Time for God


In September each year, Emmanuel welcomes a volunteer from Time for God. Volunteers live with host families and are involved in many aspects of church life. Some of their stories appear below. Through this scheme, lives are changed and faith enriched – both for the volunteers and our congregation.

If you are interested in applying to be a Time for God volunteer, please do not contact Emmanuel URC directly, but apply to Time for God.



We welcomed our new Time for God volunteer, Michael from Bielefeld, Germany, on 1st September 2017

You can find some stories of our much-loved Time for God volunteers below:

Send my regards to the good people of Emmanuel, I remember many of them and often look through my photos of my time there. I am very different now, but I know that any improvements in my life have come as a result of my time at Emmanuel.  I understand my nation better.  I understand the meaning of church better. I understand the meaning of community better and I understand what it means for God to be with us (Emmanuel) I pray that this truth, that God is always with us will be known to Emmanuel in new and exciting ways.

His current website: Orchards United Methodist Church

Paul assisted the congregation in a production of “Noye’s Fludd”.
He said “I have enjoyed Emmanuel’s vision and willingness to take risks”.

Elena left Emmanuel for a break at home in Kingston and then took up studies in Theology at the University of London.

Audrey has met Christopher at the United Methodist Church conference in USA.
She currently works for Living Room.

Update Christmas 2017: It is wonderful to hear that Emmanuel is still so active in the community AND that you are still hosting TfG volunteers! I have incredibly positive memories of that year, and so many wonderful people!
I often think back to my time with Emmanuel URC with incredible fondness and am grateful for all I learned then. In the many years since, I have often found myself promoting fair trade, arguing for better treatment for the differently-able, remembering the value all ages of people can add to a community, and refusing to accept less than excellence in the model of Jan Nichols!  Please share my great love with everyone!

Written in 2015: It’s been fun reflecting on my memories of Cambridge, and how they shaped what’s come next in my life (although I’ve been trying not to think about the fact it’s been ten years since I left…). When I look at the years that followed, it’s obvious how much the things I did and learned have influenced my choices in life.
One of my highlights from my year in Cambridge was working in the cafe. I’d never worked with people with learning disabilities before, so I found it daunting at first, but it soon came to be my favourite place to be and staff who worked there, some of my favourite people. My experiences there taught me never to judge what people can and can’t do, and just to accept people as they are, and where they are in life. It’s proved to be a hugely valuable time, as after I graduated, I went on to work for learning disability charities where I campaigned and lobbied the Department of Health and Treasury for more rights and more funding for people with learning disabilities. I worked on social care legislation that will hopefully make a fairer system for people disabilities and also edited the first easy read newspaper for people with learning disabilities. Looking back, it seems amazing that all of that stemmed from working alongside friends and colleagues in Emmanuel’s cafe.

As Melody left we said:
“Melody came to us last September as a Time for God volunteer and has since made herself very much at home in the life of Emmanuel. She came with very little English but she came with a smile. That smile and her natural loving nature endears her to all she meets.
She now leaves us to return home and to her studies, but she will leave behind a legacy of love –
a love for the mission of the café and the visitors who use it,
a special love for the children in Emmanuel and at the half term events
and a real love for all the people of Emmanuel who have welcomed her into their lives.

Melody, take with you our love and our thanks for being with us, for your cheerfulness, your enthusiasm, your joy – all that you have brought to Emmanuel.”

Maria left Emmanuel to take up a position in a kindergarten.

While I am writing these lines it has nearly been five years since I left Cambridge. In these past years I have been studying micro system technology in Freiburg. Currently I am writing my master’s thesis which I will hand in at the end of this year. I am not quite sure what to do afterwards. At this moment I tend to do a PhD, but this could also change until I finally have to decide towards the end of the year.
I moved to Freiburg to live in a shared flat last year. I enjoy being more independent and flexible. My boyfriend Chis moved to Frankfurt last year where he is studying to become a social worker. The long-distance relationship sometimes is quite challenging and tiring but we make the best of it. We try to visit each other every other week and we phone a lot! I think of my time in England quite often. It was a great time with you! I enjoy hearing from you every now and again. And I am still talking to my friend Becci (who I met in England) every Sunday!
Don’t hesitate to write to me and let me know how you are doing!
Many greetings from Germany,

Patrick – tallest at back -with Pilots group.
The tallest girl in front of him was married in summer 2017.

