A student in search of a church
I am a first year Occupational Therapy student at the University of East Anglia. My family is from London and I have been part of my home church, The Bear, for around 11 years. I was very sad to leave back in September.
As a slightly terrified fresher, I joined the UEA Christian Union in the first week. It felt like such a safe and welcoming place to go to as I tackled the rollercoaster that was starting university. I also have a Christian flat-mate who I went to the first few meetings with which really helped with the social side of joining a new community. Being a part of the Christian Union has majorly shaped my university experience as I have found some great friends and formed some really close bonds in the short time that I have been in Norwich.
One of the hardest things has been leaving my home church: my main body of support. As well as missing my friends I miss the older role models; their constant guidance and support as I try to settle into university. As university you are constantly surrounded by 18 to 21 year-olds and sometimes you want to chat to someone a little older to give you a bit of wisdom and encouragement. When I have visited churches in Norwich I have loved having conversations with people who reminded me of my youth leaders at The Bear.
I am still ‘shopping around’ for a church, which I know in March may seem a little late but I am determined to find one which I feel like I can fit into. Student life does have its challenges when deciding to get up early on Sunday sometimes feels like the last thing I want to do! I have also found the thought of going to a church where I know absolutely nobody really daunting.
Having visited a few churches over the past few months I have noticed a few things that a church can do which can really help. The welcome on arrival is so important as you feel that you are stepping into the unknown; so if someone starts a genuine conversation with you it can really help the nerves. It’s also really good to know a little about what the church believes in and what their main visions are so welcome desks for newcomers can be really helpful in terms of working out if the church is for you.
Student meals can be really great as well, as it allows us to get to know each other a bit and can help with the social side of things, although I appreciate that these are costly and not always easy to facilitate. I guess the most important thing that everyone in a congregation can do is make someone feel welcome because students need all the support they can get.
So, university can be hard and I couldn’t have got through this first year without my faith so I would encourage any new student to join their Christian Union, to keep them grounded in their faith, and take their time finding a church.
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