Looking at our family history can enrich and challenge our faith outlook and our understanding of why we believe what we do. Graham Naylor, a keen family historian, continues our series of how our studies influence our faith.
I was very close to my Grandparents. I look back with great fondness on their telling of familiar stories about family members. Grandad and his maternal family were Wesleyan Methodists from Cornwall. Grandad’s parents had married at Truro Wesleyan Church. His Grandfather was a Methodist preacher who in Truro circuit. This didn’t mean too much to me as a child. I wish I could ask more questions now! At a young age with my Grandfather I discovered my love of books. Grandad had inherited some ‘old’ books from his mother including, works about John Wesley and works of John Bunyan. These books, from the mid-late 19th century are some of my most precious belongings.
One of my most ‘famous’ relatives from Cornwall was William Murrish, colloquially known as ‘The Miner of Perranzabuloe’, near Perranporth. He was a Wesleyan through-and-through and after his early death in 1861 a biography was produced by his friend and Methodist minister, William Davis Tyack.
Grandad’s Wesleyan upbringing ensured he had a superb singing voice which passed in the genes, we like to think, to my Mother, and although I do not profess to be an excellent singer, I do enjoy singing!
In the paternal branches of my family tree, the Naylor’s and intermarried families hail from Lancashire and Yorkshire. These two counties are well famed for non-conformity and my ancestors span many Christian denominations there – ranging from 17th century Recusants in and around Preston, early Quakers in 17th century Clitheroe and Irish Roman Catholics in mid-19th century Liverpool. The struggles and constraints within which these forebears lived are a testament to their religious integrity and are a marvel considering the persecutions they suffered in those days.
My upbringing and study of family history has certainly broadened my own faith outlook and my profound love of beauty in the diversity of the Church. To have an appreciation of this diversity and the role that church has played in the lives of my ancestors enables me to see the richness of the many denominations of the Church.
I began by recalling some of my childhood memories of Emmanuel Church in Plymouth – and here I shall finish. Why? This is where I now find myself ‘at home’ in church. I find I am no different to my ancestors, in wanting to worship the one true God in a way which feels relevant to my life today. As Emmanuel is also integrally linked with my family history, it enables me on a personal, and private level, to feel closer to my Grandparents and that is a very special thing indeed.