I have often thought that it must have been a problem for my kids growing up when classmates asked them in the schoolyard what their Dad did for a living. There was no simple category to place me, no easy way to describe what I did which would prevent further questions or avoid potential embarrassment. I had left a predictable job – as Head of Religious Education in a secondary school – to do something different…something difficult to explain simply…something hard for others to understand.
Yet from my perspective I had withdrawn from the classroom to go on a journey of discovery in response to both an interior nudge and an exterior call. Parents of children that I had been teaching had disclosed to me over previous months and years how they had faith questions of their own to face and explore and had nowhere in which they felt comfortable to address them. Having chosen a Catholic school for their children to attend, they inadvertently bumped into their own unaddressed issues and did not want to put their hands up, so to speak, and admit their own reservations.
The groups that I had set up for parents to talk about the faith development of their children, quickly turned into a forum where they were able to talk about themselves. My role quickly turned from teacher to facilitator as I tried to provide a context in which they could have heartfelt adult conversations about anything and everything. The whole thing was a learning for all of us and it resulted in my leaving teaching to try and do the same for others. As one of the parents said to me at the time, “there’s lots of people like us out there”.
Now, some twenty five years later, as I look back on the journey I have taken I can see that she was right. All I can say is that I feel deeply indebted to those fellow travellers who found time to speak to me at a significant level about the spiritual dimension to their lives. It has been and remains that these graceful encounters inspire me to keep me doing what I do.
– Mark Davis