On Saturday 23 October 2021, around 30 music students from CUs across the UK (eight different cities in fact, from Falmouth to Glasgow!) gathered together inside a little church hall in Birmingham for a wonderful day at the Music Network Autumn Gathering, to think deeply about ‘Christlikeness’ and what it really means to live 'like Christ' as a musician at university and in the music industry. It was a truly fantastic day packed with rich Bible teaching, engaging seminars, beautiful singing, delicious food, warm fellowship and deep bonding over the joys and sorrows of being a follower of Jesus in the music scene.
This was my second time at a Music Network Autumn Gathering day, and on both occasions, I’ve left feeling so encouraged, challenged, edified and emboldened to love Jesus more and more deeply enjoy the wonderful gift of music we’ve been given to share with one another. I really valued the opportunity to schedule a day in my diary to think intentionally about Christlikeness with other like-minded Christian music students my age in the same boat as me.
Following Christ, Living like Christ and Loving like Christ
Throughout the morning, Music Network staff Tom and Becky Chevis helpfully led us in three short sessions walking us through what the Bible says about Christlikeness. We thought about 'a picture of Christlikeness' (Paul), the ‘basis for Christlikeness' (the gospel), and 'Christlike humility’ as seen in Jesus. Diving into Philippians 3, it was so striking and compelling to read of the apostle Paul’s radical desire to know and be like Christ, and his determination to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). I also found it a real help to be reminded of the overarching bible story: how we were created in God’s likeness, and how after humanity turned from God’s perfect way, Christ Himself came to live on earth and die the death we deserve, such that we may now know Christ, be with Christ and be like Christ! In light of exploring Jesus’ work on the cross, it was such a deep comfort to have a close look at Jesus’ humility and think about what it looks like as a musician to model Christ’s humility. In a world that seems so often obsessed with achievement and indulged in the self, it was heart-warming and liberating to, once again, hear Christ’s invitation to us to come to Him, follow Him, take His easy yoke upon us and learn from Him: the gentle and lowly King (Matthew 11:28-30).
Between each session, it was a joy and encouragement to sing together, praising our Father in heaven for all His majesty, His work and His great love for us, and to speak truth to one another reminding our hearts of the deep, rich, life-transforming truths of the gospel and of Christ.
After lunch, Niamh Sanders (CU staff worker for the London music colleges) and Tom thoughtfully led us through a further three sessions thinking really practically about 'Christlike self-sacrifice’, 'Christlike love and purity’, and 'Christlike integrity and faithfulness’, considering how that can be lived out in the music world. I found it a helpful conviction and challenge to see how Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, how He cleans us, and to hear His call to pick up my cross and follow Him.
I really valued chatting with those with me around my table about how we can practically show and demonstrate sacrificial love to other musicians and course-mates in the way Jesus does. Having the chance in small groups to discuss some of the big hardships, topics and questions we face as Christian musicians was incredibly useful and memorable, as we chewed over examples of challenges in the orchestra, the studio, the rehearsal, and jazz gig, the choir, the open mic night, the radio and the lecture theatre. I particularly valued thinking very practically about how to live like Christ with my words and actions having read Ephesians chapters 4 and 5. What a deep comfort it is to know that we have been called to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to have been given a new self, 'created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness' (Ephesians 4:23-24).
Fellowship, Food and Fun together as a Music Network
The day was packed throughout with such warm and wonderful company: having the chance to reconvene and catch up with old familiar faces, as well as meeting and getting to know a number of new friends! It was a treat to be able to reflect on sessions and chat with other students during coffee breaks and share personal stories and anecdotes over lunch. I really appreciated having the chance to chat to a number of music students who study at music conservatoires and to hear in more detail some of the real challenges of being a follower of Jesus in an intense and gifted music hub, as well as having the chance to share some of my own differing experiences being a music student at a university, and to grieve together about some of the real difficulties of following Christ there.
It was invaluable to be able to properly see and catch up with the Music Network team and to chat in person with staff workers and Relay workers about how the first six weeks of term had gone and have the opportunity to chat and pray about personal hopes and fears for the year ahead. I was so encouraged to see younger students and freshers attend the Autumn Gathering and see them hear and be gripped by the mission and aim of the Music Network. The Music Network is such a helpful and useful resource for Christian music students and a really warm community to be part of. I’m so excited to see lots of faces again at Word Alive in six months' time!
The day ended with a lovely meal out at a local restaurant along with the majority of the attendees (and a kind £10 subsidy from UCCF!) It was a joy to eat, chat and reflect together on what we had heard and studied over the day and to say farewell until the next meeting together!
What a wonderful day it was! I’m very thankful to God for it. What a refreshing truth it is to know we are made like Christ, to know Christ, imitate Christ, follow Christ and be like Christ.
For his glory, Amen.