A Faith Of My Own: Debbie’s Uni Story
Debbie is a postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow, currently studying for a PhD in Medieval History. She takes an active role in leading the SCM network in Glasgow, and is a former member of General Council, SCM’s student-led decision making body.
Growing up in the Church of England – both of my parents are Anglican priests – meant that going to church was part of the rhythm of life. Although my faith was a vital part of my identity and who I was, I often didn’t feel hugely comfortable expressing that outside of ‘churchy’ contexts.
When I left for university, I was looking for something that would challenge my faith and help me to grow in it, while providing a supportive community to help a shy introvert survive 300 miles from home. At first, it was difficult. It took me a long time to get settled in a Christian community. I started attending the weekly chaplaincy Eucharist but most weeks I was the only student there.
Then in 2011, I went to a conference SCM was organising called ‘Still Small Voice’ – despite knowing nothing about SCM and never having met anyone involved in it. It was an incredible, genuinely life-changing experience. Over the course of the weekend, I encountered a community which is truly Christ-like in its care for others, a community which was not afraid to ask questions and confront its prejudices, and a genuine joy to be a part of.
Since coming to university and joining SCM, my faith has changed completely. In my first year of university, I felt uncomfortable ‘outing myself’ as Christian. A lot of the circles I moved in didn’t ‘get’ faith and I found it difficult to express my beliefs; now, I feel much more comfortable doing so. My faith feels more my own and is something that ties all the different parts of my life together.
Seeing how other SCMers in Glasgow come together to support each other is something I’m very proud of. Rather than having a formal group which meets weekly, we’ve formed a network of students and likeminded people across the city. There’s already so much going on in Glasgow that shares our values – we want to work alongside these groups rather than in competition with them. A particular highlight of this has been our ecumenical nature. In a city like Glasgow, ecumenical work is hugely important and can be difficult. To see this working in practice is really positive.
For just over a year now I have been attending church much more regularly, and have found this a really positive experience. We have a small but wonderful group of students who meet for lunch after the service, fortnightly bible studies and regular socials. It’s an Episcopalian church but we have a wide range of experiences among us, ranging from cradle Anglicans to ex-Catholics and ex-evangelicals, which makes for really interesting perspectives on the liturgy and sermons! In the last year, this community has grown into one of the most important aspects of my life. It has helped me to grow in my faith, to question assumptions and has helped me develop my own personal identity – all things which SCM has also been instrumental in.
One of the things that SCM has taught me is how my faith fits into the rest of my life. There is no ‘faith life’ and ‘rest of life’. As a PhD student, things often feel quite disjointed and fragmented, but SCM has provided me with a faith that ties all those segments together. I hope that this is something that will stay with me long after my time as an SCM member is done.
Having stepped down from General Council in the summer of 2016, Debbie is now focused on growing the small but dedicated community at SCM Glasgow. You can follow her on Twitter @medievaldebbie.