Welcome to newcomers
At this time of year students come from all over the world to see what we are like (!). It is you and other new visitors to whom I am writing in this letter.
Welcome to you! I have vivid memories of arriving from an English farm into this big city, and of the feeling of strangeness. We understand. The church lunch on the first Sunday of term, the ‘grub crawls’ to different homes for the next two, and I’m sure a sprinkling of invitations on a more personal level after that, will, we trust, make you feel welcomed and known.
If you do not receive an invitation to a home for a week or two and would value having a meal in a Scottish home, please talk to Douglas Humphris who is the member of the ministry team for your age group and I know he will arrange an introduction.
Some of you come among us without any background in the Christian faith so let me say a few words about it. It assumes for good reasons that we are living in God’s world, God being a personal spirit, infinite in his being, perfectly good and wise and who loves us to bits. The Christian faith acknowledges that we break God’s moral laws and that he has provided a saviour in the person Jesus Christ – and oh, what a saviour he is! There is nobody like him, and nothing as life-enhancing as getting to know him.
We would love it if you make Sandyford your spiritual home but wherever you decide to worship, I would advise you to make the following concerns important as you make your choice.
Be sure to find a teaching ministry. The apostle Paul wrote about certain behaviours, ‘you did not so learn Christ’, and added elsewhere ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’: that is, of our thinking, through learning what is taught from the Bible in the Sunday preaching.
Find a mixed, diverse congregation. There is something artificial and temporary about the student life, and stability and joy are to be had from becoming part of a church of working people, business people, unemployed and retired – real people!
When you join a mixed community like that, get stuck in to the unglamorous jobs. There is nothing quite so earthing, and building of substantial friendships and lifelong support, as to roll your sleeves up and sign on to a cleaning rota.
And by the way, we will have a few of those here at Sandyford over the next few months. Now the stained glass window repairs are complete, we can do first with some strong lads to put up the tower scaffold and shuffle it between the high lights: there’s an inch of grime on them from taking the windows out and letting the Glasgow dust blow in. After that we will need teams of people to clean chair after chair after chair – join in. It is satisfying and it builds friendships.
Join a church, next, that genuinely prays together for one another and for the large issues of the faith: missionary work abroad, the spirit in the nation, the spiritual burden of the work here and across the land. In our case, we meet on a Wednesday evening as a whole community and then in groups where personal issues are prayed for. If your college CU prevents Wednesday evening attendance, we can introduce you to smaller groups at other times in the week.
Mind you it isn’t easy being a reliable part of a group committed to prayer. Be warned now: if you set yourself to this greatest of all tasks, your commitment will in a mysterious way become inconvenient, inwardly assaulted and even feel miserable. It is spiritual warfare and spiritual warfare is tough. But there is something life-developing about learning from older prayer warriors and sharing the spiritual burden of Christian work.
Choose a church that just plain likes people! You can tell as soon as you go in. Our Lord Jesus delighted in people (except religious hypocrites) and wherever he is king in a church, the people are like that too.
Sandyford will not always get that perfectly right with every person. Sometimes struggling or self-conscious people give off body language that says ‘beware!’ and others are a bit inhibited about befriending them, and sometime we just aren’t up to scratch in our warmth. So if we let you down by not noticing you are missing or need a particular help, please tell one of the elders or one of the ministry team. But bear in mind that the way to have friends is less a matter of wanting a friend and more a matter of being one!
Whatever church you choose, be a responsible part of it. We have a category ‘associate membership’ specially designed for those who are members elsewhere but wish to be a real and recognised part of Sandyford while you are in Glasgow or during termtime. You won’t grow up as maturely, nor contribute to the saviour’s cause what you could, if you flit between one place and another.
And wherever you choose to worship, may God himself give you a life-enhancing, horizon-enlarging, personality-developing time while you are with us in Glasgow whether it is to learn your trade, or starting to come among us out of interest in the faith as an older person, or while you are at College or University here.
C Peter WhiteView All Letters