Andy shares Christian faith with Norwich students
St Thomas’ church in Norwich has welcomed Andy Woodman to the team, with the remit to work with churches in the city to reach students with the gospel message.
Helen Baldry reports
Andy grew up in Cambridge, and later studied theology at Ridley Hall. He was ordained this year, and prior to that he worked in the health and homeless sector and volunteered on the Soul Survivor team.
Andy is curate at St Thomas in Norwich and lives in Earlham parish in the city. His role is to develop student ministry and he is excited about the potential of so many students in Norwich having the opportunity to explore their faith during their time at university. The vast majority of people come to faith before the age of 21, often when they are studying and have the time and environment to explore their ideas of faith. Andy said, “University age is an important mission field. Churches put a lot of resource into children and youth work – and rightly so – but 18 – 21 is a crucial age window. It’s a key age where people come to faith.”
The fact that we have two international universities in the city - UEA and NUA – presents an incredible opportunity for churches to work with students as they are surrounded by a captive audience.
Andy is inspired by Charles Malik’s quote ‘Change the university and you change the world’, as he understands that university is the place to reach future leaders, such as politicians, doctors and scientists.
Andy moved to Norwich in July with his wife and two daughters, aged 5 and 7. His attention in these first few months is on starting to build a team of people and to scope out the area to see what is currently going on. He is keen to connect with key people and would be interested to hear from churches or groups who have an established student ministry.
Andy observes that some students on arrival at university are motivated to join a church and get involved straight away. But he said, “The vast majority won’t and will have no engagement with the church during their years studying.” He hopes to set up student Alpha and connect groups whilst also encouraging students to link to the Christian Union and to go to other churches in the city.
He said, “It’s easy to get lost in a crowd. We want students to belong to a community, be part of serving and get plugged in.” He plans to develop student leaders within connect group settings.
He acknowledges that university can be a challenging time, with a lot of pressures on students. His desire is to see young people thrive rather than just survive their time here.
Andy has settled in to Norwich and described it as a well-kept secret and a lovely place. He said, “I can see why many students settle here. It’s a wonderful place to live.”
His passion is for the local church to serve students really well and to make a home for them.