I spent my childhood in a small village on the north western edge of the Lake District. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I and my brothers and sister were allowed to explore and roam freely. We had bicycles, rivers, woods, fields with little creatures and wild flowers, and little trickling ghylls with tiny fish. We built fires and had picnics, camped out, and devised immensely complex games with the six children who lived next door.
Things changed dramatically when I was 11 and went to boarding school in Harrogate, and, in due course, to university in Edinburgh. During this time I discovered my love of study and exploration through the mind, and became aware of the way in which music, too, can transport you to different places, bring you to into connection with realms of experience and emotion that are universal, and not just limited to the focus of one’s own personal world.
In my twenties I met and married a farmer who is the father of my three children. During this time I was a “farmer’s wife” and a mother, and reconnected with my love of nature and the outdoors and immersion in the cycles of the seasons. I learnt about animal husbandry; crop, tree and land management; and cheese making. We were amongst the pioneers of awareness of the issues around sustainable farming, and of a resurgence of interest in artisan cheese-making.
At this time I also became more interested in spirituality and first sought its expression through attending church and taking part in the music-making in church. By the time my youngest daughter went to primary school I was ready to begin a degree in theology. As a young Roman Catholic woman (as I was then) it was a fantastic privilege to study alongside the men and recently-accepted women in training for the ministry in the Church of Scotland, and here began my interest in and awareness of the length and breadth and variety of religious and spiritual expression. After my degree, I completed a teacher training course, and then began a period of immersion in a very different nitty-grittiness – that of the lives of teenagers in secondary school. The schools I taught in were very different from the schools I had attended some twenty years earlier!
What was great about teaching Religious Studies was the opportunity it afforded to hold classroom discussions and thus to hear and share the expression of views and opinions of others concerning religion and spirituality. In this way I learned to exercise my own understated brand of creative and positive acceptance and understanding in these matters. Mostly there were no exams to work to, so I could be flexible with the curriculum and the way the material was explored. Truly I can say that I am still very interested in and committed to the bigger picture of education. I believe that we spend our whole lives being ‘educated’; we choose our own curriculum, the curriculum of life, and, if we are willing, and even if we are unwilling, we grow. We grow in our humanness and, hopefully, in our humanity, we grow as people and as citizens.
In 2010 I decided to pursue my personal spiritual education by undertaking a training with the OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation. That was completed in 2012 with my ordination as a minister and then reinforced by completing another cycle of the training as a mentor with responsibility to support eight new students through their training journey.
Since 2012 I have conducted countless weddings, quite a few funerals, and some baby-naming ceremonies. Recently I have experienced a resurgence of my original intellectual interest in religion and spirituality. Not in the manner that most of us think of religion – as a system of beliefs and prescribed understandings about life and what might lie beyond life – but as an exploration of ways, means, and, above all, practices that help us to connect with the divine, and with our own deep inner selves, the god within.
If you would like to see a list of my numerous awards, qualifications and trainings, please click here.
OneSprit Interfaith Minister and Independent Celebrant.