Being away from university can often mean being apart from the church you regularly attend, faith groups which provide you with spiritual support and friendships which keep you engaged with your faith. As this is the case, the summer break can be a bit of a challenge, and can sometimes mean that one’s faith and the spiritual side of life is neglected. This isn’t to say the holiday is unnecessary or a negative experience; it can be an incredibly relaxing and reflective period, as well as a chance to see family and friends from home! However, the challenge remains. How do we stay engaged in our faith whilst seperated from the people and activites that keep us going in term time?
Two things that have consolidated and even strengthened my faith this summer are two things that I hold dear for the rest of the year as well: going to church and being involved in social justice.
Having only moved last August to where we now live, this summer has been the first real chance for me to regularly go to my ‘home church’, meaning that I was able to form a stronger bond with the members of the church - whom previously I had only really known in passing. It’s a massively positive thing to have a spiritual base away from university, and this summer has helped establish such a support for me. In short, the summer has allowed me to engage with the local church and strengthen my faith in the process.
When it comes to the social justice side of things, this summer has allowed me to really see how as Christians we can help people, both practically and spiritually. I witnessed this through participation in the ‘Engage’ Placement held by Christians Against Poverty at their Head Office in Bradford. The placement has shown me the huge effort put in every day by the people who work at CAP, the inseparable nature of faith and social justice, and has given me the opportunity to experience a perhaps more openly evangelical side of Christianity than I am used to. It has been challenging, caused me to doubt certain things, but ultimately it has been worthwhile. A bit like living a Christian life in general!
Through these experiences and others, my faith has been solidified and strengthened over the summer break. But that’s not to say every summer will be like this – last summer was a very difficult one for me, and it caused me to doubt most of what I believed for a long time. The point of all this, really, is to say that the summer break can be an immense challenge for one’s faith – whether you’re actively pursuing that challenge or the challenge is forced upon you! Faith will always bring challenges, but with God we can overcome these challenges and have our faith strengthened in the process.
Two bible verses have stuck in the back of my mind over the past few weeks, and they speak to both the power of God and the necessity of social justice driven by faith. Here they are:
Firstly, the statement given in James Chapter 2 Verse 1 that “faith, without deeds, is dead”.
Secondly, and perhaps my favourite passage from Scripture, the message found in 1 Peter Chapter 1 Verse 8: “though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”.
Written by Nathan Olsen, a Member of SCM Leeds.