It’s the middle of the week, and the organizer of Avondale’s Festival of Faith is meeting with her team members. They’re flat—organizing a morning and evening session each day on top of study is draining. Brooklyn Chan is struggling to find a Bible verse—anything—to encourage them. Then she remembers what those leading worship in her local church does before a service. “We sing. When serving, it’s so important to take time for personal devotion or you’ll burn out.” The impact on the evening session: “Our team was more mindful of making music their own worship.”
This engagement, not only from those attending but also those leading, defined the week of spiritual emphasis (March 22–27). “The buy-in from day one was at a level I’d usually expect on day five,” says Pastor Brock Goodall, chaplain on the Lake Macquarie campus.
After a year of receiving spiritual support largely by distance, the students are “hungry” for face-to-face engagement, says Goodall. Given the option to “book a time to chat one-on-one,” a “phenomenal” number of them responded. “COVID’s done a number on people, including our students, but they know their chaplain and church pastoral team are here to talk.”
Arts and teaching student Sally-Mae Herford describes Festival of Faith as providing “an overwhelming sense of community and revival after a tough year. It gave me the spiritual boost I desperately needed. I’ve found myself running back to the songs we sang, for comfort.”
Classmate Jakob Hogarth played the songs as part of the band. “I loved the way the music opened our hearts to change.” Festival of Faith reconnected him with God, providing a sense of closeness he “hadn’t had in a long time. God really showed up because I showed up.”
That’s the challenge speaker Pastor Moe Stiles issued to the students during the first session on Monday. Chan reinforced the message that evening. “I set up an agreement with the students, not to just turn up but to be here,” says the student ministries leader. “God wants us to be honest with Him. I enjoyed creating an environment where we as students felt safe to do this.”
Goodall speaks highly of Chan’s ability to not only organize Festival of Faith but also “authentically and actively engage in worship each session.” “It had the potential to break me, so I needed to remember that while I do this, I also worship,” says Chan. “My sister once told me, ‘If this whole God thing is it, it’s everything.’ So, it’s such a privilege to lead. I take the responsibility seriously.”