My name is Donna Solomon. I’ve been with Riverside Church since 2011. I had been thinking about God quite a lot since the birth of my daughter (Faith). Faith was born in 2006 with a rare chromosome disorder called Kleefstra syndrome. When she was born, she was quite poorly. I used to take myself to the Chapel and ask God for strength to cope with whatever was going to come through. At the time, I wasn’t a Christian, not really been to Church, other than Sunday school when I was little.
I developed within my job role from Support Worker to become a Care Manager. Then at the time, I was being bullied by my team manager, and it was making me quite poorly. I was drinking more as my coping mechanism. I wasn’t sleeping very well and I felt quite distraught at the time. A friend was going to a church and I just phoned her up one morning and said, “can I just come, because I just can’t continue as I am”. She took me to a church she went to and that was the day it made a difference. I remember sitting and just sobbing, feeling like everything was just coming away from me, all the stress, the pain that I was feeling.
I went to that church for a few times, not every week, and just started looking the Christian faith, what it meant. What challenged me the most was that I couldn’t understand why I’d had a daughter that was disabled. I viewed it as a punishment, not a gift, and that anything I’d done in my life, this was payback, so to speak. It was a very negative feeling towards myself. But while I was feeling like that, I’d go to different churches looking for somewhere where I could try and understand why things had happened the way they were.
I think I’d heard about Riverside Church here and there. Riverside was not far from where I lived. One Sunday I just got up, got myself and Faith ready, I went to Riverside (Riverside House). During the service when I sat down with Faith someone came to me and I was asked if she wanted to go into one of the children’s groups. I explained that she was disabled, so I didn’t know if they could care for her. This is when I was told about a group for children Faith’s age called ‘Trekkers’. When I went into the Trekkers room with Faith a lady called Kristen was there. Kristen recognised Faith because her daughter went to the same school. It was just like a blessing because I thought, I hadn’t been to anywhere that had offered me that safe place where I could put her and start looking at my own faith.
I was asked to go to the Alpha course, which I did, and Kristen and Steven come along as well, which made me more comfortable. It was there that I explored my guilt; my feelings that it was my fault why my daughter had been born disabled. It was Kristen that pointed out part of the bible, in the book of John (Chapter 9, verses 1 to 4) where Jesus was with his disciples and they come across the blind man. They asked Jesus who sinned. The blind man or his father? Was it the parents fault that the man was born blind? It just really resonated with me because it wasn’t about if the parents had done everything wrong, or that the child had done everything wrong. It was so God would be revealed. I can honestly say, having a child with the needs that Faith has, they are a gift from God. I have said it before that when I look at Faith and how she looks at the world, is she not perfect in God’s eyes? She doesn’t really feel no hate. She doesn’t see nakedness. There’s everything we was before Eve eat the forbidden fruit. It really sticks with me now.
I’ve since had it tattooed on my arms as a constant reminder to me that I shouldn’t really feel guilty. But having the community of Christian people around you, it holds you up and is a constant reminder that God’s always there.
The Alpha Course is a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith in a relaxed and friendly environment. You may have questions like:
# What is the meaning of life?
# What happens when we die?
# Is Jesus Christ relevant to my life and the world today?
# How do we deal with guilt?
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