When I first set off to university to study theology, along with a reading list and my childhood teddy, I also took with me two determinations: to heed the warnings from home and ensure that my studies did not damage my faith, and more importantly to prove everyone wrong and not work for the church after graduating. Thankfully, God challenged me on both fronts. Not only did my three years of studying theology strengthen my faith and propel me on to a Masters degree, but God used those years to challenge my sense of vocation, and here I am now, working as a parish intern and testing a potential call to ordained ministry.
My time at university was not without its challenges. Moving away from home meant I had to choose to make my faith my own and I was quickly taught that my naïve understanding of the Bible would need some prayerful reworking. But friends on my course and at church encouraged me to keep asking questions and taught me that I could trust God to challenge me, drawing me ever closer to both the truth and mystery of Himself.
Some of my best memories and friends from university come from the faith societies I joined. As an undergraduate I found friendship and encouragement in the Christian Union, and as a graduate student in the Student Christian Movement, and I will always thank God for my time with both. For anyone heading off to university, please do get involved in faith societies on campus; if you have the time, even try out a mix of different groups. It was through being involved in two groups of very different character that I was most challenged to think through my beliefs and learn to love those with whom I shared differences.
More importantly, I would recommend finding a church and trying to settle at one quickly. The first few weeks of university are great fun, but can be tough, and the support of a loving church family is priceless. And, once you’ve found a church, get involved! The more you throw yourself into the life of the community, the more at home you’ll feel.
As I look to the future, excited to continue being challenged in my theology, and to serve the church, I look back on my time at university with a smile on my face and a thankful heart.