After a long journey to a reconciliation with an institution whose flaws she is more aware of than most, the Tablet’s digital editor was received into the Church earlier this year
Fifty years ago, as a girl of 10, I found myself sitting in a church that is almost too beautiful to describe. I had been taken to St Giles’ in Cheadle, Staffordshire by my father, an Anglican clergyman. While he sought out the parish priest, I was left alone in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, in the chair in which John Henry Newman is thought to have sat when he visited the church after his conversion (“This is the gate of heaven,” he whispered on setting eyes on its sumptuous interior).
But at the time I knew nothing of that. For half an hour I gazed transfixed at the tabernacle resting on the alabaster altar, amid the encircling red and gold Minton tiles of Pugin’s extraordinary Gothic revival creation. That brief moment of divine sensory overload was the starting point of a journey that, after some meandering and much spiritual seeking, has at last led to my own reception into the Catholic Church.
At the time, we were living in a small farmhouse in Winnothdale, a hamlet in the Staffordshire moorlands, not far from Cheadle and Stoke-on-Trent. It was short on creature comforts, to say the least. For a time we had no car and were taken to school in Tean in a pony and trap. My chief memories are of hunger and cold, of being unable to relate to girls as we had no television that could receive Scooby Doo, and of being punched in the stomach by boys for refusing to kiss them when I had been tagged in a game of kiss chase.