I left Birmingham on a sunny Tuesday morning to head for Leicester, where I met Ruth Osmond who is setting up SCM’s newest group SCM DMU. We chatted for a while and she said "I want to build a community that welcomes everyone. That’s inclusive. We need an inclusive space on campus". She spoke of the positive encounters she’d had with students at freshers' fair and told me of her dreams for her new group. I left encouraged by her passion.
On Wednesday, I travelled to Sheffield and York. I had a quick catch up with Revd Ian Maher, Anglican Chaplain for Sheffield Hallam. When I asked him why he liked working with students, he replied, "I love working with students, because they come to university with all their passion, enthusiasm and drive. It's a privilege to take a few steps with them on their journey to making a better society." If there’s anyone doing incarnational ministry on campus, it’s chaplains. Sheffield Hallam has had 15 student deaths in the past year and Ian has been there to journey with students and their families through all of them. The pastoral ministry of university chaplains is vital and often goes unseen.
During my journey I was tweeting using #SCMOnTheRoad. I took quotes from students on what they loved about Jesus, faith or SCM and posted it online with a photo. Students started to follow me on my journey and when I arrived at York Christian Focus’s evening meeting, I was greeted with big smiles from students asking how my tour was going. We played Ticket to Ride in teams with new students and chatted over tea and an excellent selection of biscuits and cake. I think community is one of the things SCM does best and we need it more than ever given the epidemic of loneliness in our country that affects young and old alike.
On Thursday I met with Sian, an SCM Member who is becoming a postulant with the Order of the Paraclete. When I asked her why she’d like to become a nun, she replied ‘'I am becoming a nun because I feel like it's the only way I can live out my faith with integrity. I want to make prayer and faith the centre of my world and not just an add on". This was my most liked post of the week, perhaps because other young people are seeking ways to be grounded and find accountability in their call to follow Jesus.
Over the next two days I met with SCM members in Newcastle, who shared their passions and dreams. We prayed together, drank tea and talked about how we could build the kingdom on campus. I was starting to tire and hadn’t been that well all week. Revd Chris Howson was one of many wonderful people who showed me kindness and hospitality and over the weekend his home in Sunderland became my sanctuary. We walked by the sea and sang a Taizé chant in a sea cave.
On my way back down south I drove along the North York Moors coastline. I was heading to Hull and it was a stunning route to take. Burnt orange rolling fields with purple heather, the sunlight sparkling on the sea. When I reached Hull, I met Revd Chris Dowd at his house and was delighted to be introduced to Oscar and Scarlett, his two dogs. His group of churches recently signed up to SCM and he’s started a community with student workers and an SCM Group. When I asked him why he liked working with students he replied "We're at the beginning of a reformation and this generation of students will build the new church. Therefore, it is vital that they are valued, nurtured and loved". I left with lots to think about and was excited to see beginnings of good things to come for SCM in Hull.
I met so many inquisitive, creative, committed students, chaplains and church leaders along my journey and I’m sorry I couldn’t include everyone in my summary. What my journey has taught me this year is that the Spirit is stirring in the heart of students, a passion is being lit and we’re moving forward.
Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.