by Ellis Tsang, SCM Fundraising & Communications Officer
from Signs of the Times No. 65 - Apr 2017
How do we provide a safe refuge for Christians who want to ask questions, be inclusive, and are open to other beliefs and perspectives?
This was the question that kept coming up during the recent Modern Church council meeting at Hinsley Hall, Leeds. It’s the question I ask every day at the Student Christian Movement (SCM), where we reach out to students who might be a little lost in their faith, caught between an aggressive form of conservative evangelicalism and the busy-ness of university life and culture. How do we create a space for these people that combines an open and cutting-edge approach to theology, with a faith that is relevant to their lives and enriches them as young people in the world? The answer might lie in our idea of what theology is.
Theology doesn’t stand on its own, as a separate altar to be studied and kept closed off from the rest of life. Connecting students to an open and inclusive theology means connecting theology to all aspects of life. Theology connects to our spiritual lives, informing how we pray and worship. It connects to our public lives, challenging how we treat other people within public and online spaces. It connects to our careers and vocations, guiding us through tough choices. As SCM blogger Rebekah Blyth recently put it:
We don’t just think or talk theology – we do it; as part of our worship – the songs we sing, both musically and lyrically, what our places of worship look like, what customs and rituals we take part in, what creeds and/or prayers we say, the way we interact with other people in our churches. We also do theology in any conversations we might have with other people about God. And we do theology through the many varied ways that Christians live out their faith through their actions and through demonstrating God’s love in the world.
We want to encourage and resource students actively to do theology: to have conversations about the varied and rich ideas about God we don’t normally talk about in church or other ‘Christian’ settings; to encounter people of different faiths and beliefs, learning from them and building dialogue and
understanding; to bring people together through inclusive liturgies and prayers, welcoming all into communion with the divine; and to make a difference in the world, challenging structures of power and enabling change to happen in society.
This is our vision of a Christian faith for students, whether in universities, local churches or wider society. SCM is working towards achieving this vision in the next five years by working more locally with students themselves, giving them the skills and confidence as leaders to run local groups on campus and help make churches a more accepting and caring place for all.
In September. we are also planning to expand our work in schools and local churches, running youth workshops and discussions for 16-18 year-olds that encourage them to explore an open and inclusive faith at university. This support will be vitally needed in the years to come, especially at such a critical transition period, when many young people are finding out who they are and need to know there’s a spiritual home for them.
As a Modern Church member, you can be a part of making this possible by joining our Friends Network. SCM Friends not only support SCM through prayer and funding, but also share their experiences and insights with students at events, local group meetings or within churches. Find out more and sign up as a Friends today by visiting movement.org.uk/friends.
For those who are wondering about their identity, but afraid they won’t be accepted; for those questioning the role and nature of faith, but never allowed to ask; for those seeking a Christianity that cares about equality, peace and justice, but not given an opportunity to act – you can help build a community that provides a safe refuge to do theology and encounter the fullness of God.