The EU committed twelve months ago for 2020 to be “The Year of Evangelism” as part of celebrating the centrality of our purpose on campus and also to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the EU at Sydney University. The events of 2020 certainly changed the face of what we anticipated our year of evangelism to look like, but this doesn’t mean that we have taken a break from making known that Jesus is Lord to the Sydney University community.
During the Conservatorium of Music’s two weeks of heightened evangelism in October, Jack, a Music Performance Post Graduate student, wanted to create a gospel opportunity for non-Christian classmates and other music-appreciators to engage with the gospel through the music of J.S. Bach. Specifically the vision was to bring Bach’s Cantata No. 82 “Ich habe genug” (literally: I have enough/I am content) to life, by giving a performance; something both performers and audience hadn’t done for 7 months due to restrictions. Bach’s cantatas were originally written to be performed as part of a service in Lutheran churches in Leipzig, Germany, this particular one being written in 1927. Jack knowing the longing of fellow musicians to appreciate live performance, when the opportunity presented itself arranged to sing the cantata at St Paul’s College chapel at Sydney University with 7 non-Christian friends in a small orchestra. It came together as part of a once-off service with Bible readings, prayers and a talk where St Paul’s College Chaplain Antony Weiss gave context to the Bach’s German lyrics, thus the Cantata was able to be performed in its intended context.
The devout and reformed Bach wrote pieces rich with theological impact and significance, and used the powerful medium of music to convey the gospel, encompassing God’s salvation plan. This particular cantata was prepared for the feast of the purification of Mary and the Bible passage that accompanies this cantata is Malachi 3:1-4 – that speaks of the hope of the Lord coming into the temple. It follows the elderly Simeon who celebrates having seen and held the Lord in the temple and so is now content and ready to die (from Luke 2:22-35).
A delighted, and sometimes tearful audience appreciated the performance and were able to gather on the rooftop afterwards to discuss the service. This resulted in extended deep conversations with some of those who attended even after the performance day.
Jack said that his time in the EU as an undergraduate equipped him to with the confidence and skills to recognise the unique opportunities such as this as well as the follow up conversations involved. His advice for anyone considering trying something like this is to “just go for it”, especially at the moment as people are more keen on engaging with one another and having deeper thoughts as they reflect on Covid, and deal with loneliness and the broken reality of the world. What gospel opportunities will you be able to seize in this season?
Pray for ongoing conversations in follow-up of this and other gospel opportunities this year. Pray that students would be encouraged to be innovative in creating gospel opportunities in the future.
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