Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
On Wednesday afternoon this week, thousands of staff and students gathered in the burning sun on the University of Nottingham’s main campus.
The family, friends, coursemates, housemates, and teammates of Barney and Grace, two first-year students murdered on a familiar Nottingham street on Tuesday morning, were joined by a multitude of people from the wider University community.
The attacks, which also left school caretaker Ian Coates dead and three more in hospital, have sent a shockwave through our friendly, open city and its student population. I live here. And for me, to be in the presence of thousands of others feeling the same mix of shock, anger, anxiety, and sudden grief was a quiet comfort.
Representatives from the University, the Students’ Union, and the Chaplaincy offered condolences to the victims’ families. Each acknowledged that words fell painfully short. In response, Barney and Grace’s fathers said that the physical, tangible presence of this community, gathered in the campus, spoke loudest.
Jesus, too, took time to be present with the sick, the dying, and the bereaved. We know he could speak words that healed from a distance: he made a centurion’s servant well without even entering his house (Luke 7). But so often, his preference was to show up. Think of Jairus’ daughter, Peter’s mother-in-law, or Lazarus’ grieving sisters, amongst others. Jesus doesn’t want to sort the problem and move on: he wants to be present.
Consider the people you’ll be present with today. What’s possible because you’re there that wouldn’t be possible if you only sent a text? How might your presence be good news?
Perhaps you make a cup of tea for someone who’s feeling anxious. You shake hands with someone before a meeting and say how glad you are it’s not on Zoom. You listen to someone more attentively, mirroring their body language. The team’s banter is different because they know a Christian is in their midst.
As we stood together at the University vigil two days ago, I watched hands held and flowers laid. Words simply were not needed. To be part of the crowd in that place was to be part of a tangible gesture more compassionate than words could convey. That’s why our presence matters.
And that’s why our presence can, in fact, speak louder than our words. Jesus lived as if that were true. As his followers, we follow his example, believing our presence can make a difference, wherever we are.
Head of Innovation, LICC
Associate Chaplain, University of Nottingham