I arrived at the University of East Anglia for my first year of university way back in 2015. I had a horrific mop of hair, a head full of dreams, and a willingness to meet the kind of people I’d never before seen back home in Chesterfield.
I was so blessed to find those people quickly. Even more amazingly, there were some Christians! In the Ziggurat block along from me (seriously, go and Google 'UEA Ziggurats') was a girl named Jecinta, and we became pals in an instant. You can see us together in the picture up there - she is doing some henna on my arm.
She’s got stories to tell from her time at uni, and finding a church is just one of them!
After one of our recent weeks of Fusion Preparation for University sessions, one of the questions we were asked was “How did you decide which church community you wanted to be a part of? What was it that helped you make the decision?”.
It’s a great question, and my mind leapt immediately to my mate Jecinta, because she has some amazing advice.
“Firstly I would say there's no one formula for knowing where is the right place for you. Some people go to a church they are linked with by denomination, some find somewhere clicks, some people don't necessarily find a place that 'clicks' but commit to staying there and making it work.”
“Then, as is kind of hinted in the question, finding a church to go to and settling in are different things.”
When Jecinta was in her first few weeks, she found a local church to go to. It was perfectly pleasant, the people were nice, she’d already got involved with serving on the children’s team - but it was obvious to her that it wasn’t the place she would settle. I like to think this is because she spilled a cup of tea over the vicar, but she insists it was something else…
Jecinta ended up going to another church (King’s) but found settling there quite difficult too.
“I mean, I didn't really settle at King's for... a while. You might not want to put that haha.”
(I did in fact want to put that).
“But there came a point where I felt quite committed to the church, I wanted to stay but was finding it really difficult to feel integrated and settled, and to feel like I properly knew people and was known. I prayed and said to God that I was putting the church on trial, and if things didn't change in the next little while, I was going to move churches again. The next couple of weeks I had a crazy and unprecedented amount of dinner invitations, and people seeking me out as an individual. I got the message and stayed and am so glad I did.”
Jecinta delivered this final piece of advice for students who are looking to settle in churches.
“A certain amount comes from committing and praying, but if that's where you decide you want to be and if that's where God wants you to be, it can work out amazingly - even if it's slow at first.
Getting on serving teams is something we're called to but also a great way to get settled in. You're a student! Hopefully people will have you round for dinners, or find teams for you to get involved with. If they don't, ask them to! You're totally allowed!”
Hopefully you find Jecinta’s story helpful in reassuring you ahead of your move to university.