So, this is a post that I have been meaning to write for a while but haven’t really got round to doing! Finally, I have made a start though! Now, as the title suggests, I want to talk about being at university AND being a Christian, and how combining the two can be a challenge. I’ve only been at university 5 weeks, so I cannot pertain to be an expert on this, but here’s my take on it. As I’ve been writing this, I have realised that this post will be very long if I wrote about everything I wanted to so it’ll be split into a number of parts (and I would love to hear other experiences from Christians at university please!!) and as the title suggests, today’s post is about church!
I would really recommend going to church at the earliest opportunity. I moved in on Saturday 20th, and then my morning activity for the Sunday was going down to St John’s Egham for their morning service. I picked up a free tea (which I spat out all over the floor when I reached the bottom – great first impression!), and then got a lift down to the student worker’s house for a free bacon sandwich before walking down to the church. It was quite a weird experience for me – I have been at my home church (Holy Cross Hove) all my life, and the only time I go anywhere else is when we go and visit friends. I initially found it very weird that there wasn’t a service sheet so that unnerved me as I didn’t know what was going on. Starting with three songs was also a little weird for me but not necessarily a bad thing – it’s just more worship! It was also very liturgy driven, which I think was partially due to it being a communion service, and much of what I know of liturgy comes from Catholic Mass at school. The sermon was really good and the people were lovely. I feel like I isolated myself by not staying for coffee and that probably would have made it feel less weird. But I left feeling unsure about whether I would return.
I feel like my experience and feelings about St John’s after that first service were really down to culture shock – it is very unlikely that you will find a church exactly like your home church at university, particularly because church is about people! And it was the people at St John’s that influenced me to stay. Initially I had planned to go to Christ Church Virginia Water the following week, but the Saturday evening/Sunday morning ended up involving a grand total of 5 hours sleep due to a flatmate’s party going on until around 4. This didn’t fill me with confidence to try a new church so I stuck to the relative familiarity of St John’s. And this second week completely changed my view – for a start I was aware of the structure and style of the service (not all that different really from at home) and I knew a few people as well. Add to that a student lunch and I felt far more at home! The Student Life Group on a Tuesday evening was also really encouraging and great fun.
However, I still had a nagging feeling that I may not have chosen the right church. But then trying out Christ Church would mean having to miss the service at St John’s and that wasn’t something I wanted to do either! But then doing Chamber Orchestra (see my previous post) meant that missed church last Sunday morning – the solution to doing both church and rehearsals was going to the evening service at Christ Church! “But why didn’t you just go to the morning service at St John’s and then the evening service at Christ Church weeks ago?” is a question that I have tried to answer for about 10 minutes so far, and I am no closer to giving an answer, but that’s a really small point in the grand scheme of this post (and if you do want an answer, please comment or contact me directly). Anyway, I went to Christ Church, people were also very nice and they had free pizza afterwards. The style of service was pretty similar to at home and St John’s. The sermon was good. But I didn’t feel at home. And I know that was how I felt on my first week at St John’s too, but it wasn’t the same feeling. Maybe it was because it was dark outside and I’m not used to evening services, but I am really looking forward to returning to St John’s next week now!
And how did I choose where to go in the first place? Well, someone at church’s sister went to Royal Holloway and was at St John’s, and a friend from Bible by the Beach in second year goes to Christ Church, so I relied very much on church recommendations. There was also a video made by each local church and shown by the CU at their first meeting, which gave me more of an insight into what different churches were like. AND there is also a website/app called Student Link Up, where you enter your university and churches will message you with details of their services and student events. AND if you aren’t lucky enough to already know anyone associated with your university, UCCF have a Link Up service to connect you with someone at the CU at your university, and they will be able to contact you about churches.
I NOW PLEA TO ANY CHRISTIANS AT UNIVERSITY ANYWHERE OR EVEN GRADUATES – I WANT TO KNOW YOUR EXPERIENCES! PLEASE COMMENT, CONTACT ME THROUGH MY ABOUT PAGE, OR CONTACT ME DIRECTLY IF YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW ME!
Next time will be about CU so stay tuned for that!