Danielle’s Story

wpba71ee5d_0f-2When I sat down to begin writing “my story”, one of the hardest things was knowing where to start. Where did my journey begin? As a child I never attended any church services but I was bought bibles and prayer books by my parents and grandparents, and I visited various churches and cathedrals when holidaying in the United Kingdom where I  would spend time and be encouraged to pray. I was also taken to Southwell Minster at least once each year where my Mum would light a candle and pray with my brother and I. If I was asked about my faith as a child I would have always said that “I believe in God”, but I didn’t think about my faith any more deeply than that and it wasn’t something that felt particularly important to me at that time. 

Fast forward to 2001 when Stuart and I had met, fell in love (ahhh!) and become engaged. We both knew that we wanted a church wedding and taking our vows in the presence of God was a big part of that. At that time, I lived in Mapperley with my parents and Stuart lived in Hucknall with his and as neither of us belonged to a church it wasn’t immediately obvious where we should get married. I lived in the St James parish, however, and my parents had always subscribed to the parish magazine which mentioned that weddings can take place at the church so I suggested St James to Stuart and things went from there. There was no vicar in post at the time but we met with Sarah Clarke the then-curate on a couple of occasions and we were invited to an evening with other couples who had requested to marry at St James where we met the flower ladies, the organist and others who were able to tell us a little more about the wedding service. When Phil was in post he telephoned us and we visited him at the vicarage to discuss readings and hymns and then he took us to the Treetops for a drink! Phil was great and put us both at ease, leaving us both thinking that he must be considered quite a “trendy vicar”. We attended both St James and St Marys in Hucknall to listen to our banns being read and went on to have a wonderful wedding day. We both recall feeling very emotional during the prayers and feeling the presence of God during the ceremony and we were delighted that we had chosen such a beautiful and special place for our marriage to begin. 

Stuart and I came back to St James for carol services over the next couple of years but to be honest, at that time, I didn’t think that I needed to do any more than that- I felt that I tried to adopt good Christian values and surely I was much too busy to be coming to church every Sunday?! Fast forward again to 2006 when our beautiful daughter Lexie was born. During my pregnancy Stuart and I talked about having Lexie baptised and had already discussed potentially suitable godparents. A few weeks after Lexie was born I telephoned Phil to ask about the procedure for baptisms and he suggested that we should come along to a family service one Sunday to talk with him there. To be honest the thought of taking a 6 weeks old baby to church was terrifying – what if she cried all the way through the service and disrupted everybody?! We had, however, both agreed that Lexie’s baptism was important to us and so we cautiously went along to a service. We were overwhelmed by the lovely comments we had about Lexie and we were made to feel very welcome (Lucy deserves a special mention). Between August 2006 and January 2007, when Lexie’s baptism took place, we began to attend more regularly and when Lexie’s big day arrived we were very excited! The promises that we made to Lexie, to the church and to God through the thanksgiving and the baptism services were very emotional and, on reflection, by that stage the message of God’s love for me and the amazing gift that he had given us, in Lexie, left me wanting to explore a relationship with Him.

We have continued to attend church regularly and I went on to do the ladies Alpha course. Anyone who has done Alpha will tell you about the fantastic food prepared and cooked by Jane and whilst the meals were great, the highlight for me was listening to the testimonies of Jane, Becca and Kate who were all lovely and “normal” (I’m not sure what I was expecting!) with great stories of their faith to share with us. Whilst at that time I didn’t always have the confidence to talk about my faith and couldn’t find the words to describe the feelings that were growing inside me, I valued the time and space to be able to reflect quietly. I can now tell you that Alpha confirmed for me that God has always been there in my life, I just hadn’t always realised it. It also made me reflect on the job that I do as a Probation Officer and highlighted to me that God wanted me to do this job (I had never heard of the Probation Service until I was at a recruitment day for the Prison Service and in a room of over 1000 people, the person I sat next to worked for the Probation Service and her description made me realise that the work I wanted to do with offenders was suited more to working for the Probation Service than the Prison Service at that time and I was recruited as a Trainee Probation Officer later that year ). I also believe that God pointed me in the direction of Stuart (the only good thing to come out of a few months of awful call centre work for us both). 

The next step after Alpha was confirmation which was a great occasion at St Mary’s in Arnold with Bishop George. Ever since Lexie’s baptism I had wanted to make those same promises that I made on her behalf, for myself, so to be able to do that, alongside Stuart, with Phil by our side and our friends and family present was a fantastic occasion and a sign for me that I was becoming more at ease with the idea of being a Christian with a relationship with God, rather than someone who simply “believed in God”.  

Since my confirmation my faith has continued to grow and I have really felt part of the St James family. I feel so privileged to have met such wonderful people and be part of a church that offers so much to so many. I attend Sunday services, toddler groups, Girls Night Out and have been known to sneak into a Holy Communion service followed by coffee and cake in the church hall when I’ve had a couple of child-free Thursday mornings. I love praying and reading bible stories with my children and I am part of a fantastic fellowship group which meets at Denise Dodd’s house.  I feel truly privileged to have met Denise who has become an amazing friend to me and my family. It was so special when she baptised Henry in January 2010. Making amazing friends was something that I never anticipated would come out of attending church but the friendships I have made have been a real blessing and have undoubtedly helped me to become more confident and comfortable with my faith, and so now, when my life is busier than ever, I know the importance of making time to hear and read God’s word and sharing fellowship with other Christians. I am becoming more involved in church activities and am keen to explore new ways of meeting with God. I truly believe that my relationship with God is the most important relationship that there is and I am excited to find out where He may lead me and what He may want me to do for him in the future so that I can one day write the next chapter of “my story”.

With love,

Danielle Brown