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Reflections on Relay

Michael Hamilton, 13/07/17

Each year, as the academic year draws to a close, Relay Workers have an opportunity to embark on the Closing Camino. The Camino is a day of silence and solitude, a time for reflection in the beautiful wilderness of Glendalough. This year, at the close of his Camino experience, Michael Hamilton recorded his own ‘Relay Reflections’.

Reflections on Relay

On the Closing Camino in Glendalough I had the chance to reflect on my past year as a Relay worker. There were high points and low points throughout the year but overall doing Relay has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. It has been a massive pleasure to work alongside and learn from the CUI team. A more supportive group of people you will be hard pressed to find. Alongside this blessing have been many others. 

As I reflected on my Relay year, I found it helpful to group my thoughts under four headings: Blessings, Struggles, Study and Highlights:


Blessings

Firstly, I should mention Jeremy. Jeremy was my supervisor over this past year, and he has been a huge encouragement to me. Jeremy was the person who convinced me to do Relay in the first place. During the year we met every week to talk about how I was doing, the joys and the struggles I was facing, and also to read the Bible and pray together. (He also had to correct me at times too.) I have learned a lot from Jeremy this past year and he has been a huge blessing to me.

Another big blessing was learning to focus on Christ more. I think I can often fall into the trap of being too inward–looking. I think this is a trap we all too readily fall into. But looking inward doesn’t bring hope, only Christ does. Learning to rely more on Christ is so important for our walk with him.

We can never be too focused on him.

I think I have grown in my spiritual life and a big encouragement for me was when people told me this. Other people noticed the changes in me. It makes me happy to know that people can see me becoming more Christ–like.

Another blessing was having the support of my church. My church got behind me to support me both financially and in prayer. I had to raise all my own money this year and quite a few churches from my denomination sent me money as gifts. It was always wonderful to hear people telling me that I was in their prayers. Even people whom I do not know personally were praying for me. That was a huge blessing!


Struggles

I was the sole Relay worker in Ireland this year. This isn’t normal. Usually, there are at least four Relay workers on the CUI team. There were over sixty Relay workers on the UCCF staff team this year in Britain. I found it difficult being on my own because sometimes it felt like I was in limbo, somewhere between student and staff worker. It would have been nice to have at least one other Relay worker alongside me on the CUI team.

Relay also had quite a few open spaces. Where some might thrive, I struggled. Some people are naturally self–motivated but I’m not the most organised of people (anyone who knows me will confirm that.) At times I found it difficult to motivate myself to work or study in those open periods. In some ways this was a positive thing to learn about myself, and I’m starting to learn to be more organised.

I was put out of my comfort zone quite often. I’m not sure whether to put this in the struggle section or the blessings section. I think it’s a good thing to be put outside of your comfort zone. Originally, I found the idea of engaging with students about the gospel to be quite a daunting prospect. At various points, I communicated my faith to students I had only recently met for the first time. However, I’m very glad I did it and would like to do it again. I knew this year would push me out of my comfort zone and I’m glad that it did, even if was, at times, difficult.


Study

When students think of Relay, the first things that pop into their head is going to CU meetings, reading the Bible with students, and helping out with CU events. However, a lot of my time actually involved theological study.

The theological study component of Relay has two aspects: One aspect was the UCCF study curriculum. UCCF is the UK–based network of staff workers and CUs. The UCCF Relay curriculum is a fantastic online programme of study. I submitted written assignments on a monthly basis after discussing them in–depth with Jeremy. The other programme was Gospel Ministry Training (GMT). This is facilitated by Immanuel church in Dublin city centre.

I found both to be extremely helpful.

It was amazing to see the practical application that these studies had on my student work.

These study programs definitely feature as a highlight of my year. I learned how important it is to have a strong biblical foundation when engaging in student ministry. I studied topics like the Trinity, the Doctrine of Scripture, Union with Christ, Adoption, and the Church. The various assignments I wrote on these topics impacted my day–to–day work of ministry on the campus. The deeper insights into God and his Word helped me to counsel and encourage individual students more effectively.

GMT contained five different modules: Understanding God’s Story, Understanding Leadership, The Bible in Missional Perspective, Apologetics and Evangelism. Some of what I learned in the apologetics section especially helped me to engage with a number of non–Christian students who had challenging questions about the gospel.


Highlights

In closing, I want to share some of my highlights from the year. I was working with three CUs this year: Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD), and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI). Both TCD and UCD had Events Weeks. These are weeks where the CU goes out onto campus to reach people with the public proclamation of the gospel. I really enjoyed being involved in this kind of outreach. I managed, with God’s help, to strike up a few conversations with students about Jesus. We never know how God will use even our small, poor attempts at sharing the gospel, for his glory.

I consider the Reasons for Hope Tour to be another highlight of the year. It was amazing to see hundreds of students turn out to hear Dr William Lane Craig debate Dr Daniel Came, and also John Lennox’s public lectures. I had one particularly good conversation with a guy after one of the John Lennox lectures. In a very real and honest way, I had the opportunity to communicate the heart of the gospel with him. That was very encouraging for me, and definitely counts as a major highlight of the year.

Just before Easter, I had the opportunity to deliver an evangelistic talk on the Resurrection of Jesus at RCSI CU. The meeting was quite well attended.

It was a great privilege to be able to speak to students about the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, as well as its importance.

This was another experience of being out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed speaking publically, even though I felt my talk wasn’t quite as polished as I would have liked. 

Over the course of the year, Relay workers attend three specifically designed training conferences alongside UCCF Relay workers in the UK for bible teaching, worship and prayer. These are key times of learning in community and are a great chance to build friendships with other Relay workers. I really enjoyed these conferences. Being the sole CUI Relay worker in Ireland, I always welcomed the opportunity to learn alongside and have fellowship with the Relays workers across the pond.

 

In closing, I’d highly recommend Relay to any student looking for a year of practical discipleship joined with the life–changing impact that the focused study of God’s Word brings. I know I enjoyed it! The struggles I had definitely pale in comparison to the blessings and encouragement that this year contained.

 

 

Relay is our national discipleship and training year for graduates who love CUs.

Relay provides graduates with a unique opportunity to work alongside the Christian Union whilst learning loads and deepening their faith in Jesus.

Relay workers are supervised by a CUI staff worker through one–to–one bible studies and prayer, ministry direction and feedback. As a focal part of the wider CUI team, Relay workers benefit from discipleship training at the coalface of campus ministry, the fellowship of CUI team life, as well as an online curriculum of theological study.

If you’d like to learn more about Relay or are interested in participating, drop Jo a line: jchipperfield@cui.ie