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My office is usually filled with people. In fact, my office usually filled with undergraduates arguing about their assignments, debating political theory, gossiping about their relationships and asking questions about scripture and Jesus. Yes, you heard that right….Jesus is right in there with sex, and political theory, and who is dating who.

Some people are scandalized, others excited when they find out that the conversation among my parishioners is so wide ranging and blunt. One parent who visited me commented that it was like the old days when the kids were being ferried to soccer practice and forgot that mom was in the front seat and the kids in the back were speaking their minds freely.

The University parish is a place of truth – that is to say the pursuit of truth. At the same time the university is a parish – part of the body of Christ and a small part of the wider and universal church. The fact that so many find their way into my office to talk about their faith and all these other subjects is a sign that what the Church has to say is relevant to the world in which these students find themselves.

Oh and these aren’t “church kids” who have hung around Sunday School and youth groups all their lives. I have heard it said more than once that “If you had told me a year ago that I would be hanging out in the priest’s office talking about anything, I wouldn’t have believed you!”

There is such a hunger for conversation and community and the church can supply it – in spades – if we are willing to listen more than talk. Building relationships with those who cross our thresholds is the first order of business because it was Jesus’ first order of business. Starting with the people who come and walk through the door, we can speak Jesus into the university world and Jesus is comfortable there. So are many of his followers. There is no life like this pastoral presence in the midst of the intense and complicated community.

My deepest wish is that parishes had the same place Where people would speak Jesus into their lives as a quest for truth….all of their lives…the messy and complicated parts too. I know it exists, as I have lived it before and am blessed to be living it now. But how can we open all our parishes and speak Jesus into the chatter?

About Fr. Bill Cliff

The Revd Canon William Cliff is Chaplain to Huron University College at Western University in London, Ontario. Fr. Bill has traveled across Canada teaching and preaching to young people (and old) the joy of Scripture interpretation and the astonishing grace and mercy of God. He has spoken at CLAY 2010 and 2012 and has served in the Diocese of Huron as a priest for 20 years. He also sings.... a lot.
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