Tuesday, 1 May 2012

From Safety Zone to the Unknown

It seems strange to refer to coming out of a Domestic Violence situation as leaving a safety zone, but my whole life was such.  Everything in my life had been determined or influenced by the church authorities.  From the outset of this blog I have chosen to write anonymously but you may read and feel you recognise me.  If so, I ask that you continue to read in a sensitive manner for I am writing about the lives of real people. 

In ‘My Background’, I wrote of how some aspects of my life had been influenced by the church.  This seems an appropriate place to expand on that.   My parents were also church ministers and the church leadership would relocate them to different churches without any prior consultation.

I was born into this nomadic lifestyle where it felt natural to move house every few years. 

I attended nine schools and was often asked whether I thought my education suffered as a result.   Without stability my schooling was bound to suffer.   I attended five primary schools located all over the United Kingdom and, looking through old reports, my grasp of key subjects was a little sporadic.  Some subjects were covered twice or more, and some topics were missed completely.  I was always the new boy in class.  Having a keen interest in sport did help me to integrate into my new classes but I was always aware that at some point in the future, I would be moving away.

In five years of secondary education, I attended four schools.  Perhaps the most important occurrence was moving to another town during my third year (or Year Nine).  This is the year when a student decides what subjects they wish to study at qualification level.  By the time I changed school, all options had been decided by existing pupils. It meant that rather than study the subjects I excelled in or had a strong interest in, I ended up taking the subjects that no one else really wanted but I helped the school meet the quota of students to justify that particular course. 

The long-term impact of this was that the results I achieved fell short of my true ability.  At the age of sixteen I should have been considering further education and the possibility of university.  However, after nine school changes already,  even more changes were the last thing I  needed and so I didn’t fulfil my education potential.  I was even working for the church on days that I was supposed to studying for examinations.

My first job upon leaving school was working for the church, but it was through a church contact that I was able to commence working in some of the top Finance Houses.  This opened my eyes a little to the sheltered world in which I had been raised.  The church still bore a strong influence on me during this period of my life.  It was during these years that I left the security of my parents’ home.  I always used to joke that I never left home, home left me!  My parents were moved on by the church and I had no desire to go with them.  If I did, it would mean leaving friends and a job behind.

My parents arranged for me to rent a flat so that I could stay where I was.  Guess who my landlords were?   Yes, that’s right; the Church.

With such a background it seems inevitable that I would become a church minister.  The church had strong guidelines as to courtship and marriage.   I have already written about how the church determined who one should marry. 

Becoming a Church Minister provided a Safety Zone.  I had a rent-free house to live in with my only responsibility being for the utility bills. The Church took care of Council Tax and property repair payments. I drove a lease company car provided by the church.  I was responsible for my personal mileage but any travelling on church business was reimbursed by the church.  I know of many a church minister who claimed expenses for every car journey they undertook – strange how the provided car was never utilized for personal usage!  All aspects of car maintenance and insurance were arranged by the church and the lease company.

When I offered my resignation as a church minister, I had attended nine schools, lived in twenty-seven houses and led nine different churches.  Life outside of the safety zone of the church was unknown.  Nevertheless it was to the Unknown that I was effectively being throw into.

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