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Regaining Faith

“It’s quite interesting to me that a few of my friends think that suddenly I’m really involved with the Church, but actually it’s suddenly I’m being open about being involved in the Church”.



Isabella McDonald-Booth trained in glass and ceramics at the University of Sunderland and now manages the shop at the National Glass Centre.  The contemporary glass and steel building (one of the first lottery funded buildings in the North East) which is located on the North Bank of the River Wear, houses the UK’s largest art glass making facility and is home to the University of Sunderland’s Glass and Ceramics department.  The centre is situated near to the site of St Peter’s Church, a very old monastery and site of Christian and Cultural Heritage.

Izzy was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England and regularly attended church as a young girl with her family. She read in the church and helped out with Sunday School.  She says her “early Christian life was quite ordinary” but in her teenage years after moving to a new area to attend university, she became more detached and less involved.  At this point, Izzy would attend church two or three times a year. She admitted that church wasn’t the key thing in her life at that time.

She struggled with certain aspects of the Church's teachings and because of a lack of confidence in the Church's ability to move these issues forward she withdrew herself from church life. This resulted in a period of five to six years when she didn’t attend church at all principally due to the issues that she had about her own sexuality and feeling really uncomfortable with what the Church was saying. She felt that the Church at that point in her life “wasn’t really a welcoming space” for her and so she “stayed away”.

Over time, Izzy drifted back to her local church at Jesmond where she established a more regular pattern of attendance and began to get more involved. Instead of rushing out of church at the end of the service, she began to gradually integrate with her fellow worshippers and get involved in community work.  She describes St George’s Church in Jesmond as “a great church, a great community”.

For many years Izzy felt that her personal life and her church life were completely separate parts of her existence and that it was beginning to feel really uncomfortable and she “wanted to bring those two things together”. She described it as feeling “really jarring”.  Her greater involvement in her local church gave her the confidence and push she needed to start to reconcile these two parts together.

For the last 10 months, Izzy has undertaken an 'Exploring Theology Today' course.  This course is run by the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership, which is set up through the Diocese of Newcastle and it aims to open up training opportunities for people who have an interest in exploring discipleship and the Christian faith.

One evening a week this group met to discuss major issues in theology and church tradition in a way that applied to everyday life. Over the months, the course aims to enable people to engage, discuss and gain an appreciation of faith matters.  She remarked that there was a mix of people within the group from all denominations which made for great discussion on issues such as creationism, baptisms, how to interpret different parts of the Bible and more ‘down to earth’ based issues.

Izzy sums the course up by saying: “It’s changed a lot of things for me, I have a bit more confidence to be able to say yes, there are things that I agree with but there are things that I don’t agree with. But I’m quite happy to talk about those things and find out what other people think.  It feels like a much more open forum”.

Izzy’s confidence has grown and she is happy to discuss her faith when asked.  She said “I found it quite interesting, the more open I was about what I was doing; people would come and ask me questions”. She is looking to enroll on further courses through the Diocese and says “my faith underpins everything I do and always has done.  I feel much more comfortable with talking about it now and mentioning where I am going if it’s a Church activity.”

“It’s quite interesting to me that a few of my friends think that suddenly I’m really involved with the Church, but actually it’s suddenly I’m being open about being involved in the Church. That’s been a big change for me. It means that I can talk about it, be open about it and it’s not a separate part of my life.”

Izzy says: “There’s a lot of work going on in the Church, that maybe unless you try and find out those things, you don’t really know about.  People are working for equality and pushing for things that need to change. All those things are happening within the Church.  I think I just didn’t have an awareness of that as an outsider.”

“I’ve realized that faith is more important that just being unhappy about one aspect of it and if I feel that change is starting to happen and that discussions are taking place then I am much more comfortable with it.”

“I want to continue to enjoy what I have.”