The arms trade, homophobia, nonviolent direct action, the politics of the Bible and the gap between rich and poor have all been on the agenda at a gathering of Christian students taking a practical approach to theology.
The Theology Summer School, a six-day event which finished last week, took place at Buckden Towers in Cambridgeshire. It was organised by the Student Christian Movement (SCM), Britain’s oldest national student organisation, which last year led Christian resistance to the hike in university tuition fees.
Alongside worship twice a day, the event involved interactive workshops to allow students to get to grips with the issues affecting society from a Christian perspective. The workshops gave space for Bible study, disagreement, dialogue and practical planning.
Speakers and workshop leaders included Anglican priest Chris Howson on the role of the Bible in liberation theology, Christian writer Alison Webster on Christianity and justice, and Liam Purcell of Church Action on Poverty on the growing inequality in the UK.
Looking back over the event, students said that they enjoyed the “strong community spirit”, had felt “really challenged throughout the week” and would be taking away “lots of ideas and things to act on”.
The Summer School provided new SCM student reps and local group members with practical skills to take back to campus with them, including how to start and sustain a group, strengthen participation and celebrate diversity.
“It has been exciting to see students get their teeth into Christian theology as applied to everyday life," said Hilary Topp, SCM's National Co-ordinator, "They have left the Theology Summer School more prepared to live out the Gospel in the messy world of university and politics".
She added, "Jesus did not separate the personal, the social and the spiritual. We cannot choose to ignore the issues around us, any more than we can leave our faith behind when we engage in politics".