Documenting one’s Faith Journey
Bishop Tim’s letter got me thinking and realising that I have never given any thought as to how I arrived at where I am in my Christian thinking!
So how did my journey start?
It was begun by my dear Mother who had a strong faith all her life. When I was very young, Mum taught me, alongside nursery rhymes, the words of the hymn ‘Jesus bids us shine’ and we would sing it together often. For my eighth birthday she bought be ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ with hymns at the back. Here I discovered the beauty of poetry and learned several hymns off by heart; two that come quickly to mind are ‘Now the day is over’ and ‘Ye Holy Angels Bright’. For my tenth birthday Mum gave me my first bible with illustrations.
My village primary school was a church school set up by the Church of England in the mid nineteenth century. We attended St Mary’s Church every Thursday morning and on Ascension Day after our morning worship we had the rest of the day off! It was while I was here we pupils had to learn Christian items off by heart , for example, the Catechism and Psalm 46. I loved school and learning, so for me this was not a problem but to this day I remember Gerald, a lovely lad but not very bright. Gerald, having spluttered his way through the first line of ‘God is my refuge and strength’ was then made to stand on a form because he had failed yet again. This became a daily occurrence. There is some sadness and irony that he couldn’t manage the second line of this particular psalm which is ‘a very present help in trouble’! Poor Gerald .
My teenage years were just magical! As a family we moved to rural East Herts when I was nearly fourteen. I joined the local Church Youth Club in the nearby village. These were the rock and roll years with Bill Haley and the Comets, Tommy Steele and Elvis and all that great music. My life revolved around club nights which included our monthly short service in church specifically for club members. As well as meeting ‘the love of my life’ in the Youth Club I joined the church choir. I will confess now, that this decision was partly made because I loved singing but I also knew that John was a choir member and server! Subsequently, I became involved with regular church worship, the church family, fetes etc.
Our vicar was keen that I should be confirmed like most other youngsters.. However, I was stubborn and stood my ground. I could be heard saying “I have my faith. I really don’t think I need all that bowing and scraping!” I am cringing as I write this, and want to make a public apology for giving such an irreligious response!
By the age of eight I had decided I wanted to teach so by the time I finished at High School aged eighteen, I had sufficient qualifications to get into teacher training college for three years to teach primary and lower secondary aged children. What I hadn’t appreciated at the time was that my college was set up in 1884 as a Training College for Mistresses by the British and Foreign School Society. The Christian ethos was strong, recognising the principles of its foundation. We were being trained to teach eleven subjects to children with some subjects intended for learning at our own adult level. And so it was with RE. I had the most brilliant lecturer who brought the Acts of the Apostles alive for us. We students really couldn’t wait to get to her sessions!
John and I moved to Cornwall in 1975 and in 1983 I became the headteacher of a small primary school in the County. As headteacher I was able to appoint my own deputy headteacher who turned out to be an unexpected and amazing influence on my own faith. I had always believed in equality and equal opportunities and had strongly supported the view that women, given the opportunity, would be able to make a major contribution to Anglican worship, as priests. For several years I became a very interested colleague and friend to Faith (and yes that was her name!) as she studied first, to become a deaconess, then a deacon and finally ordained as a priest in Truro Cathedral. Faith was one of the first female priests in this Diocese. During this time we, as a family, worshipped in St Martins’s Church, Liskeard and then at St Ive when we moved into this village. I gradually came to realise that there was more to being an Anglican than I was experiencing. This was confirmed on one Christmas Eve at the Midnight Service. The priest invited us all to the altar if we felt that at that moment the bread and wine were for us even if we hadn’t been confirmed. Yes, you have guessed it, I walked up to the altar and shared with others the bread and wine. Shortly after this, I attended six sessions of preparation and was confirmed by the then Bishop of St German’s in St Hugh’s Quethiock. John, my Mum and Faith were all with me for this special occasion.
So here I am in 2016. Reflecting on my journey I realise that by the grace of God I have found myself in places where a Christian ethos was well established. Within these places I came across several persons whose lives touched mine and had a significant impact on my own faith journey.
Sometimes the path ahead to continue my journey is very straight and far reaching, but occasionally this same path wobbles, and doubts about my faith creep in and overshadow me. Usually my path can be straightened by spending a few moments looking up at the myriad of stars and planets in the night sky reaching into infinity, or looking at the natural beauty of this world as currently, the swathes of snowdrops which appear each year despite the weather conditions; and then I can believe again that there is a creator with a design, far beyond human understanding.
I thank God for those persons I have met who have brought me thus far in my faith journey and my prayer is that I will continue to find inspiration and hope in the people I meet, and perhaps to join with or help others on their personal journey of faith.