Summer 2008 Rapport: Building relationships, reaching students
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|Sarah (Herman) Malcolm (M.A. 2003) and her husband, Rob, are Chi Alpha missionaries
working with students at Aberdeen University, Scotland.
Upon entering the Priory, your feet stick to the floor via a thin layer of sweat and spilled beer. Looking up, you’ll see a mixture of symbols: stained glass, a cross and a DJ’s turntable sitting in the pulpit. What is now a weekend nightclub for stressed and irreligious students was once a cathedral of worship.
Outside, on the same street, three other churches have suffered the same fate. Secularism is the cultural norm. There is no religious right or left because there is no religion.
Reaching students in a post-Christian environment is a highly exciting, creative experiment. Aware that students are uninterested in traditional church settings, we look for ways to enter into their community. So we began outreaches in a pub on the same street as the transformed cathedrals. We played music, taught on spiritual themes and had discussion groups that centered on Christian life and teachings. That’s how we met Martha.
She was so unassuming that no one saw what was happening beneath the surface. Before long she not only was attending our events but was becoming part of the fabric of our community. Frequent conversations ultimately led to her commitment to follow Jesus.
That was two years ago, and since then we have met many Marthas. Sincere, seeking students have found themselves belonging to our community before believing in Christ.
We have found that we need to listen before we speak. When religion seems to have failed, what remains is a need for authentic relationships in which we listen to the hearts of the seeking.
That realization led us to experiment with what we now call Creative Arts Cafés. Instead of a pub, we meet in a local Starbucks to host a variety of events, from art exhibits to open-mic nights. At the end of each evening, I read from a blog on a spiritual theme. Students are finding a safe place to make friends, hear truth and enter a conversation about faith. The approach may seem simplistic, but our non-Christian friends now take off work to come to these cafés. Our expression of community is our first sermon about Jesus, which in turn gives power to the words we confess about his love and life-giving truth.
Friday, August 8, 2008 1:07 PM