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Don't stop the music: The Relay Music Elective

I went to Durham University to study music with very little understanding of the Christian faith. If I set foot in a church, it was probably because I was performing in a concert there. I’ve had a privilege of singing and playing instruments across the country and Europe, and studying it to university level seemed like the natural progression after school. It would have been an understatement to say that music was important to me.

University is also where I became a Christian as a fresher, thanks to friends who admirably lived out their faith and invited me to the Durham CU events week. The two weeks of intellectual and personal challenges I encountered turned my outlook and my sense of identity upside down. Suddenly life was not about me and my music any more. It was about Jesus. This was a stunning revelation and one I still cherish immensely. However, it didn’t take long to experience the inevitable clash of living the 'Christian life' verses the 'musician’s life'. I wasn’t prepared. How do I meet the demands of rehearsal and performance commitments yet also be a committed member of my church family? How can I be present and connect to my friends and witness to them in a world where intense perfectionism, self-promotion and hedonism are expected and celebrated?  Does composing mean compromising? Did being Christian meant I couldn’t pursue music any longer?

At the end of my degree I was still unsure of the path ahead. Relay was a fantastic opportunity to practically invest in a CU, encourage students in their own faith and show people the Jesus I had also come to love. Looking back, I’m so grateful for that year and all that God has taught me.

One of the best parts of Relay was the Relay Music Elective, which seemed to be tackling the very questions I was wrestling with. We had the privilege of learning from professional artists who showed us God’s intention for art and music in the Bible, the different challenges we will face as we engage with unbelieving artists, and we were motivated to pursue holiness and reach out to the lost through our music. I also had the opportunity through Morphe to rework and perform a composition which was critiqued by other artists and musicians.

I learned that God meets every desire for true satisfaction and identity, which music can never bring. But as musicians with a desire to create and communicate, we are demonstrating that we are made in a creator God’s image. It’s liberating to know that God loves when I improvise on the clarinet in church, and loves equally when I sing at home with my sister, and equally when I’m conducting a jazz band at a gig. I can love music in a truer, deeper sense now that I am a Christian. In a similar way to how we worship God with our whole lives, music doesn’t have to be limited to singing on a Sunday for it to be worship.

The reality of music is a joy and a challenge. Music created by someone who doesn’t know Jesus personally can still communicate truth and bear hallmarks of a God who is creative by nature. This is something we should praise God for and encourage. As Christians, the music we make can absolutely be worship, and can powerfully show the world God’s glory, yet in this life we would be wise to be on guard for sin like pride and idolatry in all that we do. It’s where our heart is when we approach our music that matters. Both are examples of the need for and provision of God’s grace, and wherever our music takes us, it’s God who gets us there and God who deserves to be the centre of it all.  

Laura was a Relay Worker at Sheffield Hallam University, 2014-15. She then went on to teach music for two years in Birmingham, including studying for a Secondary Music PGCE, before working for Global Connections and now UCCF. She is convinced that God is able and committed to using music as part of His plan for the world and she is still on the exciting journey of discovering the role God has for her in this. 

Do you love music, arts, science, theology or politics? If you're in your final year of university, doing Relay with an elective in these areas could shape your future when you graduate. Find out more.

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