Everyday Christian: zoom was last year, this year I'm back on campus and back face-to-face

This year is so different to last year, writes Anthony, remembering a life lived in zoom-land.

Sometimes, as I shut my laptop after a Zoom Bible study or talk with my uni Christian group, I’d stare at my bedroom walls and burst into tears.

Our community was persisting, but we all knew community via Zoom wasn’t the same. It lasted for just under a year. So this week’s return to campus was a near-spiritual event.

I made it four minutes before running into a friend from our campus Christian group (an EUer, as we in the Evangelical Union, or EU, call ourselves). I remember it exactly.

9.04am, Monday, at Courtyard Cafe.

We grimaced — how could you not? — as our eyes connected across the cafe. We’d seen each other almost every week of the university year, but hadn’t seen each other in months. We chatted about random stuff: subjects we were doing this semester, holidays, and our first footsteps on campus after a year off it. It was the type of painful conversation that would lead you to pray for a bad internet connection if you were forced to engage in a breakout room over Zoom, but in-person it was a delightful embrace of human reality.

As I left the cafe (and got in trouble for forgetting to check-in) I ran into another friend from the EU who I wouldn’t have seen in over a year.

In the middle of the road, we chatted for 20 minutes openly and honestly about the struggles and joys of the last 12 months, and the wonder it was to be back learning face-to-face.

“I didn’t realise how much I missed it,” he told me, “until I came back and remembered how good it was.”
He’s talking about seeing people, on campus — a low bar. But after a year of doing uni from my bedroom, I can confirm it is a marvellous thing.

And that’s before the EU even began its Bible study and public talks again! There’s something beautiful about on-campus Christian community that can’t be found anywhere else.

As university picks up speed and semester goes on, it’d be easy to forget the lessons of the past year. But forgetting would be foolish.

I could forget two things. I could forget the darkness of isolation in 2020, the times of deep loneliness and lack of community — and how, at those lowest points, I was sustained by grace again and again.
And I could forget the fullness of those first moments on campus. The smiles and the joy and the hard work to interrogate the Bible.

So I enter a new university year hopeful for the future, and praying: God, don’t let me forget.

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