Having previously served as a pastor in a university setting, her answer is shaped by personal experience. Churches within universities, she writes, are places where people are free to experiment with religion. They are communities of faith where no questions are off limits, where those who are uncertain about religion can offer themselves in service and where people who struggle with the concept of God can learn how to pray. Churches within universities, says Pauls, “are laboratories for trying out new ways of living”.
All churches, she concludes, not just university churches, ought to be places to cultivate what the philosopher Simone Weil called experimental certainties. “There are things we can’t know, [Weil] argued, unless we practice knowing them, things we can’t believe until we act as if they were true, things we can’t understand until we find out what they mean through practicing them with others. We need places to practice having faith: faith in one another, faith in ourselves, faith in God. We need places to pray as if someone were listening, to study as if we might learn something worth writing on our hearts, to join with others in service as if the world might be transformed. Churches are places to learn to practice, with others, a continual conversion of life, a permanent openness to change.”