Universal Day of Prayer for Students 2017: Student Groups and Churches Unite In Prayer

Student groups and churches across the UK and around the world joined together on 19 February to celebrate the Universal Day of Prayer for Students (Student Sunday). They came together around the theme ‘All Are Welcome’ to offer prayers of support for university students and young people around the world.

“We were thrilled to bring together different university groups and churches to pray for students this year and encourage our faith communities to be places of welcome and support for all,” said Hilary Topp, SCM’s National Coordinator. “In the midst of fear and hostility being stoked up around the world, it is important to remember how we are united in Christ and called to extend God’s unconditional love to everyone."

Churches from a range of denominations took part, including Baptist, Church of England, Methodist, Presbyterian, Scottish Episcopal and United Reformed Church congregations. Prayers were offered not only for university students, but for lecturers, teachers, schools, chaplains and organisations including SCM.

Revd Julieann Watson, who celebrated Student Sunday with St Barnabus Church, Worcester, said: “We consider ourselves as all being learners and teachers in some way, so it is important to recognise how children and young people can teach and engage us. Education and learning has the power to bring people together, so we would encourage students to continue exploring, questioning and being good roles models to all of us.”

Members of Carharrack Methodist Church in Cornwall heard the story of Alhadi Ali Mohammad, a Sudanese refugee who sought asylum in Italy and is currently enrolled at the University of Turin. “The word student comes from the Latin word for disciple, so in a way we are all students, learning to follow Christ. It was important to remember that, as we explored how we can also learn to help refugees and migrants in our midst,” said Euan McPhee, Methodist Local Preacher who led the service at Carharrack on 19 February.

The Universal Day of Prayer for Students is one of the oldest ecumenical days of prayer, having first been celebrated in 1898. It is coordinated by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and aims to focus attention of the global Christian community on students and encourage them in their spiritual journeys.

University can be one of the most formative transition periods for young people, often with many challenges such as loneliness, mental health problems, and financial hardship. A 2015 study by the National Union of Students found that 8 out of 10 students say they experience a mental health issue at university. It can also be a time for young people to discover who they are, grow in faith and as leaders.

Churches outside the UK also took part, including the First Hispanic Presbyterian Church of Newark in New Jersey, whose members include high school and middle school students. “We have young people in our congregation who are attending school in a different country to their own, facing the struggles of being accepted in a new environment,” said Carmen Rodriguez, Youth Advisor at the church. “We used the resources to plan a service and assigned different parts of the worship programme to the students, who did a great job. No matter where these young people are, God is with them. Their youth is not a weakness but a strength they can use to persevere and reach their goals.”

SCM would like to thank all churches, congregations, chaplaincies and student groups who took part in Student Sunday this year, and for all the support you continue to offer to students, which is providing a spiritual home for young people as they learn and grow as people of faith.

If you would like to support students grow as leaders and put their faith in action this year, please make a donation to SCM to support our work. Thank you.