To begin at the beginning …

… I think that was how ‘Under milk Wood’ started.

I am not a scientist or a philosopher or an historian. The nearest I get professionally to studying anything academic is Art History which I teach to adults. As for religion, I do not come from a Christian family, though I did learn about Christ at school. I was born in 1960 so the Christian presence in schools was still quite strong when I was a child. My family come from an Irish Catholic background, though by my grandfather’s generation that was pretty weak as my Great-Uncles were a bunch of gangsters like a London Irish Mafia. My Father and Paternal Grandfather were strong Socialists and very involved with the Trade Union movement. Although I grew up respecting the TUC, I was also uncomfortable with the hate-filled rhetoric of the Left and it’s total distrust of anyone outside it’s political views.

As a child I envied families who went to church. They seemed to have a dimension to their lives much deeper than what we experienced in our family, but part of that may have been that they were part of the ‘establishment religion’ that we learned about at school. Having said that, the emptiness I experienced as a child was a profound absence. As a child I liked this Jesus guy, I loved Christmas and felt that the Nativity story gave the whole festival an eternal context and I always felt sad at Easter about Christ being crucified. One of my first personal and truly Christian experiences was of standing in assembly on the last school day before Easter and seeing an Easter Garden in front of the Headmistress’s lectern. This was a simple diorama with the stone rolled away from the tomb and a gigantic daffodil overshadowing the garden. At that moment I realised why Good Friday was ‘good’ because of the resurrection of Christ, and a great joy filled me.

I had no problem believing in the God we were told about at school. There was a Headmistress, a Prime Minister and a Queen – someone had to be in charge of the whole show. I also had experiences which I found easy to contextualise as ‘spiritual’. I feel afraid to write this as I know it will meet with ridicule in some quarters, but as a small child I used to hear kind voices in the air around me when I played in my back garden. Friendly voices calling my name. I just used to call them ‘the people in the sky’ and thought everyone heard them. Now, I am sure there will be someone with a psychological explanation for this, but I am just setting the scene of my childhood environment to explain how I came to believe in the God of the Christian faith.

I had little connection with church as a child. My first memory was of walking into the local Parish Church on Ascension Day with my school cap on. The then Headmaster of our school pulled it off my head angrily. So my impression of church was a place full of meaningless rituals. To be continued …

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