This October it will have been twenty years since I began my own Undergraduate career, at the University of Birmingham. Twenty years since my Dad left me in my study bedroom, with two large suitcases and a box of crockery, in a flat with a bunch of strangers. It turns out I was twenty four hours late for the start of Freshers’ Week and I’m afraid it’s true what they say, some things never change. Whilst I’ve learnt tools to organise myself to the point where many would never know the mess that lurks beneath, it still happens in my social life that I can turn up to events wildly late or without any real clue as to what I’m doing there.
In another passage of time, it’s just over one year since I returned to University, but this time as a Chaplain. And it’s true here as well, there are some things that never change. I recognised many of the startled, terrified and excited faces in week one and as I met some of the execs of the Christian societies I have the huge privilege of working alongside, I had to resist the urge of messaging old friends and saying ‘I just met you again’.
But before you dismiss me as some, terrible, patronising, reminiscing old woman, let me quickly say that beyond those initial faces and introductions is a whole world of difference about which I am only beginning to learn.
As well as the obvious financial pressures that students are under these days, which creep into pressure on all sorts of levels and into all sorts of areas of life and health, there is a determination and self-expression in Undergraduates today that I do not recall. Every day I am impressed by the self-awareness and maturity of many of the students with whom I come into contact and blown away by inspirational stories and future purposes.
Chaplaincy is a place of rest; of challenge; of the familiar and the wildly different. It is a place where I am at the same time both host and guest. And it is an enormous privilege and deep joy to be invited to walk alongside students in their best and worst of times as life unrelentingly insists on happening.
We all are searching though, diving deep to find the treasure in ourselves and the world around us. I am passionate about enabling students to connect their faith to their lives. We can allow our worldviews to be shaped by our faith because in Jesus we see a model for life, for mission, for death, that we do not need to be apologetic about, or keep stored in a parallel universe to ‘real life’.
‘Some things’ never change but, on the other hand, resurrection changes everything, absolutely everything. In us is new life and with that new life comes huge possibilities, a permission to live and an opportunity to flourish.
By Revd Kate Pearson, Anglican pioneer priest and chaplain at the University of Warwick