Welcome! My name is Anthony James Smith, an anagram of 'hmm, enjoy this, Santa'.
I was born on 27th July 1980 in Hertford, and then moved to Hitchin in 1984. I went to The Priory School in Hitchin from age 11-18 and then spent a year as Organ Scholar at Southwell Minster, near Nottingham. I then went to Cambridge, where I spent three years as a student at Jesus College, studying maths. I was also an Organ Scholar at Jesus College. That kept me busy until 2002, when I moved to Brighton. During my time in Brighton, I was mostly doing further study and research in astronomy at the University of Sussex, but also spent a year working for Calvary Evangelical Church (2003-4).
Since leaving Cambridge, I've been focusing my musical energy on singing, as a bass/baritone soloist, or with various choirs and ensembles. You can read about that on the singing page.
Despite having been in church services most weeks for all of my life, by the time I was ten I was a firm atheist. I was sure there was no need to believe in a God—after all, the whole universe came to be how it is without any help from some supernatural being (so I thought). When I was 15 I started going to the youth group of a local Bible-believing church. On 2nd March, 1996 this church held a youth service, which I attended. The preacher's text was Luke 9:23: "Then he [Jesus] said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.' " He encouraged us to commit our lives to God, and I did, out of a real sense of God drawing me to himself.
Now I understand more clearly what God was doing at that time. God had made the world with the intention that humankind would be the pinnacle of his creative work. More than anything else in creation, it was men and women who were supposed to display God's glory—as 'the image of God'. Now the way people were to image God's self-giving love was, of course, by being selfless and loving themselves, but to do so in constant dependence on him, acknowledging that everything they had and needed was ultimately provided by him. In particular, God wanted people to find their deepest needs—for meaning, for significance, to be known and loved—to be met in himself.
But the first people decided they knew better, and refused to live with him as the centre of their lives. They said in effect, "I know what's best for myself," and cut themselves off from the source of all goodness. God was holding out to them everything they could possibly need, and they said, "No thanks, get lost!" What stupidity! What an insult!
It's no surprise that humankind is in such a mess now. God has allowed us to experience—in a very small measure—what it means to exist without his constant care and kindness. But we stubbornly refuse to take the hint, groping around in the dark hoping that something (technology, perhaps?) will satisfy us, and that something will enable us to reach a better existence. The emptiness of this hope is all too obvious.
This was the world I was born into.
But the good news is that God hasn't left us like this. After repeatedly spitting in God's face, refusing even to contemplate the possibility that he could be the answer to our needs, we deserve to be stripped of every good thing God still gives us and left in that state for ever (the Bible calls this "hell"). But God had an alternative plan. He raised up a man, Jesus of Nazareth, to be stripped, insulted and killed in the place of those who deserved it. But he was no ordinary man. He was the only person who has ever lived who was free from the accusation of living in rebellion against God. In fact, the Bible describes him as "Immanuel", God with us. He was killed by crucifixion, but God publicly declared him to be in the right by raising him from the dead on the third day.
By Jesus' resurrection, God has announced that he has started to recreate the world in its former glory. Jesus is the man who will head up the new, glorious humanity, and God has fixed a day on which this new creation will be completed. None of us has any right to be there—we have all defaced God's image. But Jesus' resurrection also tells us that there is a way for us to be forgiven and to know a restored relationship with God. That way—the only way—is through Jesus.
At that youth service, God opened my eyes to that fact of history, and my life was transformed as I turned back to him. Life is still tough—I still live in a broken world—but I am now waiting for the day when Jesus will return to the earth and put everything to rights, for ever.
God is being very patient with us, giving us this opportunity to return to him. But there will come a day when that opportunity is no longer present, and then we will know what it means to be completely cut off from God, experiencing none of his generosity, love and care. That is, unless we receive God's offer of a new life through Jesus.