After a Gap year in Ghana, I headed off to university in Sheffield. In Fresher’s week, my flatmates took me to a Christian Union BBQ. I have only two memories of that event: Firstly there was sausage rationing – only 1 each. Secondly, the speaker said to find a Church you liked (he also said one that preached the Gospel… as if there were churches that didn’t!). I found one and never went to a CU event again!
I found the local Methodist Church and went along on the first Sunday morning of term. It was fairly obvious from when I first arrived that this was not a ‘student church’. There were a couple of students but they stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of grey hair. Well… as much as 20-30 people can be called a sea. I liked this place and so I kept going back. In fact, I went to the same church for all of my time in Sheffield. I served as a Church Steward (member of a Methodist Church’s Leadership Team) and as Church Council Secretary. This Church was very much home for 4 years.
The congregation was a lovely collection of people – mainly those who didn’t fit in in other churches. They were unafraid to be different, in fact many of them were very proud of being different and of thinking differently. The worship on a Sunday morning was fairly traditional but with two notable elements. Firstly, the singing was dreadful. And I mean dreadful. It was often weak bordering on non-existant and lacked any real energy. On the other hand, the preaching was normally pretty good. Many of the local preachers came from the congregation and would provide an interesting, thought-provoking sermon on the readings set for the day. Both of the ministers who were there during my time were also particularly inspiring preachers.
As much as I like good preaching, I don’t think the worship is why I stayed at this church, it was because I felt like I belonged there. I felt encouraged to think and, perhaps for the first time in my Christian journey, I felt like I was among other Christians who felt like me. They encouraged me to get involved with the running of the church which just cemented the feeling of fitting in.
As with most places when you stay long enough, a Church can drive you mad. People were difficult to work with – defensive about their ways of working, resistant to change, etc. When I left Sheffield, it felt like it was the right time to move on from Broomhill.
The university chaplain and minister to the church observed that this Church was very good at thinking about God but not so good at feeling God. I think that’s why I fitted in so well there but also why I was ready to move on. The other major part this church played in my life is that it is where I first encountered SCM but that’s for another post…