Lawrence Jia '23, Memorial Church Student Advisory Board member. Courtesy photo.
By Lawrence Jia '23
Memorial Church Student Advisory Board
I stroll in the small brick building off Parkway Lane, carefully treading the fraying red carpet just as I had last week and every week in my working memory. Moving to Richmond before kindergarten, the Chinese Baptist Church of Richmond raised me. It is where my friends taught me how to throw a tight spiral and where my pastor taught me how to play Oceans by Hillsong United on guitar. It was a refreshing break from the monotony of school. Yet as I moved into middle school, I realized my church experience felt almost as secular as the classroom.
Through songs of worship, small group conversations, and even the holy act of communion, I could not help but experience the community of church rather than the spiritual connection I felt should be more salient. Many of the kids and the adults volunteered for projects to feel a social connection or gave offering because it was socially mandated to do so. As CBCR is a primarily Chinese-American church, I noticed some adults after worship interacting to fulfill a cultural hole that appeared after leaving their own childhood home decades ago. This was deeply unsettling to me. I have always believed church to be a rare place in the world to aspire to a connection beyond your immediate community. And so I began to doubt.
I noticed the stable joys of life, big and small, taking on a little less color than usual. Sundays became routine rather than fulfilling. As life went on normally, however, I wondered whether my spiritual connection was real or even necessary.
So I found the transition to Harvard to be the perfect time to rediscover my faith. I found energetic classmates willing to help me synthesize my spirituality. I found professors willing to challenge my beliefs. I found a freshman proctor (Lara Glass, how lucky!) willing to integrate me into Harvard’s religious spaces. I found a Sunday service at MemChurch that taught me to examine my faith, even academically. I found a community that prioritizes my connection with the far-beyond -- community that showed me there is no wrong way to “do” religion, as long as it brings me and the people around me joy. For this, I am thankful.
Lawrence Jia '23 is a resident of Mather House studying applied mathematics, economics, and history. At MemChurch he serve on the Student Advisory Board and as a student deacon. In his spare time, Jia enjoys reading, hiking, and cooking.