How my Faith Changed at University: Ecumenism and Diversity

By Gemma King

Before starting university I was active in my local church, I was still a member of the youth group and had joined the church band the previous year.  I had little experience of other churches and ways of worshiping even within my own denomination. All this was to change over the course of my time at university.

The first Christian group I encountered when I started university was the Student Christian Movement. It went on to be the group that has had the biggest impact on my faith. As a part of SCM Edinburgh, I encountered people from a wide range of different faith backgrounds and different denominations. Becoming part of SCM also changed my understanding of how my faith relates to my politics. Before going to university I had not connected the two.

Another thing that changed my faith during my time at university was attending and later doing sacristy duties at the weekly Communion services held in New College (my department). As my time in university went on, the act of Communion became a more and more important part of my faith. For me it strengthened my feeling of being part of a worshiping community of both staff and students.

Going on Erasmus exchange challenged me in my faith since it was the first time I had to find a church to go to by myself (up until then I had been living at home and going to the church I grew up in). In Nijmegen (where I went on exchange), there was a Protestant service in Dutch or a Roman Catholic service preached in English. Knowing little Dutch, I decided to go to the Roman Catholic service. Over the six months I was there I developed an appreciation of Roman Catholic liturgy, and coming home was difficult since I missed the liturgy. My Erasmus exchange also offered me the opportunity to spend a week at Taize in France with some people from my course.  It was at Taize that my belief in the importance of ecumenism was strengthened.

After my Erasmus year, I returned to my home church. I also returned to my role as secretary of Edinburgh SCM and became a member of the General Council of SCM where I continued to develop an understanding of ecumenism. I would say that the main way in which my faith has changed in my time at university is that I have developed an awareness and appreciation of the diversity within Christianity.

Gemma is an SCM General Council trustee and a student at Edinburgh University.