This December, Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU) returned to the Sheldonian Theatre to host their two annual carol services. They welcomed over 1,000 guests, greeting them with a warm smile, a mince pie, and the news of Jesus, the Light of the World.
There was a buzz throughout the theatre as CU members chatted excitedly to friends. It soon fell to a hush as a university a cappella group beautifully opened the night.
‘In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan...’
Carol services are notoriously the easiest invite of the CU calendar, and this was no different. On the second night there were queues for entry: word had got out! There was an atmosphere of real attentiveness to each performance, reading, and spoken word, as well as to the talk. This was lifted by energetic renditions of traditional carols, encouraged by a jovial conductor.
But this was a night of ‘more than carols’: here, a term of conversations at outreach events was culminating in deepening relationships and an invitation to explore the good news of Jesus. OICCU put on a night that felt the right amount of sentimental and traditional, while also being an accessible space for anyone of any background to hear this life-changing news.
She shared that she used to read the Bible to find meaning but hasn’t done so in a while…
College CUs hosted mince pies and mulled wine beforehand then walked down to the carol service together. This allowed for students to come, sit next to a familiar face and have contact with their college CU. For one first-year CU member, this provided the opportunity for one of her course mates from her college to come along; she had previously expressed an interest in church but been a bit intimidated to go so the carol service was a good step. She loved it!
At Exeter College, one student joined the college group for mince pies and then went on to the carol service. Afterwards she shared that she used to read the Bible to find meaning but hasn’t done so in a while. She was able to chat with Relay Worker Tess and they plan to read the Bible together.
As one unbelieving student shared on the way out, ‘that talk made me feel... something.’ Let's pray that ‘something’ would land on the person of Jesus: Light of the World and promised Saviour.
Here's a sneek peek into another CU carol service this year, up in Edinburgh:
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