Emily is a second year student in Nottingham, and this is her story of trying church and exploring faith this year.
What made you decide to try church and what was your experience of it?
I wasn’t raised in a Christian family and so hadn’t really been to church since I was young and never really understood why we went to church in the first place. As I got older, I remember becoming aware of a greater power acting in my life and would occasionally wonder “what would God think of that Emily?” However, fearing what my family and friends would think, and the way I thought society viewed religion, I never admitted this to anyone.
During this year though I’ve become good friends with someone on my course and his housemates. They’re Christians and I was very interested in their faith, always asking them questions, so they invited me to church. At first I was scared to go, but I eventually decided to try it out. I can’t quite describe the love I felt from people I didn’t know and how welcoming they all were. I felt very much at home and just peaceful and full of joy throughout the service; it was very uplifting and wasn’t what I expected in the best possible way.
You decided to go on a Weekend Away. What was this like and how did it impact you?
So despite it being my first time at church people encouraged me to come along to Trent Vineyard’s student weekend away (which was happening the following weekend). I took this as a sign, so I booked on and I am so glad I did because it was the weekend that changed my life forever. We sang so many worship songs and I found myself crying a lot from an overwhelming sense of peace and love that I felt inside. People I didn’t know also offered to pray for me, something I’d never experienced. They were telling me things God wanted me to know, all of which were very personal and meaningful. On the last day I decided to give my life to Christ. In that moment I felt free and so joyous; I couldn’t stop smiling the whole day!
How has your life changed since you decided to follow Jesus?
My life has really changed for the better and I find myself living with purpose and meaning. I’ve become so aware of everything around me, thinking of God in everything I see and do. Since that weekend I’ve been to church every week and always reach Wednesday wishing it could be Sunday! I also really wanted to know more and build a foundation for my new life following Jesus so I did an Alpha course with a friend at church. Being new to faith this really helped me grow in my relationship with God as it gave me something new to learn about and discuss each week and became something I really looked forward to.
You’ve got involved in an online Small Group as we’re asked to social distance. What’s this been like?
For me, joining a Small Group was initially a scary thought because I was such a new Christian, but my friends encouraged me and, again, I’m so glad I joined one. Small Groups at church have been happening online since lockdown began, and although it’s unusual meeting online I have felt so welcome and it hasn’t been awkward at any point. It’s such a blessing to be able to dedicate some time during the week to focus on God as a group and just really support each other in this.
What would you say to people who are thinking of trying church, or who are planning to invite their friends?
For anyone who is even slightly curious about trying church I would really encourage you to come along, even if you’re scared or nervous. If you have friends who you are planning to invite then don’t hesitate because, just like it was for me, it could be their first step towards a relationship with God!