Christian students from across Britain are gathering in Derbyshire this weekend (19-21 February) to explore the links between “spirituality, vocation, activism and mission”. The event, entitled Living It Out, forms the annual conference of the Student Christian Movement (SCM).
With student activism again on the rise, it looks set to be the largest SCM event for over a decade. The Movement reports a 50 per cent increase on bookings since last year.
High-profile speakers seem to have helped to pull the crowds in. The agenda includes talks by former Christian Aid director Michael Taylor and Christian environmental activist Tamsin Omond. They will be joined by the Iona Community’s Kathy Galloway.
The conference, at the Hayes Centre in Swanwick, will include workshops, regular worship and “space to share, reflect and respond”. And there will be a partially separate programme for “Friends of SCM” who are no longer students.
The SCM National Co-ordinator, Hilary Topp, told Ekklesia that the vastly increased turnout disproved the common perceptions of student apathy which frequently appear in the media.
Organisers are clearly hoping that the event will help to invigorate SCM groups, and SCM-related campaigns, when participants return to their universities.
SCM say that they “engage with political and social issues as a prophetic voice for change”. This is based on their perception of Christianity as “inclusive, aware, radical and challenging”.
They are also keen to emphasise that they are a “student-led” (i.e. democratic) organisation. The SCM, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year, is the oldest national student organisation in Britain.
There has been a sharp rise in student political activism over the last two years, often involving student concern over universities’ links with arms companies or with Israel.
The SCM conference is one of several major student events to take place in the next few weeks.
On 24 February, the Universities Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is co-ordinating a Day of Action against universities’ links with arms companies. 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. The same day will see the beginning of the Week of Student Action Against Sweatshops.