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Flower Festival 2010

My Faith Journey by Sue Johnson

As a child I was dragged to a high church kicking and screaming.  Children had to be dressed up in their Sunday best and had to be seen and not heard.  I couldn’t understand what was being said and the hymns were dull and boring.

At 10 I went for confirmation lessons...because I HAD TO,  according to my grandparents.  I learnt the creed off by heart and I was confirmed.  Did I understand what I had learnt? The answer was No!

At 13 I was allowed to go to youth club and I was old enough to choose which one I wanted to attend, so much against my family’s wishes I went to the Baptist church and joined YPF, (Young Peoples Fellowship).  There I met a great crowd of like minded friends and I learnt the Bible stories from the Good News Bible which was in plain English and sang songs from Mission Praise which in those days was very new.  We were allowed to attend church in jeans and that is where I learnt that God doesn’t insist you where your best clothes to visit his church.  His church is all around us, in the buildings where we work, in the homes where we live and in the fields where we play. God just wants us know him.

At 17 yrs old I left home and joined the Army. In the SANDS shop you could buy books with Christian stories   I started reading these which was a way of learning whilst unable to go to church due to serving in
Northern Ireland.  My friends at YPF kept in touch by post and sent me records by Christian groups.  This kept my faith alive.

When I left the Army I was married and we came to the
Forest to be near his relatives in Ross.  He didn’t like going to church so I didn’t go.  The marriage didn’t last and when I was left literally holding the baby, I turned to God for support.  At that time my dad died of cancer and I started to doubt God as why would he allow my dad to die so young.  He was only 48.

It was hard bringing up a child on my own as all my relatives and friends lived a long way away in
London and money was tight.  Sadly I had a bad experience at the local church and so I stopped going. My faith was dying.

Dina, who was one of the church leaders at the Baptist church in
London, kept in touch.  Her support really made a difference.  Every time I could get down to London I would visit my friends at the Baptist Church and really enjoy the different way they would preach.   The building was a modern brick built structure that my mother used to say could not be a church as it looked like a barn!!!They would use puppets to keep the children involved and every sermon was spoken with the support of an overhead projector.  I found this very helpful as the pictures would enhance the spoken word. They had a band instead of a choir and it was obviously a winning formula as if you want to attend that church now you need to get there early or it will be standing room only!!!

When I met Chris, we had both gone through failed marriages and had children, so we had a lot in common, but the best thing was that Chris was a Christian.  We got involved with the Youth Club at Viney Hill which was run very much like YPF had been.  It was all about having fun and making friends.  When Chris proposed to me I said YES as long as I could get married at Viney Hill.  I wanted a new start for us both with all our friends around us.  Then two weeks before we were to get married came the devastating news that I had been diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis.  Did this bother me?  No!  There are lot more people out there who are worse off than me.

I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach and love in my heart.  A lot of the children in
Sri Lanka don’t have that which is why we do our little bit at the Paynter Home to ensure they can have what we have.

Chris is my cushion and God is my rock and the rest is history.

So if I don’t get to church on Sunday because I am exercising my horse Toby, it is not because I am ignoring God.  It is because I am out there in God’s world enjoying the beauty he made and living my life to the fullest whilst I can.

Love Sue

Tricia Morgan tells of her walk with God as her life unfolds. 

Hello, my name is Patricia Morgan and I am a member of the parish’s Local Ministry Focus Group. I live in Whitecroft, which my husband, Ralph and I moved to in March 2000. Ralph was born at the Dilke Hospital and spent his early childhood here and very much wanted to return to the Forest of Dean to live.
I was born and christened in Buckinghamshire, the eldest of six children. We moved to the
West Midlands when I was 3 years old. I have been a Christian since my childhood, confirmed in the Church of England at 14years old. I knew God then as an authority figure in my life, who set the rules, was all powerful, to be respected, revered, but a rather distant figure in my life.
I trained as a State Registered Nurse, from 18years old in
Birmingham, going on to study Midwifery and Sick Children’s Nursing working as a Ward  Sister at Birmingham Children’s Hospital prior to having my own 3 sons. Following my parents deaths, within 18months of one another, my 10 year old brother and my 14 year old sister came to live with us. I returned to work initially part-time and then went to Wolverhampton University to study and qualify as a Health Visitor, working in this role in West Bromwich, Sandwell, for 13 years before transferring to Gloucestershire. I worked locally before retiring 4 years ago to care for Ralph who had sustained a head injury from a road traffic accident 7years ago, which had developed into a form of dementia.Ralph is now being cared for in a specialist hospital in Bristol where I visit him on a regular basis. I have had the privilege of meeting some truly amazing people. While Ralph has been troubled with his illness, both he and other patients seem comforted by Willow, our Golden Retriever dog , who is known a registered PAT dog (Pets As Therapy dog). She has a gentle touch and staff , often busy and challenged, have found time to welcome and stroke her too. God has given me all sorts of opportunities, and challenges, walking with Ralph, supporting, caring, and advocating for him within the complexities of an illness without a clearly defined pathway.  

