Following my dad’s example, I had been a determined atheist for over 60 years when – unexpectedly and definitely against my will – the power of the Holy Spirit reached out to me in a way that could not be ignored. This happened as I sat unhappily in my armchair at home several weeks after my older sister had died of cancer during spring 2010 in a distant hospice. Attempts at prayer in church were a total failure at the time of her funeral in Edinburgh and later in Cardiff; but in that chair the awareness of God’s love for me as an individual came with an overwhelming and frightening presence filling my world along with these words: “David, I am always with you”.
This might readily be set aside as a comfort blanket after deep emotional distress, but it was not an immediate experience after sadness and it was followed soon by a transforming experience whilst serving as a juryman on a long and distressing paedophile case. At the time the guilty verdict was read out, I knew the court room was filled by Christ’s compassion enfolding the criminal policeman in the dock; I believed then that the man should be loved for himself rather than rejected as a badly flawed individual.
My wife being a Catholic, I had some idea of one avenue to try and make sense of these spiritual encounters – along with experiences which I had rejected earlier in my life; but it took a long time for me to accept Christian faith when I had spent a lifetime rejecting Christ and all his works. Thanks to many wise and tolerant people in our parish and deep wisdom from our priest, I rejoice in being accepted here and feel resolute, if somewhat imperfect in Scriptural knowledge and worship practice, on my journey confident of God’s love for us all.