Two weeks ago I gathered together with a group of fellow Christian students from across the country for the Student Christian Movement National Gathering, titled 'Wondering and Wandering'. The event saw students from across the UK from Glasgow to Southampton come to Hebron Hall near Cardiff take part in what was a fantastic weekend.
SCM weekends away are always great opportunities to meet new people, and this was no exception. Conversations over meals and during interactive sessions allowed me to hear many different perspectives on how our faith should be borne out in the world. The keynote talk, given by the Christian Aid CEO Amanda Mukwashi, was a particularly good example of this. She was passionate in talking about the actions of Christian Aid, but also about the hypocrisy of Western countries who have exploited developing countries in order to grow and then offer small aid budgets which pale in comparison to the gains made via this exploitation. The question and answer session after the talk went on for over an hour, as we discussed pitfalls of aid and ended up in a conversation about seeking new, less exploitative economic systems which empower people rather than make them dependent on aid. It could easily have gone on for longer.
SCM also offered many opportunities to grow my inner faith at the event. On the first evening, we learnt about prayer in the Orthodox Church from Fr. James Siemens, who spoke about our spiritual journey as seeking to become Christ, and prayer as a discipline which helps us to receive that divinity. I also learnt much from Taylor, who led a “mini-pilgrimage” and discussed stories of holy figures – in particular the desert harlots, who I intend to look into further. On the Sunday, we heard from four different people who had experiences of pilgrimage, and where they had experienced God during this time. Hearing of these experiences, and how they had affected the faith of each of these four people, made me keen to experience this for myself at some point. Each of them talked about finding God in the people they met, so it was only appropriate that our final session of the weekend be a worship, organised by some of our members.
The weekend as a whole was a really enjoyable experience. In just three days, I was challenged in my faith and so grew as a result; I discovered new expressions of faith that I now want to learn more about; and I got to eat great food and share in fellowship with friends, both new and old. I try never to miss an opportunity to attend an SCM event, and this weekend has certainly reminded me why!
Written by Patrick Ramsey, a member of SCM Lancaster (and SCM's Member of the Year!).