As I have travelled through my life , both with my work and home experiences I have come to know a loving, caring God , who is there for us whatever the challenges,  problems and twists and turns of life. I am grateful of the gift of freewill that is given to us all. I am aware that God has never left me and when things are tough a glimmer of love and understanding shines through and help arrives in some unusual , and surprising ways. I am very grateful to friends and family for their support and to the community of the church who have been there for me too. I have also met people sometimes it would seem quite at random , who have helped , given a different perspective and have been there with a smile. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work, leading ,guiding gently , probably quietly exasperated at times with my choices but reflectively part of my journey and God’s purpose in my life. The opportunity of serving in the parish has given me a greater understanding of the challenges we all face and a focus for reaching out into broader communities. We have the real grace of being Christians together locally, developed from being Churches together. The teaching of Jesus Christ, the humility of the sacrifices he made for us all in his human life continue to be an inspiration and comfort in my life as the future unfolds.


Hello, my name is Jean Edwards - some of you may know me as 'Auntie Jean!'

I live in Parkend, I married my lovely Tony in 1963, sadly he died 3 years ago.  I have 2 children and 5 grandchildren.

I was brought up in a Christian family where my childlike faith was nurtured.  I went to Sunday school at
Parkend Baptist Church, became a Sunday school teacher and played the piano and organ.  At the age of 17 I was baptised prior to the start of my nursing career.  I trained as a Children's Nurse at Bristol for 3 years, followed by my S.R.N. training at Cardiff Royal Infirmary.  After qualifying I nursed at Battledown Children's Hospital - my first Sister post was at Westbury Hall Hospital and I then transferred to the Dilke Hospital when the patients moved to the Warren Wing.  I then worked as a School Nurse for 18 years based at Yorkley and Coleford Health Centres.  I am now retired and enjoying life to the full.

My faith is important to me, but along the way I have experienced challenges and heartache.  For a year I was in a spiritual wilderness.  I searched my heart and prayed that the Lord would guide me along the right path.  One Sunday evening I attended Evening Prayer at
St. Paul 's not knowing what to expect.  Ivor was there......and me!  We had a meditative service together - what a special time for me.  I had that peace and contentment in my heart that I had been praying and searching for in my life.  I felt the presence of the Lord surrounding me with His uplifting love - my faith journey was on track again.  Thanks be to God.

When I was encouraged to be part of the Lay Ministry Team for the Parish, I felt privileged and yet humbled to be able to share my faith by being part of the fellowship of Christ.  I enjoy leading and sharing services and I thank the Lord that I am open to His guidance and His love and peace.

The words 'In Thee O Lord do I put my Trust', are a constant encouragement to me in my joy and in my sorrow.

       God bless,

“About me and my faith.”

When I was asked by Mum (Rev. Philippa!) if I would like to be a part of the Worship Team, I entered into it prayerfully and with some caution. I did not want being ‘the Vicar’s daughter’, to be seen as the only reason I was asked and why I accepted the role. I let myself be wholly God-led before I accepted. As well as being the route I felt God was wanting, I felt that it would be an important part of my vocational exploration. I also wanted to show that by assisting in the leading of Holy Communion, Morning and Evening Prayer, that a person in their (late) 20’s can be an active, giving part of the community.

Three facts about me!

    I am an artist.

    I have two gorgeous dogs called Jessie and Sammy!

    I have a BA Hons degree in Theatre Design and Technology: Scenography.

My faith has always been important to me, from childhood at Sunday school to where I am today. During my teens and University years I set out to explore what being a Christian means, and, more importantly, what it meant to me. This was at times very difficult, but ultimately by hitting ‘rock bottom’ I was able to look up and see my Saviour, who was holding out a hand to help me back onto my feet. I truly believe, sinful though I am, that Jesus walks beside me, sometimes carrying me, sometimes just holding my hand, always patiently encouraging me.
Throughout my life two verses have always stood out to me. These are Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 40:31. I print them below for you, both from the New International Version of the Bible.

    Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

    Isaiah 40:31 “...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Hannah Brunt