At one of my last Christian Union meetings as a student, I heard a talk on 2 Timothy, where Paul passes on his final messages to the younger Timothy. The pastor paused in the middle of the meeting to ask us, ‘What will you pass on to the younger years when you graduate and leave them?’
That is still the reason I give to those who ask me the dreaded question, ‘Why did you decide to do Relay?’. I had received so much from my CU experience, should I not want to pass it on?
Still, I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. I didn’t expect to be sent from Warwick CU – where every committee has a sub-committee – to Birmingham City CU, with its devoted committee of three. I’d gone from a university that prizes abstract study, to one which valued hands-on practical work and artistry. Suddenly everything I thought I knew about evangelism was useless – I found there was no point giving answers to questions that people aren’t asking.
I've realised why each Relay Worker is so proud of the CU that they work with.
Yet over time, I’ve realised why each Relay Worker is so proud of the CU that they work with. When you work among students, you really do ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15). Their highs become your highs, their lows, your lows.
And the highs are real highs – whether they come with a rush of adrenaline, like a game of combat archery in the freezing rain, or in a quiet hush, when a student understands Jesus’ sacrifice. This makes the exhaustion of three straight weeks of events, the frustration of the fifteenth change of plan – worth it.
I’ve prayed desperately for wisdom in meetings where the pressures and stresses of events have led to tears, only to see situations change to joy overnight. I’ve had meeting after meeting cancelled, only to sit in a coffee shop and watch a student’s face light up when she understood that the good news was not just for good people. It’s in moments like these that I realise that the old, old story really is still beautiful and true.
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated some of the stresses of Relay – from Zoom exhaustion to making plans from scratch – but it has also made the joys shine brighter. I delight in hearing students share their testimonies or of drawing sessions being run for international students. When everything is stripped away, we’re forced to focus on the things that matter – that Bible study with a student, that CU training session.
At that final CU meeting, the speaker reminded us of what Paul said to Timothy: ‘continue in what you have learned… because you know those from whom you learned it’ (2 Tim 3:14). We don’t learn the gospel just through theological study, though that is good. We learn it also from each other, from seeing the shape of Christ in each other’s lives. And that is what Relay is all about – seeing the shape of Christ in the lives of others, and seeing it take root in our own lives. We have received the baton of the gospel; we must pass it on.
Miriam graduated from Warwick in 2019 and spent a year working alongside Birmingham City CU as a part of the Relay Programme.
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