2010: Carsten – bottom left – with Pilots.

The girl beside him has just started studying Law at the University of Warwick

Update Christmas 2017: I still live in Erlangen. I started working at the University at the Institute of Optics as a PhD-Candidate. Love it! Have a really nice Professor, what I think is the most important thing. Having a good boss at your job always helps. Also I can employ Master- and Bachelor students as many as I want to, which is also a really nice thing about this position.
The last 2 month I only worked Monday to Wednesday at Uni, then I drove back to my parents to sell Christmas trees. So most of my holiday I actually spent working on cutting trees and drive them arround. As you can imagine I am looking forward to Christmas Eve!
Maybe we will see us next year, as I usually manage to come like every third year to Cambridge or so…

Eva (red jumper, left) with Tom`s dragon cake
Eva is now studying in Berlin.

I decided to do a gap year after my baccalaureate, going to England was for me the possibility to discover a new country, a new culture and live my faith outside my church. First, I was very much impressed by the warm welcome the hosting families and the Church members gave me. In this way, I settle down very quickly. Before coming, I didn’t know how I should imagine the Café, as I neither never worked with people with learning difficulties nor worked in a Café before, I was eager to know how it would be. There again, I was quickly introduced in the team and I felt that I was at my place. I enjoyed working in the kitchen and at the service, because there was always time to speak with the other volunteers or the customers and learn a lot about people and cultural differences. More seriously, I also learnt one important thing in the Café: there is always a place for everyone’s skills. I was really impressed how each volunteer had the possibility to contribute to its manner to the daily tasks.
Moreover, the Time for God year gave me also the opportunity to travel through the United Kingdom and discover many places and meet other volunteers. I enjoyed visiting other Time for God volunteers and see their placement and visit different towns. This showed me, that every volunteer has a special role at its placement and that we all contribute to our manner to witness God’s words.
Looking back on this year, I realise that during a year I gave my time for a project and a Church, and this gave me a lot in return, which I will always keep in memory. I would encourage everyone who wants to do and change something (even a little), to take a gap year with Time for God, you won’t be disappointed!

Update August 2016:
I now study political sciences at the universities of Freiburg (Germany) and Aix-en-Provence (France). The studies give me the opportunity to learn more about politics, international relations and cultural differences. I am very much interested in European politics and projects, which, I hope, might become my professional field.

Update Christmas 2017:
In January and February I’ll be going to Cote d’Ivoire where I’ll do some research and interviews for my Master thesis in Political Sciences. And then I’ll be back in Aix, where I’ll write the thesis.

On the evening of the 3rd of September 2012 I arrived in London Stansted Airport not really knowing where I was going and not really knowing anyone. I was picked up with a very warm smile by Jan. We then arrived at Maureen’s and John’s. I still can recall how I felt. I was really excited, happy and sad at the same time and my mind probably didn’t really understand what was going on. The next day I started work immediately in the front, being shown around very kindly by Rita and Christine. I also had a day in the kitchen with Alison, the most patient and kindest person I know. On the Sunday, I joined the United Reformed service for the first time and I was surprised by how much I could identify with the way of worship. I felt really very welcomed by all the people. Everyone seemed to want to give me at least a 100 smiles. 😉 I then joined the first Time For God Conference in London which was fun and it was good to meet other volunteers and to share first feelings and expressions with them. After that I really started to get to know the work and all the volunteers in the Café and people at the church better. Slowly, I started to relax more especially with the people with learning disabilities.
For Christmas I made German Christmas Biscuits with Lesley who has learning disabilities and I was really amazed by how much fun it was for me to work with her. I was able to spend Christmas eating a lot of mince pies and turkey with Maureen and John. In my opinion, this is one of the great things I got out of this year, living with host families I was able to really experience the British way of life.

The photo is from 2017 when Maren visited us again.

