A school mate from my high school years has renewed our friendship recently. As we've gotten to know one another better over the past few weeks, D. has been curious about how I've changed over the many years since we studied together at Barrie Central Collegiate, especially in regards to questions of religion. After all, in those days, I was known by my classmates as an evangelical Christian attending Hi-Way Pentecostal Church on Anne Street. In fact, I held leadership positions in the school Christian fellowship club and was often away on weekends singing in a Gospel band, playing the bass guitar, and sometimes preaching at churches throughout south-western Ontario. I planned to attend Bible College after graduation in the hopes of eventually teaching theology at the college level. So, yes, things have changed.
Responding to this request might be a little risky, I suppose. People normally take their religious viewpoints quite seriously and often feel threatened by those with different or ambivalent world views. But if I can talk about my journey with cancer with honesty and integrity, I don't think it's much of a stretch to do so with the specific spiritual aspects of the journey. But to provide context, of course, we need to go well beyond the 3 years of my unwanted journey.
My reflections here will necessarily be quite subjective. I make no claims to true objectivity. I just hope that the narrative is as honest and transparent as possible. It is not an invitation to debate or even an assertion that I've got it right now, merely a description of the trajectory of my religious/spiritual thoughts and feelings.
The way I remember it, religious thinking and aspirations were bundled up with the role of my mother and one of her close friends. As a family, we had moved from Minet's Point on the south side of Kempenfelt Bay to a lovely residential area near Codrington Public School in time for me to attend grade one. Just a couple blocks away from the school was Emmanuel Baptist Church, where my mother and I started attending shortly after the move. Every Sunday School class was completed by an invitation from the teacher for someone to "accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour".
Clearly I felt this was something that would please both my mother and the teacher, so one day I decided to do so. All I can truly recall from this period was a sense that I had made a decision to follow my mother's rather than my father's lead about religion. Dad didn't seem to offer an alternative, so the decision was simple and direct. As I drifted into pre-teen years, I stayed with the evangelical Christianity of my mother, but eventually began identifying my own ego with the ideology I had chosen. In other words, I started to establish independence in regards to religious ideology, even though it was still largely within my mother's network and general world view.
(Later, I'll go into a brief description of how personal experiences and friendship played a pivotal role in the next phase.)