Louise Hughes is one of our Story of Care Ambassadors. This is the second in a series of blogs exploring her experience of care. The first one is about being a sibling in care.
When it was suggested to me that I should write a Real Stories of Care blog post about Christianity and my faith, I thought “sure, why not”. Until I realised – what do I actually say?
Do I write ,what is called in Christian circles, a testimony? Do I research the statistics of children in care and religion? Do I write about the changes in faith? Maybe I can explore where all the children and young people have gone from church. To be honest, as I sit in bed (in the middle of the day), I still don’t know what I’m going to say.
But lets start with this quote from the Department of Education:
The child’s carers should be aware of the child’s religion and culture and the manner of which these are reflected in their daily life, including any help the child will need to maintain these links. Even where the child does not have a formal religion s/he may have needs for a spiritual dimension to his/her life and should be supported and encouraged to develop it. These experiences contribute to a child’s sense of identity. DfE 2010: 69
So the DfE are quite clear: if a child comes into care and follows a certain religion, they should be encouraged and allowed to follow/practice/identify with their faith.
Now, I’m a White British Woman who is a Christian. Being placed with a Christian family was going to be much easier than if I was a Muslim/Sikh/Hindu. I assume. However, I wasn’t a Christian when I came into care. My birth parents were Christian so I guess in the eyes of social services, it was right to place us with a Christian family.
What I can talk about is what I wrote for for my dissertation. My dissertation was a play made up of stories: those in the church, those who had left and those who had a faith of some kind. If you want to read the whole monologue – get in touch. The whole play is quite long!
Arriving at university I had my whole life packed up in five Ikea bags, two black bin bags, three cardboard boxes, a keyboard, a guitar and an oboe. So not a lot really. When I arrived at uni, I hadn’t been to church for three years.
Yet, the first thing I did when I arrived was to find a church.
I walked in alone that day. To be fair, three years later, I still do, but on that Fresher’s Sunday I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was in this unknown universe, didn’t really call myself a Christian… but I was still there. And I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know what was going on.
I probably wasn’t a Christian when I came to church. Ten years in the care system will do that to you. I did try to do Christian things, I didn’t want to let my parents down. They were both Christian, took me to church, let me dance and sing… I was dedicated and everything. My first lot of carers were Christian too and they still took us to church, where I could sing the songs and all that. I became a Christian when I was 11 but I guess it was kind of out of obligation.
I didn’t know Jesus though, the whole crux of Christianity.
I could have done with the whole Christianity thing though…because my life tipped upset down when I was 14. My mum died suddenly. And suddenly I became angry, angrier than I’ve ever become before. I was angry at a God for taking away a mother with so much more to give. I was angry at a God for taking away a woman who was turning her life around. I was angry at a God for taking away the one person I wanted. The one person I could rely on, person I could talk to. I was angry at a God for making me yet again grow up too soon. I believed in a God purely to be angry at him.
It’s not easy being a Christian. It’s not easy to be human. It’s hard to tell people about Jesus and my anxiety gets in the way of that. I can’t seem to tell people why I’m a Christian and why I believe what I believe. It’s so easy to glorify God in the good times, but not in the bad. I have far more bad times than good times so sometimes for days, weeks or even months I don’t talk to him. I’ve made it a habit now that before I go to sleep I’ll say a simple prayer thanking God for the day, and usually it leads into me praying for everyone and everything. I’m still glorifying God. But prayer is also incredibly difficult. I usually don’t know what to pray for and I don’t like to pray for me. I feel selfish when I do.