Britain, during the first half of the 19th Century, saw an immense change. A consistent stream of reforms and technological advancements was dramatically transforming the nation. It is into this scene of huge social upheaval that we encounter George Williams. Growing up George identified himself as a “careless, thoughtless, godless, swearing young fellow,” but something in those transitioning years captivated and transformed his outlook and he became a devout Christian.
In 1844, George was drawn to London by the magnetism of the industrial revolution and inspired by his faith and his concerned for his peers, he began to meet with colleagues to study the bible and encourage one another. Out of these meetings emerged the embryonic shoots of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
At Easter, we pause to remember the death of Jesus on the cross and celebrate his resurrection. These events in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago sparked off a movement that changed the direction of human history. At first, the embryonic shoots of the church didn’t look as though they would amount to much, but through the tenacity of the early church fathers and the example the believers set the church grew exponentially.
At the beginning of the YMCA it would have been impossible for George to know how far that small kernel of faith would go, yet through his faithfulness today, the YMCA operates in over 125 countries, providing services and activities to young people. You could say it went viral.
Over the years, the YMCA has diversified but at its core, the mission remains the same… to unite those who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be his disciples in their faith and in their life, and associated their eﬀorts for the extension of his Kingdom (YMCA Paris Basis).
George’s experience may resonate with some of us as we reflect on our own journeys. For some, there will be a moment, or an instance, whether it be through a personal crisis, divine revelation or a clear rational process, where faith has burst forth into the horizons of our lives and changed everything. For us, like it was for George and countless individuals across the millennia, the challenge is to remain attentive and aware of the faith that God is calling us to.
This Easter, as you notice the new signs of life that accompany this season, may you become increasingly aware of the new thing that God is doing, and may you be courageous enough join in with His plan.