This one tiny thing made me fail my life long goal
I’ve always been told never to talk religion or politics.
So today I’m talking about religion.
Check me out with my lady balls.
Religion — I got into it, like really into it and it wasn’t just lip service.
It started when I was young — as did the majority of things that fucked me up.
My sister and I got taken to church once a week by my grandparents. We’d sleep at their house on a Saturday night and then get taken to church the next day. This was the arrangement for most of our young lives, pretty much from when we were born.
Both of my grandparents were Anglicans. They had been church-goers all their lives. So, my sister and I were bought up in the Anglican faith.
I’m sure it probably gave my mum and step dad a chance to catch up on their sex life!
Anyway, my sister, Stacey, hated church — specially as she got older. She wasn’t having any of this God nonsense and she resented getting up early — she’s always been a night owl (you should have seen her when my niece was born!). She didn’t get a lot of choice in the matter until she was a bit older.
I started to ask questions about religion as I grew up. My biological dad was an atheist and he would frequently tell me God did not exist. It wasn’t surprising that I had questions. I got into reading the bible and made a habit of listening to the words we were actually saying in church.
I helped form a youth group. I thought it would be great if there was a place where people like me could ask our questions. The local vicar and his wife were well up for it, and so it happened.
With the support of the Sunday school teacher and the vicars wife we set up a youth group. It went well. I prepared materials and games that taught lessons. We watched videos, we did fundraisers and we went on trips. We even went to Spring Harvest, a religious festival in the UK.
The more I did this, the more questions I had for the spiritual leaders in my life. Soon I was being told to go to university.
Around this time I also happened to be living a double life. After everything I had gone through I had gotten pretty rebellious. (You can read that story here). Even though I was busy taking drugs and fucking everything that moved, I was still going to church, still going to the youth group.
On the one hand there was Saggy, Gez and Norbert, my incestuous friends. On the other was my youth group and the spiritual leaders I had grown up with. Neither knew about the other, it did get awkward at times.
Around the time the rebellion started, I guess around 17 ish, I started to grow out of the youth group. I needed older influences. I was fed up playing games that were meant to teach lessons. I wanted serious conversation and serious reflection too.
I really enjoyed the peace that spirituality gave me. When you sit in an empty church and soak in the silence, you feel humbled. It’s like you can feel the existential weight of all the prayers that have ever been made in that place.
I loved sitting in that silence, the smell of candles and candle wax, the tangible cold and damp emitted from the stones of the church.
The vicars wife helped me start a new group. A group for young adults. It too was successful. It had a handful of weird members but we had a good time. We went on retreats, they gave us space and time to talk, reflect, pray and also to have a little fun.
We practiced meditation. We put on special and weird church services. We experimented with new and interesting ways to practice our spirituality.
We even went on pilgrimage to Walsingham with Rowan Williams. He would later become the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those pilgrimages, to this day, held some of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had.
By this time I was pretty dead set. I was going to be a vicar.
I spoke to my spiritual leaders and they agreed. I had a calling.
Many people who experience it call it this: A calling. I felt it, It’s like you know you have a higher purpose. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to tell yourself you are delusional. You feel it all the time, no matter what. The more you try to run from it, the more acutely you’ll feel it.
You know without any shadow of a doubt that God wants you for a sunbeam.
The next step was for me to do some learning. It was great that I wanted to be a vicar but I was young. The people I was relying on for advice wanted me to put a few miles on my spiritual soul.
So that’s pretty much where my double life ended. I went to university to study Theology (The study of God).
Whilst doing my degree I suffered a bit of a mental breakdown. All the stuff I’d been through with my step-dad dying, my mum becoming a different person, moving away from my manipulative friend. All of this had taken it’s toll. I was depressed. I’d been hurting myself for a while. I just didn’t want to live anymore if I’m honest about the whole thing.
I ended up going through CBT, my university friends got me the help I needed.
Then I met my ex husband. He was religious too. In fact I think that’s where we met, at the university church. I was in the choir there, sometimes I read lessons in the services.
We continued to go to church and I continued to study. I achieved a 2:1 in my degree. This was no minor feat. My entire second year had been consumed by my breakdown. I had done no work at all. Due to the circumstances, the university gave me the summer holiday to submit all the essays that were required to complete the course.
It was a lot of essays in a short space of time. There were days I really wanted to give up but I didn’t. I completed an entire year in less than three months, on my own.
The third year was a lot smoother, however, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I’d looked at God and religion from new angles.
All things considered I was now more skeptical than ever. I did the only thing I could think to do — kept studying.
I did a Masters in Theology. I really enjoyed it actually. The essays were longer, I had longer to write them and the content was more specific. I ended up learning New Testament Greek (I’m probably quite rusty by now!). I got really into the non-canonical biblical texts. (Books that were written around the time of Jesus but aren’t in the bible).
At the end of it all I realised. The church as it exists right now is really far removed from what it should have been. The religion is based around Jesus, he actually doesn’t say that much in the bible. The majority of rules and reasons that exist in the church are man made. That’s my biggest beef with religion. They’ve made it something it was never meant to be.
I decided I would be a different kind of vicar. One that actually acknowledges that life isn’t always straightforward. One that doesn’t impose stupid rules, but one who tells it like it is, like the big J man would have wanted.
It’s not about blaming others, blaming life, being angry, it’s about how we behave with each other. It’s about human kindness and just making the world a better place in general.
I moved back to South Wales. I started going to the church where it all started. The church I sat in as a young kid when I decided I wanted to be a vicar. I joined the choir and got involved. So did my ex husband.
Then came the day. The day I was finally going to give into God. I made an appointment with the vicar. I sat with him in his study and explained to him why I wanted to be a priest. He wrote notes.
He knew my ex husband. He said that because my ex husband had been divorced before we were married, I couldn’t be a vicar without special permission from the archbishop.
When I asked what this involved I was told that each of my ex husband’s ex wives would need to be interviewed. This was to make sure I wasn’t responsible for the previous breakups in any way.
At the time that didn’t deter me. It was my life’s goal, I’d worked my whole life for this, something so silly couldn’t make it fail surely?
My ex husband refused to fill out the forms. He didn’t want his past poked into. We actually had proof on paper that his last divorce happened a considerable number of years before he met me, that wasn’t good enough though.
And so that was the end of my quest to become a vicar. There was now an immovable object.
That’s what made me fall out with religion. That the rules could be so ridiculous and rigid. I don’t know what kind of vicar I would have ended up being back then. Not a good one. I was not mentally stable enough for that.
Now I’m going to tell you something you’ll never hear me say out loud. Something that I’ve not actually admitted to anyone. I still feel the calling. In the back of my mind I know I’m going to be a vicar one day.
I don’t go to church. I rarely pray. But I still feel it. It’s just not my time yet.
Thank You for reading x
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