The coronavirus lockdown measures announced by the Government urged members of the public to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, prohibiting large gatherings. Having previously headed a local SCM group for two years, I found the prospect of being forced to cancel our exciting schedule for the summer term (and the reading in of a new committee) heart-breaking. Nonetheless, on a national scale, SCM were quick to act. Recognising that students were unlikely to be returning to their universities after the Easter holidays (not only putting a stop to our education, but also the postponement of any local student groups therein) SCM established their presence virtually, with a ‘Student Online Community’ (or SOC – if you’re cool). SCM SOC swiftly became an integral part of many lives during lockdown, providing members a space to interact with friends from their local groups, but also facilitating new friendships between members from different parts of the country. Suddenly geographical separation no longer imposed restrictions on socialising and who could come a speak to us. The pandemic may have physically distanced us, but it brought the national movement closer together.
Though a member for a number of years, in March I attended SCM’s National Gathering for the first time: ‘Known by Name’ 2020. The spiritually fulfilling weekend comprised keynote speeches, crafts and time to reflect on faith together. Meeting fellow members of SCM patched a hole in my spirituality, and oddly I experienced a very similar feeling with SCM SOC. The pandemic shook us all up, but SCM SOC provided a safe place each weekday evening where we could share in our brokenness and anxiety together. We could bond over the fact that NOTHING had happened since the last time we had gathered the night previous and enjoyed the company each other brought. We were united by tragedy and we stayed because of friendship.
I have recently completed my undergraduate studies where I spent two years as the president of Christian Focus, York, and will be continuing my studies with a PhD this Autumn term. Therefore, it was not initially my intention to assume another leadership role for a while - providing some time to settle into a new city. However, the staff team made it clear that (though established by them) SOC would flourish under student leadership – SCM is (and always will be) a student-led movement. Therefore, a number of us swiftly took the reins planning, prepping and leading each event. I volunteered to coordinate Monday evening bible studies, whether leading them myself or recruiting members for one-off sessions on a topic of their fancy. Upon reflection, this opportunity has granted me the enthusiasm to uphold my personal and spiritual growth, overthrowing the lockdown’s mentally destabilising grasp.
Arguably the most attended evening each week is Theology Thursday. Over the months we have welcomed a spectrum of speakers to discuss theological matters in a broad sense. Guests have included Revd Giles Goddard (of the Living in Love and Faith project), the Fellowship of Reconciliation (“No Justice? No peace!”), Molly Boot (Church of England’s Theology Slam Finalist) and Archuna Ananthamohan (“Christ and Krishna – Indian Mysticism of the Bible”). Organising SCM SOC has often been challenging, but the skills I have acquired has primed me for the unusual university year ahead (a hybrid of online and socially distanced events). I am thankful to God for SCM and the inspirational people I have met over lockdown, who have served as inspiration and comfort over the past few difficult months.
Our aim at SCM SOC is to bring members from across the country together to share in intellectual and spiritual communion during the uneasy time of Coronavirus. Events have brought motivation to leaders and participants alike and sharing in the experiences of other has been liberating and cathartic. Over this lockdown period my faith has matured, my friendship circle has grown, and my mental health has certainly reaped the benefit of sharing in the experiences of others.
Sam Daly (King’s College, Cambridge)