Journey into Faith and Acceptance
As a child I was brought up in a non religious environment and only touched on the basics of religious studies at School in a Mandatory Religious Education.
I joined the Royal Navy in 1970 aged 16, basically to get away from home life, and served for 5 years where Church was once again Mandatory.
Services took place both at sea and on shore bases but I attended with an empty heart at that time in my life.
Now and Again, Throughout life, Ive been asked my religion, and have always said C of E, ...through habit I guess, never really thinking to meaning or significance of it.....
Religion was basically pointless to me because from what I had heard from others, .....and whatever I had read myself,
it seemed very much to me, ...that whatever I did in my life, and whatever I wanted to do, ...and However I felt inside
I was very much condemned by all........
This left me in Complete turmoil with regards to My Internal feelings and also My future hopes and needs,...
Condemned by Society, ...Condemned Some would argue by the Book itself.
I felt that I was Doomed in a life of Misery of which would be followed by an Eternity in Hell.....
Subsequently, I succumbed to lifes addictions for some time.
In the 90's,.. Like Many others have in this Congregation,
I had many Crises, ...from a total breakdown with my mental health to 3 bereavements of daughter, father and ultimately my partner, ...of whom Id been with for 21 years.
When My daughter died in 93, whilst I was in hospital, I desperately searched for a Faith to help me.
A sign, a vision, ...something to show me there was a God, that there was something after death, and that My daughter was still here with me and Not just in my heart.
I searched everywhere in desperation for that Faith and spent many, many hours sitting in Emmas cemetery contemplating the meaning of Life itself, the cruelty of her short 15 years and the purpose of my very existence.......
After a long contemplation I decided that the only way forward for my survival was to Be Myself, Live for myself and Go with My Lifelong Internal Feelings ......
And so in 1994 I changed gender but I also had the Full support of my partner, that being My daughters mother.
However, she died in my arms 4 years later from Cancer and I felt a total devastation like never before......
I sincerely thought that I was at Lifes End mentally, ...
and was fully prepared to give up any further struggle having found Nothing by way of Faith in God.
It seemed that there was No struggle left inside of me........
My partner of that time was buried in the same grave as our daughter in North Yorkshire and to me the cemetery then became a Cold and Barren Nightmare.
I felt an extreme fear at that time whenever I set foot in that place of death to lay flowers on the grave.
After the second burial, I was desperately searching for help,......searching for answers, searching and pleading for this God to Help me, ....but once again finding nothing and so
I closed the door on the cemetery forever, unable to cope.
But a while later, after I had gotten over the initial shock of events I started to feel a strong sense of being watched over, ....a presence, ....a guidance, ....and it was something that Id not felt before.
Positive Things started happening in a strange way in my life that I put down to coincidence. Things that you know deep inside your heart dont happen ordinarily, .....and if it were to be coincidence then the chances of it happening would be one in many millions.
And being a Pessimistic Virgo I continued putting these events, happenings and feelings down to coincidence until eventually, I found myself in Dunedin with my present partner in a relationship that I believe was Meant to be.
In the 3 years together we have had a very strong sense of being watched over, being protected from harms way, being guided and being led. We first felt it at the very same time, after we had both been together for 3 months.
We Dared to speak our feelings aloud to each other.
We Dared to share our feelings of God working in our lives. Watching, Guiding and Nurturing us both in this journey.
The Coincidences have continued to this day and I know in My heart that they are NOT coincidences but a power that was meant to be in my life.
Lucrisha has been within Church circles for some time in her life but didnt want to force any religion upon me.
But The time eventually came when I felt a need to seek out worship for myself and having heard of Glenaven and the welcome offered to the Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Community I knew that this would be the ideal place to visit.
Being WHO I am and being Stephanie is my very survival on this planet and subsequently being able to worship as ME is also very important.
Changing gender 10 years ago gave me hope, gave me life, enabled me to show emotion and brought warmth to my heart where emptiness once lived.
Being true to myself has enabled me to strive forward in life itself and share love and happiness with others.
It has taken many, many months for me to come to todays decision of being baptised and welcomed into membership of this church. It wasnt a Yes/No answer.................
I felt it in my heart.
Ive been trying to deal with personal issues lately that I have had about the stereotyped image of what God expects of His flock and how I may, ......or may not upset this order of things.
You see, ....even recently I have still been wrestling in my mind with those young-age issues I once had...
But I have listened to all the preachings from Ken and others here and I now believe to understand that Gods place is a place for everyone and from every background.
I AM Transgendered, and proud of it.
This is ME,
I am being honest to Myself and to the world, in who I am.
I am also very creative by nature, but its only my journey in life that has opened up that creativity, ....
where negativity and darkness once lay.
And yes, I am the one who designs with very raunchy materials. I create designs in a flamboyant scene of which some folks would think a tad too daring for the Church.
But being Honest, Loving, Creative and being up-front with others is what Im all about.
And Because of that I can worship wholeheartedly.
Ive attended here some 6 months now as you are all aware.
When I first walked through the door here in this church I felt a very strong sense of warmth and friendship.
A sense of Oneness of which filled me with love.
This is the first church I have EVER attended for praise and worship purely because I have WANTED to do so with all of my being and it makes such a big difference that I can truly feel from deep within my heart and soul.
Today, is a significant step on the path I tread, and one that I personally tread with wholehearted passion.
I have found a family here, ...a family in Jesus Christ, ....
of whom are gracious, loving and accepting to all people that walk through these doors to worship.
I feel that MY search for God,....all those years ago, ..and all those miles away has led me here by Destiny, ...led me to Glenaven and to this wonderful city called Dunedin.
This path that I have just started to tread has already given me inner strength and I no longer feel alone.
I am so very happy to be here with you all today.