Community in Unexpected Places

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“You’re alone, you need a new community. I’ve given up trying to convert you – but seriously, try church. It’s a new group of people, it’s a fun thing to do on a Sunday and you might even get something out of it.”

So said my best friend to me 6 months ago. I was in the throes of the toughest break up of my life (and believe me, I’ve had a few!), lost and alone. Any of you who’ve experienced a breakup know how isolating they can be. This was the guy I was convinced I would marry, and over the years we’d been together our interests and social circles had merged, meaning that I was really, really alone. Sure, I had a wonderful group of friends, but they all knew him and they all still really liked him. I’d fled to my hometown to try and recover, but there’s only so long you can put life on hold for, even when you’re that lost.

So, I rocked up to church on a Sunday night pretty desperate, confused and clueless.

Church, for the non-believer is weird. It just is. People singing, quoting verbatim from this book you’ve heard about but not really known much at all, and telling you all the ways your life will be better if you devote yourself to a God you may or may not believe in. Determined as I was to find a new community, I felt seriously out of my depth right from the beginning.

Christians – well, they’re even weirder than going to Church. As I explored this strange new world, I was frequently overwhelmed. Walk into a Christian gathering as a non-believer and you’ll be given an abundance of new information, people to talk to and many things to think about. Not to mention an abundance of love. I was, and still am at times, really confused by it all.

They’ve got something going for them with their weird though. Between going to Church, starting to read the bible and spending time with this most loving group, something happened. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be a bible reading, church attending, God praising believer, I would have laughed in your face. But by the grace of God it happened, and I’m so glad it did. The specifics of that story are for another time, but one I’d love to tell you if we ever do meet.

Christians – and it’s with a sense of novelty that I include myself in that number now – are a diverse bunch, with both good and bad reputations (sometimes deservedly so). but I’ve been consistently surprised at their diversity. Some of them are really outspoken, and that was scary for me. But as I found out, their passion comes from a place of love, their smiles and excitement are genuine and their intelligence- well, I’ve been blown away by the depth of academic thought that goes into being a Christian.

Rocking up to any new group is scary, and Christians are no different. These are people who try to live God’s word every day of their lives and love supporting each other in doing so. It’s important to know, though, that that’s about where their similarities end. Christians come from all walks of life, all degrees, and all colours and creeds with only that one uniting characteristic – a love for God.

In that journey to find new community I’ve been particularly welcomed and loved by FOCUS – the Fellowship of Christian University Students. In the past year I’ve gone from being one of FOCUS’s most outspoken critics to a true devotee. I’ve well and truly learned that no one needs to be alone, and that the Christian community is as welcoming and genuinely caring as any group of people I know. So be you a believer, curious, or not at all check out a Church next time you’re bored on Sunday, chat to the person you know who posts about Christianity on Facebook, or be super brave and say hi to the loving, if overly-enthusiastic, people at the FOCUS stall. And with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of God’s grace, you might even meet the girl at the well.