and suddenly I thought about the love of God and how far I was from that love. The next thing, I fell to my knees, in tears. Then, it was as if I were having a vision where I was looking up at the grey sky and the sun was trying to filter through with spotlights, searching for me, and I heard a Voice from behind the sun saying to me, “Do you think you have gone so far that I don’t know where you are?” This stayed with me but for the next three years I did nothing about it. Repeatedly, however, unconnected people started talking to me about purpose, and I couldn’t escape the fact that, although I was a giant in the secular world, in Christ I was nothing.
Finally, in 2006, I came to the end of myself. I knew the only way I could find peace was to surrender to Christ. So, in March 2006, I made a total commitment. That was 17 years ago and I will never forget it.
It has come to me most vividly over the years, that my circuitous journey was to bring me to this point to continue my father’s legacy and to be a servant of the Lord. The Lord allowed me to go out there to learn that the only way to make sense of my life was to stop and listen to Him. I had no desire to pastor the church my father had left but, following the split that the church experienced some years earlier, if I were not here now, there would have been no one to take up the leadership.
Currently, we at Mount Shiloh are living through a prophecy that said, “Darkness is going to cover the church for a season, but the house of Shiloh will stand.” I am humbly trusting God to continue to lead us.
Pastor Gilroy Brown is a retired headteacher, principal, school adviser and education consultant. His book, Redeemed, tells the story of his faith and work in education.