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JOHN DEMPSTER: Powerful presence helped inspire strong faith in God

By John Dempster

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Hilary at the King's Factory Cafe.
Hilary at the King's Factory Cafe.

Young Hilary’s father was in hospital due to a brain tumour. She knew it was serious, but the full facts hadn’t been shared with the Buckinghamshire 13-year-old.

Lying in bed one night, she recalls: “I heard God in a way I’ve never encountered God before or since”.

God seemed to be saying that her dad had died. “I felt this great warm blanket of love around me and I knew it was God. It was just unmistakable – a strong sense of God being like a father in that moment.” In the morning, she learned that her father had indeed passed away.

Hilary felt close to God in the woods as a child.
Hilary felt close to God in the woods as a child.

This “very, very powerful” experience, she tells me “has always been an anchor-point in my life”.

Hilary Lacroix is a lovely, joyful woman whose insights and warm personality enrich those who meet her. For 18 years she worked alongside people with learning disabilities in the L’Arche community in Inverness, and now works in the King’s Factory Café in Smithton

Hilary shares her story with me: she speaks of the troubled teenager; the mistakes she’s made; the training and work in Hong Kong, Guatemala and Tiree; her theological studies; her love of people; her finding God in different cultures.


She speaks of God’s interventions in her life: sometimes speaking in advice from friends and from her church; sometimes in unmistakable inner promptings; sometimes in what seems to be serendipity. Sometimes, she says: “God likes ambiguous little games of hide and seek”.

For Hilary, prayer seems as natural as breathing, talking to God as easy as talking to herself. But she describes facing three periods of doubting: from each of which she found herself in time led out into sunshine.

For example, during second year at college she’d read so much theology that she wondered if she still believed any of it. But then, assigned as a student to an Anglican Church joy and certainty returned through liturgy and symbolism and especially the words of the Creed. Repeating in her doubt the words “I believe in God the Almighty” brought the certainty that she did indeed believe.

This woman was the little girl from a Christian home whose most meaningful encounters with God as a young child were in the fields and woods, seeing sun shining through the trees, feeling the awe and wonder of it.

The God who met her there, the God whose fathering she experienced that night when she was 13 has never left her.

Hilary says of her grandparents: “They were the most lovely, lovely Christians. You could quite easily see Jesus in their relationship, in their way of speaking, in their kindness. It was very real and genuine.”

Hilary at the King's Factory Cafe.
Hilary at the King's Factory Cafe.

The same is true of their granddaughter.

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