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Relay Blog: May 2017

“Nicholas grew more and more angry, and eventually he walked up to Arius and slapped him right in the face!”

I had no idea that Church history was so funny until last week.

I’ve just been away on team days, getting equipped and encouraged with Staff and Relay Workers from across my region. It’s great to glean from the wisdom of pastors and theologians across the country – we’ve had teaching on topics like prayer, the Psalms, evangelism in new universities, and most recently, church history.

Dan Hames, lecturer at Union Theology and part-time curate at St. Aldates, led us through a whistle-stop tour of the early church. His enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of the early church made what I confess I thought would be a bit of a boring subject a fascinating one, no doubt helped by stories like the one of Nicholas (St. Nic, aka. Santa Claus) slapping a heretical priest at the Council of Nicea. We learnt about the severe persecution that the early church faced, as well as of the councils that defended the Bible Biblical canon  and wrote creeds that we still say today.

It was challenging to see how subtle heresy can be. Dan led us through the theology of Arius and Nestorius, Diodore and Theodore (I promise these are their actual names, they just really conveniently rhyme!). I was struck by the fact that what can start as a seemingly small misunderstanding about the person of Jesus can end with awful ramifications for the doctrine of salvation.

Learning about the history of the church in the last 2000 years has reminded me of the responsibility that I have as I open the Bible with students. It’s been challenging to remember that eternal life is at stake as I open God’s word. This is great motivation for me to work hard and ask God for help as I continue to study Galatians and the work of the Holy Spirit in my core study this month.

As well as praising God for faithful Christians who have stood firm for the true Gospel throughout the centuries (often losing their lives in the process), it was helpful to apply what we had learned to our work with students in the 21st Century. It was particularly interesting to think about how Gnosticism (which is essentially dividing the body and soul and deeming the latter as more spiritual)  is still prevalent in our culture, especially surrounding the issue of identity. It’s comforting to know that the problems that the early church faced are no different in many ways to the issues we face today, and a challenge to follow in their footsteps and cling to the truth of the gospel.

Team days are also a great break from the busyness of term time. It’s wonderful to be on the receiving end of teaching after giving out so much through training CU leaders and reading the Bible with students one-to-one. It’s also so encouraging to hear about how God is working throughout the region. If I’ve had a discouraging few weeks in Oxford, hearing from other Staff and Relay Workers about students coming to Christ and CU leaders stepping out in faith encourages me to keep going. Having time to pray for each CU in the region keeps me connected to the rest of the region and reminds me that I’m not a lone wolf in this work. It’s wonderful to spend time eating and hanging out together too. Sharing embarrassing stories over a butternut squash lasagne is a sure way to bond as a team!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and read more about the darker side of Santa Claus.

Relay Workers volunteer alongside Christian Unions, and together with our Staff teams recieve regular input and training to equip them for ministry, now and for the rest of life. To find out more about Relay Workers and how you can support them, head to www.uccf.org.uk/relay

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