Forty years ago this month, in the first week of October 1979, I left home to begin my studies at University. Just a few weeks short of 19 years old, I was ready for a new adventure.
I still remember that first journey from Birmingham to Bristol. It was just under 100 miles, and it seemed to take an age in my Vauxhall Viva. Then a few miles before I turned off the M5, the exhaust dropped off. I left the exhaust pipe, silencer and all, on the hard shoulder and roared into Bristol. People certainly noticed my arrival!
I had decided to live in University Halls. The majority of students lived in small single rooms, but I had been allocated a shared room in an old Victorian house. I was welcomed to the house by a second-year student who, I soon discovered, was one of a number of Christians who had returned early to welcome the new first year students. I was delighted to connect so quickly with other Christians.
I then met my room-mate. It was quite nerve wracking meeting a stranger, knowing that I would be sharing a room with him for the next nine months. I needn’t have worried. We actually shared for three years, not just in the Halls but then in a flat. In time we would be Best Man at each other’s wedding, we holidayed together when our children were young, and we still see each other once a year or so. Oh, and we’re both Vicars; in fact he was a Vicar long before I was. Whoever had the job of matching students to share did a good job – and we had the advantage of living in one of the biggest rooms on the campus.
Then on my third day at University, something happened that changed my life completely. That’s when I met Jacqui, who I have spent my life with ever since. She was living just over the road from my accommodation and was on the same course as me. On our first Sunday in Bristol we went to the same church and continued to do so. Within a few weeks we were dating, and at the end of our second year we became engaged. I am grateful for the education that I received at University, but much more grateful for the 40 years (and still counting) that I have spent with Jacqui.
In September and October thousands of young people begin similar journeys. If you pray, do remember them as they start out on their adventures. May they be blessed as I was.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Revd Andy Wilson
Vicar, Christ Church Portsdown
Priest-in-Charge, St John the Baptist Purbrook
Curate, Church of the Good Shepherd Crookhorn
Chaplain, Havant & Waterlooville FC