I was raised in British-Caribbean churches – and I want the same for my kids

Whether they decide to continue that faith in their later years is up to them, but having some sort of grounding to make their minds up is important

Like thousands of other Caribbean immigrant families up and down the UK, when my maternal family moved to Britain from the Caribbean, they had to create their own churches so that they would have somewhere to congregate and pray.

That’s largely because, on arrival, rather than the open arms they assumed they’d receive from the established churches here, they were shunned over and over again. Ironic, obviously, when you look at the basics of Christianity and countless scriptures in the Bible. But I digress.

As a result of these churches springing up, new communities of faith were grown from scratch, creating a net of warmth and safety in a country which could often feel anything but. Because of this, I was raised in the church. I don’t remember a childhood without the church in it. These days, though, I have more distance from the church in my adult life, but there will always be part of me that considers myself a woman of faith.

Although I don’t regularly attend services every Sunday, at Christmas I do find myself gravitating towards the fundamentals of faith with which I was raised. Maybe it’s muscle memory or something, I don’t know… but it’s probably no surprise that I’m most acutely aware of my Christian background during one of the most well-known and most-celebrated Christian celebrations of the year.

In the midst of party season, with all the baubles, bunting and (often) bad behaviour, it’s important that my children understand that Christmas is more than just Elf on the Shelf and lists for Santa. I do need them to understand that Christmas about something that’s greater than the sum of all that. They don’t attend church nearly as much as I did growing up, but I do want them to have an understanding of the Christian faith, and get that it’s more than just ticking a box on a census form. I’m sure there’s some big philosophical reason behind my yearning for my kids to have an understanding of Christianity, but we could be here all day exploring that.

There’s a local church which I take the kids to with friends on occasional Sundays, and this week they put on a special nativity for the younger children. It was honestly such an incredible way to teach the story of Christmas, involving lots of interaction from the kids, and comedy from the parents who were roped in as actors. My two were in their element, and loved answering questions about what they were seeing and the greater significance of the story. My heart just swelled as with each section they gained a deeper understanding of why Christmas is celebrated.

As proud as I was of them, there was part of me that wondered if I was doing the right thing by passing the baton of faith over to them, when I still have such an internal battle regarding how I feel about my own faith. There is so much joy to be gleaned from being inside the walls of a church, and yet, for me, there is so much to disagree with. But what I do know is that there’s a lot about who I am because of the hours and hours spent as a kid trying to decipher what on earth the pastor in church was banging on about. Church, and the community around it was an extension of my family, and the love, respect and appreciation we had for that extension made us as kids understand that we were part of something bigger.

Perhaps that’s why it was important for me that my kids went to the nativity at church, so that they could understand that and their place in the world too. But, especially at this time of year when so much can be about what you want, rather than reflection.

Whether or not they decide to continue carrying that baton of faith in their later years is up to them, but having some sort of grounding and understanding of it to make their minds up is important, I think. The joy they had learning about the meaning behind Christmas was quite beautiful; they were honestly so happy, which took me back to why I enjoyed this time of year so much at church growing up: it was about belief, community, support, love and joy. In the midst of so much destruction elsewhere in the world, being able to grab hold of those things in whatever form they come, be it inside the walls of a building of faith, or not, can help to ease an unsettled soul.

Most Read By Subscribers