Growing up in a Vicarage

An article by David Flory

October 2020

I grew up in a loving, safe and privileged family. I have very fond memories of my childhood and I am very grateful to my parents and siblings for the environment that they, we, created at home.

I feel it important to stress this at the start and also to stress that I still have an excellent relationship with all members of my family and that I value those relationships and do all I can to keep them close and positive.

I should also state that I am a humanist – factually I am an atheist although that somehow feels a little more radical as a term and so I prefer Humanist.

All my family are active and committed Christians and for them their faith is an important and much valued part of their lives. It just happens that I do not hold any of their beliefs, but we manage to not let that get in the way of our genuine love and friendship.

A Vicarage is a funny place to grow up – apart from obviously being a house based around religion it also plays a role in the community that many will not see or realise – at least that’s the case with how my parents chose to be.

The house was always open to anyone to come and visit – the largest collection of coffee cups in the community and there were occasions when they were all used. You never knew who would be joining the family for meals or when there would be house guests.

I must say that I liked that. My father chose to interpret the role of vicar as in part one of a social worker and often ended up mediating between people and the social services. That’s probably a long-term feature of my parent’s faith.

They held to the rather loose tradition of the Church of England and although Christianity was the core ethos of the house it was not hard edged or difficult to get on with and when I decided I didn’t want to go to church on Sundays (when I was about 16) there wasn’t a big fuss about it or any histrionics.

Since those days I have become clearer and more certain in my lack of faith – I am trained as a scientist which brings a strong sceptical discipline with it that makes any blind faith difficult. My love for my parents and my respect for them acted as a break on my recognition that I was now an atheist but I eventually got there!

At the same time my parents have moved to a firmer more evangelical type of Christianity which causes some awkwardness in our relationship but has not broken the genuine love that we have for each other or come between us.

All in all I am very happy with my upbringing, even though Christianity was at the core of that. I have just grown past that element.

No anger, no distress and fortunately still a very close relationship with both my parents and my siblings. I do of course not discuss religion with them or my lack of faith although they know that I am a humanist and atheist.

This can cause some awkwardness and occasional challenges but fortunately none of us want to alter our underlying relationship so it is all conveniently avoided – how very British of us.