This is not a blog about the R.E.M. song, although I have been listening to it on repeat for some time now and I suggest you do too. No, this is a blog about me not losing my religion, when I probably should be. Let me explain...
I have been going to church for as long as I can remember and probably a long time before. I never saw this as odd even though none of my friends got up early on a Sunday morning to go and sit in a cold church. In fact, it was far from odd. I loved it. Everyone was by and large friendly. I got to spend my time singing songs, dancing, playing games... oh and learning about God! I never questioned any of this. I joined the choir with my mum and my best friend (even though I have no singing ability - why did no one stop me?) and that was my friday night. Again, none of my friends were doing this but, choir followed by Gardeners World and Robot Wars was my Friday night sorted.
As I got older, our amazing Sunday school teacher left (she decided to get married - I know I'm equally outraged). I was about twelve or thirteen and was probably at the stage when most people stop going to church, but that stage never happened. We got two new equally amazing Youth Workers, who kept me going week after week. At about thirteen I decided that I was the right age to get confirmed. I say, I decided, I'm not sure I really did. I wasn't pushed into it, but I don't think I had a 'calling'. My brothers got confirmed and so I was to get confirmed. It was as simple as that. You might think that, that is not a good enough reason to get confirmed and you are probably right. But I just never thought about it. I'd been going to church for so long, that I never questioned if I believed in God. I didn't know any different.
When I was fifteen my mum died. She was the one with whom I would go to church. She was the one that kept me going for all those years. This was the time that I needed to question my faith... but I didn't. Well, not really anyway. I was far too scared. Questioning something so inherent in you is not easy. By questioning your sexuality or your religion might mean that you have to change who you are. Losing your mum changes who you are, I wasn't prepared to question my religion and potentially lose that too. People would ask me why I still went to church after she'd died. Surely if there was a God, she would have been saved? My answer then and my answer now comes from Ecclesiastes 3: "There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die." I believe that God planned for my mum to die, and that it was done for a reason. I don't know what that reason is, but I hope there is one. She can't have died for nothing surely? I never questioned my reasoning again, it was a lot easier not to. I kept going to church and for a while this was solely down to the people there. Being greeted warmly as you enter church is a feeling I will NEVER get tired of and I always miss it when I'm not there. I started to worry though. Was I just going to church because the people were friendly to me? Was it the community atmosphere that I cherished, rather than the fact I believed in God. Again I started to question myself, and again I got scared.
When I was seventeen, I had the opportunity to teach a load of children at a Christian holiday camp (Lighthouse) about God, and that was my greatest test and fear. How could I even begin teaching others when I didn't know what I believed? The answer - I ignored my doubts and taught them anyway. Again I was too scared to to think and talk to others about the doubts I was having.
Through all of this I still went to church every Sunday. Was I a fraud? Was I a coward? Probably. But looking back I think that I must have had that faith in me otherwise I wouldn't have kept going. I still have a long way to go. I need to spend time thinking about faith, but I think admitting that I wasn't always all there is the first step to moving on (I feel like I'm at Alcoholics Anonymous!).
I'm not losing my religion, I'm gaining it. I feel slightly nervous about admitting this because recently admitting that you are associated with the Church of England is highly embarrassing. Women Bishops and Gay marriage spring a little too quickly to mind (the next subject on my to do list to blog about). I may not go to church every sunday. I may not lead a perfect life, but I hope I can try to lead a Christian life.
I want to end by thanking my church for being so unbelievably friendly that I don't ever want to leave (even if I have moved to the other side of the country). You are the reason I kept going all of these years. If you have achieved nothing else in your life, you have kept me happy for the last twenty years!