As I have a bit of time over the summer, I’ve decided to try a couple of different things for my blog. I’ve been writing Brightest Day for a few years now, and in that time it’s been practically all my thoughts and opinions, with the exception of a couple of guest posts here and there. Since something I’m very passionate about is the wealth of diversity of thought and opinion within Christianity, I’ve decided that it’s high time I made more of an effort to get some different voices on this platform.
This post is the first step in that direction. I sat down with my girlfriend, Abbie, and we recorded ourselves having a conversation about church background and Christians moving from one church to another. We could have done a similar post by both sitting down and taking it in turns to type, but starting off with us talking seemed like a more natural way to go about it. The rest of this post is a transcription of what we talked about.
Ben: My church background is that I went to the same church for 18 years, which was an independent evangelical-type church that believes in the living power of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, the truth of the Bible, played modern worship music and that kind of stuff. I grew up there, went to Sunday school there and my parents had been going there before I was born.
But then in the summer before going to uni I went on a church plant with the couple that had led the youth ministry at that church. Dave and Jo were starting an Elim church plant in the next village along from my town, which was really exciting to be a part of – to see what happens when a church starts and be a part of a new church coming to a village and trying to bless that village as much as possible.
I still go there when I’m home in Sussex, but in Nottingham, ever since the first couple of weeks of coming to uni, I’ve been going to Trent Vineyard, which is a big church. It’s part of the Vineyard movement and has hundreds of people there every Sunday. It has worship music and talks meant to be relevant to people specifically in the 20s and 30s age bracket, but really trying to be a church that serves all of Nottingham as best as it can. What about you?
Abbie: When I was a kid every so often I went to church with my grandparents, but I didn’t really pay attention. It was a C of E church – in an old building – and I didn’t really understand anything. They did hymns and I used to ring the bell and all that, but that was before I was a Christian.
When I started actually exploring Christianity I started going to church with my friend. It was an Anglican church but it was quite evangelical and Holy Spirit-believing, with a band that played modern songs which I thought was really great, and everything was really easily explained. When I first went there were quite a few people my age, but now there aren’t as many around, it’s mainly families and children. I still go there, but I don’t know that many people.
I was really excited to come to uni and to join CU and church. Similar to Ben I’m now at Trent Vineyard and also got very involved in CU.
Ben: What was your experience of churches when you came to uni? How did you end up at Trent?
Abbie: Our CU group in halls took us around some of the churches at the start [of first year]. I can’t remember what order I tried things but I tried more conservative ones and some that were similar to my home church, but I wanted something a bit different. I also tried more charismatic churches but that was almost a bit too much for me at the time. It was really tempting to go for the ones where my friends went from halls, but I didn’t know if they fitted quite right, so in the end I went for the one which was most right for me. I wanted it to be quite relaxed – as well as going to church back home I went to some youth events and these were a similar style of worship to what Trent has, so I was kind of looking for that as well. How about you?
Ben: Trent was the first church I came to when I came to uni. I’d been to New Wine summer camp with my parents for a few years before uni and one of the venues there, for many years, was run by Trent Vineyard church. So my parents had heard about it and when I had my offer confirmed for Nottingham and knew that this was where I was coming it was the first church on the list to check out. I guess I knew what to expect and I hoped it would be somewhere that I would feel comfortable at.
I came here with a friend on one of the first Sundays when I got to uni and loved it straight away. I felt very welcome, and although it’s a massive church I felt like people made an effort to get to know me and remember my name and little details like that went further than good music or good sermons – I was made to feel like a person at the church, which I think could be very easy for a big church to get wrong.
The first year small group that we had was big for me. I went there for the first couple of weeks and that was how I got to know other students and actually get a circle of friends at the church, which is another big part of going to church – not going on your own every Sunday but having people that you know makes a massive difference. At what point did you start going to the small group?
Abbie: I didn’t go at first because I didn’t know about it and I was in the CU halls group, but one of my friends at church told me about it and so I came along and I really enjoyed the sessions and meeting people. Because I came a bit late I probably didn’t feel straight away like I knew people that well, but by the end of first year I started going more. It’s been a process for me, but I know a lot of people now and it’s been really helpful.
I’ll leave this post here for now, as I’ve already gone over 1000 words and there’s a lot more to get through. So far, this is setting up mine and Abbie’s backgrounds so that when we start talking about moving churches and different kinds of churches you can see where we’re coming from. That post will be up in a couple of days, so stay tuned!