I don’t normally talk about my faith in public as I consider it a private matter and because I don’t believe that having a faith makes you a “better” person than someone who doesn’t.
Indeed, over the last two years, the people I have received the greatest love and support from are hardcore Atheists who are proud to be so. These friends have actually been more “Christian” than half the religious people I knew from the period when I had a “perfect life” – I wouldn’t be without my Atheist friends for the world.
However, St John’s Church in Leytonstone has also been a major part of my life over the last two years and in May I was confirmed there. The fabulous Reverend Raymond Draper (with whom I’m pictured above at the confirmation service) asked me to write an article on my experience for St John’s October edition of ‘Good News’, which has just come out.
Seeing as the print version of the article is now all over Leytonstone, I see no reason not to reproduce it here.
I thank Rev Raymond Draper and Rev Kathryn Robinson again for everything they’ve done for me over the last two years. Alongside my family, Atheist and non-Atheist friends, I wouldn’t have survived without them.
My Confirmation by Miranda Grell
The 24th of May this year was the first day of the rest of my life. At around 7pm in a beautifully lit St Andrew’s Church in Colworth Rd, Leytonstone, myself and three other worshippers from St John’s Church were confirmed in our faith, alongside six young parishioners. Being confirmed was something that felt completely right and natural to me at the time and four months on I definitely know I made the right decision.
My journey towards confirmation had begun at a point in my life where I had never been so low and so broken. After a series of traumatic personal and political events that took up the whole of my 2007, I spent a great deal of 2008 thinking about my life, my purpose in the world and my future – I spent more time than I ever had done thinking about God, Jesus Christ and the teachings of the bible.
Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t come to religion cold. I had always been open to faith. I had been born and raised a Catholic and my family and I had attended church well into my adolescence, but we had always been uncomfortable with the harshness of the Catholic Church’s teachings on many social issues. Over recent years, I had remained spiritual but my family and I had all but given up on organised religion.
My encounters with St John’s changed that position for the better. While engaged in local community work as a local councillor, I had always been impressed by St John’s and the practical help its clergy and its members seek to give people living in our local community. Rather than just ‘doing God’ for the sake of it, St John’s had always struck me as the ultimate positive example of ‘faith in action’. Its practical support for children and young people, families, the elderly, the disabled, those in need, and for local people from other faiths or of no faith was just phenomenal. Now at the hardest and lowest point in my life, St John’s reached out to me too and helped me get my life back.
Sanchia, Christopher, Margaret and I began our confirmation classes with Rev Raymond Draper on a cold night back in February. Despite the cold outside, that first session with Raymond, and the many others that would follow, were full of warmth. Raymond had prepared the course under a series of topics – ‘Does God exist?’, ‘What is the bible?’, ‘Who was Jesus Christ?’ and so on. Each discussion we had was backed up with some excellent materials Raymond loaned to us in the form of books, magazines, essays and DVDs. I particularly enjoyed reading some of the books written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the ‘Faith In Action’ series.
Another highlight of the confirmation course was the opportunity to visit another house of faith in our local area. Our group chose to visit the Quaker Friends Meeting House, just up the road in Wanstead. It was fantastic to be welcomed at that meeting by other local people who are also Christians but just choose to express their faith in a different way. St John’s close interaction with other churches and other faith groups in the local area again signalled to me that choosing to be confirmed there was the right decision.
As our confirmation classes progressed, I definitely felt myself growing in my faith, in peace and in the renewed joy of living. Sanchia, Christopher, Margaret and I would leave our classes feeling strengthened and calm, with a sense of being able to cope with whatever challenges were awaiting us.
I also attended church services regularly in that period and found that what we had learnt in the confirmation classes deepened my understanding and therefore my enjoyment of the proceedings.
By the time it got to May, there was no question that I would not go through with the formal confirmation ceremony.
Four months on and I feel very comfortable, relaxed and happy that I have been confirmed. I have a new church family to compliment the very good family and friends I already had, and I feel emotionally and mentally strengthened by the extra dimension being confirmed had added to my life. I have always been socially aware and so I am proud to be a full member of a church whose core mission is to ‘do good’ in a practical way for local people.
Joining St John’s and being confirmed has enriched my life and I would fully recommend the confirmation journey to anyone.