Written in 2014: Dear Friends, “The Lord is risen.” – “He is risen indeed!” As long as I can remember Easter Morning services, this was the greeting on the door. Somebody gave me a welcome with handshake and “The Lord is risen” and I knew I had to answer “He is risen indeed!” Saying this made me very proud, even when I maybe couldn’t understand totally what I was answering. But in a special way, sharing this good news gave me and gives me still a feeling of hope – a hope that we are not lost between our sins and our inability to change to the better.
As I write this letter, we are at the end of Easter weekend. It was a rather unusual Easter for me – my twentieth Easter but the first one without any of my family around me. But Easter is also the end of Lent and it was also a rather unusual Lent for me. Of course, since September nearly everything has been “rather unusual” for me, but it was truly the most intensely experienced time of Lent I ever went through. One thing that made this Lent so intense for me was our Lent housegroups. It is a good cause to take some time just to think about our faith, to discuss with other people, to agree or to disagree, and to see that you are not alone with your big questions and problems, and I think it is a good sign for a congregational life, if people meet in a private home to share and discuss the most personal issues of their faith. This is something we as congregation can be proud of. And there is so much more.
Emmanuel is such a lively and active congregation; so many members take part in our congregational life and spend time and effort. I am often amazed to see all that and I will take a lot of inspiration with me. So, I think we can be proud of the way in which we live together, in which we are open for everybody and supporting for people in small and big need. However, to be too proud can be dangerous. It is easy to forget how privileged such a community is, and how much effort it needs to maintain it.
I made an interesting experience: Since I have been living here in Britain, I sometimes suddenly notice things which are much better in Germany. Often these are daily life things like street signs or water taps. I never realized how good they are when I was living in Germany; only through missing them have I seen what I had before. That does not just happen if you are leaving a country, it is probably something very normal: as long as you are at school everything related to it is horrible – after leaving, you realize that there really were also positive things. Or all this rain! It is never the right time to rain but if there is no rain for more than two weeks we realize that no rain is even worse. And maybe it was a little bit like that with Jesus: the disciples struggled sometimes with his teaching and his way of living but when he died, they realized what they had lost and how much they needed his presence. After three days they were ready to receive this final teaching. Not only Jesus changed between death and resurrection – so also did the disciples. So – sometimes we don’t see how good things are and how important they are for us until we miss them. With a street sign or the rain, that is not a big problem but sometimes it is too late then. Knowing that, we can remind ourselves how greatly gifted we are, how proud we can be of what we are doing together – pride mixed with thankfulness. And if changes have to take place, it is easy to forget that things that happen at the moment are not natural and that they need a lot of effort to keep them going. With that in mind and the will to do what we can do to keep this high standard for life through a community in Christ, we can understand a little bit more of what we confess with our deepest faith, saying, “He is risen indeed”. I wish you the very best, and may God’s blessing be with us all.

Johann Friedrich is now studying church music in Halle, Germany. He often visits Cambridge!

Imke with Junior Church. The girl nearest the camera is now in New Zealand.

Written in the middle of her year: By now I’ve already been at Emmanuels for 6 months. I can clearly remember the day Jan picked me up at the Airport. I was so excited and curious to see what would be expected of me here since I’ve just left school and always been living with my parents on the countryside.
A new stage of my life has begun, an exciting journey has started.
Especially the beginning was very exciting! In my first weeks I got to know so many new people at Lance’s farewell and the Away Day in September. I appreciated the warm welcome by all the people.
Maureen and John, Jan and all the members of the Church as well as the Staff and Volunteers in the Café made it very easy for me to settle in. I’m very thankful for all the caring people around me!
It’s a pleasure to be part of Emmanuel. I enjoy working in the café and the kitchen as well as working in the office. I particularly like working alongside the volunteers with learning disabilities. It’s great to do some cooking with them while learning different typical English recipes. It’s great to get to know all the people better every day and to chat to the customers.
It’s also good to be involved in the Homelessness project. It’s a valuable project which gives me an impression of working with homeless people. It’s amazing to see how thankful and polite the homeless people are and they appreciate the help of the volunteers.
The Christmas time here in England was very special and different for me. Instead of German Christmas Markets and Lebkuchen I had the pleasure of drinking melt mulled wine, eating and making mince pies. It was great to see how other countries have different Christmas rituals.
Cambridge is a beautiful and lively city which made it very easy for me to feel comfortable. Meanwhile, Cambridge feels like my hometown. I got to know my way around and made lots of friends here since there are many young foreign people living here as a foreign. It’s great to spend time together and take trips to other cities like Bury St Edmunds, Norwich or London.
In my free time I also enjoy attending the Young Adults Group. It’s fun to meet up for making cookies, watching a film, having dinner together or celebrating the Pancake Day.
Furthermore, I have joined a choir. It’s so much fun to meet up to sing together.
In January the second half of my volunteer service has begun and I moved to the Barrows Although it was sad to leave Maureen and John it is a wonderful opportunity to get to know another family. I feel absolutely at home here. Both families have been so welcoming and generous in opening their homes to me.
I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I’m looking forward to the coming months at Emmanuel. The time here makes me realize what charity and serving others means.

