I have been brought up in a loving, Christian family. My parents have supported me in everything, and my sisters are my best friends. Every Sunday for the first few years of my life I was taken to a Brethren assembly, which was a small meeting of about 10 people, sat round the Lord’s table, singing hymns and praying. My father ran a small youth group on Friday evenings, and there I learned the bible stories from my grandmother.
When I was 10, my family started attending Upminster Baptist Church, where my father is now pastor. Having other young people in the church was a wonderful change for me. Up to that point I’d only really had one Christian friend, but the welcome I received at UBC has led to some of the closest friendships I have now. At that time though, the friends I had was all I saw in church - a morning each week spent singing followed by a story in Sunday school and then football in the church garden afterwards. I went because my parents took me, and that was the extent of my faith. Over the next few years I saw my mother baptised, my older sister baptised, and many others. I assumed I would eventually be baptised too, but while at that time I could not say why, I was aware that the time was not right. The youth workers at the church taught me more about what faith is, through their example and their words, and I was aware that was not what I was convinced to be true.
When I was 14, my father decided to retrain to become a Baptist minister. For his training he spent part time working at a small church on Canvey Island called Winter Gardens Baptist Church. At Winter Gardens there was one other person under the age of 40, and so it was a big change for me. I no longer had a Sunday school to go out to, a group of friends to hang out with - instead it was 30 old people meeting to worship together. Stripping away these other factors made me think more about what church actually was, and about the stories I had learned about growing up. I actually began to listen to sermons, and to think about what it means to ‘be a Christian’. I remember a friend of mine at school telling me that I was the ‘most Christian person he knew’, which while I laughed it off at the time, instead made me think of the people at Winter Gardens - not because they fit the church stereotype of ‘little old ladies with grey hair’, but because of the way they lived, and interacted with each other, and because of their commitment to God. This was perhaps the first time I properly thought about was it was to be a Christian.
After my father graduated, he was called to ministry at Upminster Baptist Church, his sending church. It was wonderful to return to the church we had been a part of before, to come back to my friends and to feel at home again immediately. While by this point I had begun to mature as a Christian, I had a long way to go. My main reason for going to church was because I was expected to – expected by my family and by my friends, both Christian and non-Christian. A year later it was time for me to come to university. At university I no longer had people around me telling me that I was a Christian, there was no longer the expectation to go to church on a Sunday, or to a youth group on another day.
I’m quite an introverted person, I find social interaction quite draining, and so my biggest fear of coming to university was that the high level of social interaction would lead to me hiding back in my room, alone. That’s why when I arrived in Cambridge I threw myself into the Christian Union - not because of faith, but because just as at Upminster Baptist Church, I knew in the Christian Union I could find a ready-made group of friends. Through the CICCU I saw another side of Christianity which I hadn’t experienced before. People my age whose lives pointed to Jesus as much as the little old ladies had at Winter Gardens, and so I listened, I learnt, and I grew as a Christian. I talked to the people around me, and investigated what a real faith was, and through all of this, my own faith was growing. Near the end of last year my friend Songyuan was baptised, after which he was very persistent in telling me to be baptised.
I considered what I believed, what the Bible said, I prayed, and when Julian, the pastor here, said there would be a session on baptism I spoke to him and knew that I had changed. I wasn’t being baptised because I should, because my parents expected me to or because it was what my sister had done. It was only a little to do with the persistence of a friend. I have taken ownership of my faith. What I believe is not what my parents and grandparents told me to believe, but a personal conviction after careful consideration and reasoning. I am being baptised because of a love for Jesus, a desire to follow his commands, and a wish to publicly symbolise a change within me.