I have been trying to recall my earliest thought though perhaps more accurately my first conscious notion of God. I don’t know about you though I have these videos in my mind that can recall a scene from the past; so the search engine of my mind plays what it believes to be the occasion, it was at the Church of Ireland Sunday School held in the local community centre, Corcrain Community Centre. We were in a small meeting room which was separate from the others as we were the youngest; it was there I recall saying to the teacher and the class, “ I am keeping this chair empty as God is sitting here.” I think the TV programme ‘The Invisible Man’ was influencing my thinking.
So by the age of 4, I had a concept of God which was wrapped up in the idea that we were going to Sunday school to learn about God. I had not been to church so I suppose in the same way that I gained language and my accent I gained my family’s, my community’s, notion of God. As I write I recall that I was taught the Lord’s prayer by my mother before this and each evening I would kneel beside my bed and recite the prayer after her. It is not a long prayer though plenty in it to get a child’s mind thinking over such words as, ‘trespasses’.
We went to Sunday school as much to socialise as anything else and most kids on the estate went. The Community centre offered us much not only Sunday School in the morning but the Baptists had one in the afternoon and the Brethren had children's meetings on a Monday night though the piano remained silent.
During the week after school, there was the well attended ‘Play scheme’ what would now be called an after school club.
I continue to believe that there is a need for centres in communities whether they are halls belonging to faith groups, the local council or any other as there will always be children, just like me, who need a place to go that is free, warm, stimulating and providing a sense of belonging, a community.
Perhaps this thought was prompted as I did my first stint as a children’s helper at the local Quaker meeting maybe it put me in touch with the start of my faith story. Perhaps a concern is how does a child, again like me, access a faith community if their parents do not attend.