Sarah in Heidelberg, Germany, where she met John, Liz, Stephen and Linda (Summer 2016)

Dear friends in Emmanuel,
With August approaching my time with you here in Emmanuel is sadly drawing to a close. Therefore I recently had my final conference day with TimeforGod. In a small regional group we were looking back on our experiences, discussing what there is still to do now and talking about our plans for when we “go home”.
As you might remember from the Annual Report, the word “home” is a rather confusing word for me to use, because I feel like I have two homes now. The United Kingdom, Cambridge and especially you, Emmanuel, have become a home for me, to which I know I always can come back to. That is a great feeling! Thank you!
Sharing this at the conference, it soon become clear that many of the other TfG volunteers feel the same and thanks to a brilliant idea from one of them, we solved the confusion by using “home” for our placement and “home home” for our point of origin!
So , when I go home home, I hope to study French and Chemistry for a teachers degree at the university of Heidelberg. However, I will never forget about my home here and one reminder will always be this wonderful Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Update Summer 2016:
Greetings from “Bayrischzell” in Bavaria. I am having a nice two-weeks holiday with my parents here, in the midst of lakes and the Alps. Beautiful nature! I have been eventually accepted at the University of Heidelberg and will therefore start my studies there for French and Chemistry (teachers’ degree) at the beginning of October. Exciting!

Update April 2017:
Flying back to GB! Visiting Cambridge and Emmanuel again! Seeing friends again, sharing food, time and conversation. Exchanging news. Helping out in the café. Getting to know the current TfG volunteer Barbara in person. Realising that one week is not enough.


Sarah visits Barbara




Update Christmas 2017:
Three joyful Christmas concerts with my choir. Satisfied with work at university: targets achieved! Looking forward to a well-earned, relaxing Christmas break. Happy family reunion!

In the really early morning of the 1st of September 2016 I arrived at London Stansted Airport to start my Time for God Year knowing that my life will be changing completely. I was very excited and didn’t know what it will be like. Rosemary picked me up with a big smile from the airport which made me feel so welcomed. I am so glad to have such a nice supervisor as she is. I could tell her everything that concerned me and she was and still is always there for me. I thank her so much that I could always speak to her and for all the nice conversations and talks we enjoyed together. Right from the beginning I felt supported and accepted as I am. Everyone welcomed me in such a nice way which made it easier to settle in in my new home. I really like the work in the cafe. It is a pleasure to work with such a nice team. I enjoy cooking in the kitchen and serving in the front of house. I’ve never worked with people with learning disabilities before which made me even feel more excited when I started my year. But after the first weeks I knew that it is the best thing that could ever happen. It is such a pleasure to work with them and you can learn a lot from them. Really soon I realised that I would not want to be anywhere else than in Emmanuel. It was not only because I loved Cambridge but more the thought of being really a part of Emmanuel United Reformed Church and to have a lovely congregation to worship together. I would like to take this as an opportunity to say a special thanks to my three host families: Maureen and John, Penny and David and Mel. I thank them so much for letting me be a part of their family and for the nice and interesting time I was able to spend with them! Because of them I experienced the English culture even more, such as a British Christmas and Easter, Mince pies and Hot Cross Buns and typical English series and theatres. Also, there was one person who has made my year here in Cambridge even nicer. My “TFG friend” Sally. She has been and still is very good to talk to about how things are going and we are always having a wonderful laughter together. During the year I have collected so many good moments and experiences and I can say that this year changed my life in a positive way. Emmanuel really became a home for me to which I know I can always come back to. And so now nothing remains for me but to thank you with all my heart for the most wonderful and amazing year I could spend in Cambridge in Emmanuel United Reformed Church. This is my chance to just say: Thank you very much!

Barbara’s first cup of tea in Emmanuel


Reunion September 2015: Eva, Clemence, Sarah, Katrin, Patrick and Johann Friedrich