There aren’t many contexts like university, at least spiritually. Every day we’re assaulted by the assumption that every “good”, even the best “goods”, can be reached if we humans just put in enough effort. In today’s university departments, there’s little room for the spiritual: at most, it gets relegated strictly to the private, personal realm that has little or nothing to do with civic life or academic progress. In our lecture halls, therefore, the socio-physical world and the spiritual world are completely separate, removed from one another.
For both the aggressive atheist and the typical disinterested uni student, someone who wants to entrust themselves completely to Jesus seems strange. Maybe too strange – crazy, even. Academically, faith is often seen as weakness, a shortcoming, something that gets in the way of knowledge, that holds humanity back from reaching our true potential. How then can someone belong to Jesus and at the same time swim in these cultural waters? It’s easy for a believing student to feel like a fish out of water, to feel truly far from home.
But this experience isn’t at all unique to the modern university
From the very beginning of Christianity, believers have been considered “outsiders” by their society – from the very beginning it was clear to the world that there was something different about these “Christians”, that their allegiance wasn’t the same as those around them, the majority of their society. For this reason in the early years, the church suffered greatly at the hands of those around them. The problem was so serious, that the apostle Peter wrote a letter to the first generation of believers – calling them “sojourners and exiles” on this earth – encouraging them to not give up, but to endure, to keep going, even to rejoice in the midst of their sufferings, because of the great blessing that they had received from God. This letter will be our launching point for the long-awaited FESTA GBU!
What does it mean, though, to be a sojourner and an exile?
What does that imply for today, to be far from home? This will be the main theme for this year. We’ll have two very special guests joining us: Stefano Mariotti, the pastor of the Chiesa la Piazza in Budrio (BO), who will share with us some reflections from 1 Peter on this theme. We will also have with us Lindsay Brown, former General Secretary of IFES, the global movement that includes the GBU. Linsdau will be sharing some of the lessons he has learnt from his over 40 years of experience in student ministry.
But wait, there’s more! The FESTA GBU also represents the primary moment of the year when students from all of Italy can gather together IN PERSON for 4 days of workshops, prayer and praise to the Lord, music, sport and plenty of time face to face – what a joy that we’ve been missing for nearly 3 years! It’ll be unforgettable, and absolutely unmissable.
(Staff GBU Bari)