After taking up the offer to be put in contact with the chaplain, the Free Church Chaplain got in touch with me as soon as I arrived, and we met in the first week or so of University. He was a marked difference from the ministers I had known at church for he was someone I would describe as ‘normal’ and ‘human’ rather than pious. For me it was still something of a revelation that these things could be mixed, and the requirement to be Christian was not to be completely alienated from the world. This realisation started a huge change within my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. In the chaplaincy church, an LEP and the place I first discovered Methodism, I found a very questioning approach to faith and a commitment to do something as well as just be something.
During my time in the church, I found myself going through various personal challenges associated with leaving behind the familiar. Many university students will have had similar experiences, but the people in the church made me welcome and helped me work through my challenges. It was during this time that I felt I wanted to make the commitment of being baptised, something subsequently conducted by the chaplain. It is an experience I still remember and am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to do as an adult.
It was also during my time in this church I became more interested in leading worship. Unlike in my home church, members were encouraged to lead the intercessions and the student group was asked to lead an evening service once a quarter. In this environment I found myself reluctantly willing to engage in these acts, and subsequently became comfortable in doing them. There was great encouragement from the fellow congregation to explore these feelings further but the minister suggested that I wait. He pointed out that I had a time of uncertainty ahead, and more than enough to worry about with a degree to do, so to consider it in the future but wait until life was more stable. His advice proved to be very helpful, as it is in a time of stability that I have felt myself responding best to the call to preach and being most enriched by the experience.