After one year at Trinity…
Hello. My name is Shakeel. I am nineteen and currently the youngest student at Trinity, finishing my first year of the BA course.
I arrived at Trinity last year feeling excited about the future. I wasn’t sure what to expect in coming to a theological college. Naturally I was anxious, but in a positive way; this was, after all, my first time away from home. But soon enough I realised that everyone had come from a different sphere of life, everyone was adjusting to this new lifestyle.
I was warmly welcomed into the community, and genuinely felt that I had gained a new family. I know that it is very cliché to say that we are one big family, or that we are living ‘community’ life, but that is how I felt. I had gained dozens of new older brothers and sisters, people from whom I could learn, and people I knew had my back because of our unity in Christ. This is a priceless benefit of being a student at Trinity.
Before coming to Trinity, I had never really had much exposure to the Church of England, so there was much for me to learn. One of the things I first initially struggled with was the use of liturgy. I had grown up (in what now turns out to be ignorance) thinking that using set liturgy is not sincere worship. How could it be? It is just reading prescribed words off a prescribed page. Where is the heart of burning passion in that? Eventually I came to realise that the issue wasn’t with the liturgy, but with my own approach to worship.
I soon realised that liturgy, if done with a sincere and reverent attitude toward God, can be a really enjoyable and powerful way of worshipping. There is a real sense of church unity in praying together in unison. It’s not about saying set words; it is about coming before God as a church body and giving him all the glory. To say the Lord’s Prayer with everyone declaring glory to God’s holy name (‘hallowed be your Name’) is an incredible act of corporal worship.
A deeper knowledge of God
Trying to take on a new academic discipline is difficult and requires continual effort and persistence, and theology was no exception. I never took theology for granted as an academic subject, but I did presume it would be an easy transition; after all, I’ve been in the church my whole life.
But God has undone my presumptions. If I had to pin it down to one specific thing, I would say that my understanding of God’s might has been blown away. I always knew that God is ‘a great big God’—we learnt that back in Sunday school—but I never realised that I would know that in a greater way. It doesn’t make sense. How can you know the same truth better? You still know the same truth, the same God—he never changes—yet everything about him just seems so much larger than you could ever comprehend.
For me I surprisingly realised this when reading Leviticus (of all books!). I didn’t see merely a list of rules, but a God who is so awesome and holy that all of these laws were required of the Israelites if they were to be his people. Yet, all the sacrifices and offerings that the Israelites made to bring about their own sanctification would never be able to match the purity of God’s holiness. Nothing they could do would ever atone for their sinful nature. Which is why God sent Jesus, a sacrifice for the atonement of our sins that is so much more than what a thousand burnt offerings, or grain offerings could ever mean. God is so holy that the only one who could meet his standards was God himself in Jesus Christ. I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe when I came to this understanding of my Lord and Saviour.
It has been a challenge coming to Trinity, and I’ve had a lot to learn. I’m sure the rest of my time here will be no different. There will be plenty to do, and a lot of hard work, but I am confident in saying that being at Trinity is one of the greatest blessings in my life so far.