Christian students from across Britain have prayed for courage to engage in activism and mission at the end of a weekend focused on living out faith.
The annual conference of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) achieved its highest turnout in well over a decade, reflecting the recent revival of student activism.
The event included speakers and workshop exploring "spirituality, vocation, activism and mission”. Topics varied from nonviolent direct action and interfaith campaigning to the nature of mission and what activists can learn from Jesus’ example.
“Give us courage and strength when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks before us,” prayed the students in their closing worship yesterday (21 February), which was also the worldwide Universal Day of Prayer for Students.
They asked that God would “strengthen us in our work upholding justice, peace and fullness of life for the whole of God’s creation”.
SCM staff reported a 50 per cent increase in bookings since last year’s conference. The event, entitled Living It Out was held at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
Speakers included former Christian Aid director, Michael Taylor and Christian founder of Climate Rush, Tamsin Omond.
Speaking about climate change, Omond said that Christians “cannot afford to pretend that this is not our fight”. She spoke of the need to integrate environmental activism with campaigning on issues such as peace, poverty and human rights.
Her talk prompted a lively debate about the nature of effective activism and direct action.
Addressing the issue of vocation, Taylor encouraged Christians to combine the bravery to make decisions with the humility to admit that they may be mistaken.
In addition to regular worship and time for socialising, small group activities allowed participants to explore their own response to the issues and to consider their own commitments. For the first time, the conference incorporated a programme for “Friends of SCM” who are no longer students.
“I feel very engaged and very inspired to make a difference and actively live out my faith,” said Nicola Beaumont, 22, of Bristol, who had not previously attended an SCM conference.
She told Ekklesia that she had felt slightly overwhelmed on occasions during the weekend, but said, “There’s an awful lot of problems in the world and we’re a generation that has really got to make a difference”.
SCM, which is Britain’s oldest national student organisation, has a long tradition of political engagement. They describe their vision of Christianity as “inclusive, aware, radical and challenging”.
The SCM conference is one of several major student events to take place in the next few weeks. A Day of Action against universities’ links with arms companies will take place on 24 February, while on 1 March, members of the Speak Network of students and young adults will protest outside UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a government unit which promotes deals for private arms companies.