Student Ministry during Covid-19 Pandemic
Dearest Friends and Supporters,
I am sure all of us wonder when this strange, dream-like situation will end. At a time when our instinct is to draw together in support and fellowship – to comfort one another and to reach out to our students – we must remain physically distanced. And increasingly, many will need to be isolated for their own protection or for the sake of their families. A number of my own children are in isolation away from the family home, and it is strange and disconcerting for all.
I expect that many people, including ourselves, will be in a state of shock or anxiety over the coming few days as the health and economic crisis escalates. Members of the UCCF family of Students, Staff, Relay and Supporters will become ill and will also lose loved ones. We draw enormous comfort from the living reality that we worship a sovereign Lord who rules the affairs of men and women and calls us to be undaunted as we put our trust in the God who has wounds.
Events (mission) weeks
As the students went home early with no realistic prospect of returning next term, amongst that diaspora were 50,000 students who had attended a recent mission week event where they heard the gospel clearly and engagingly presented. Huge numbers took Uncover Mark Gospels and showed a willingness to read it with a Christian friend. These studies will now be happening remotely using excellent video conferencing technology. I will be doing my first remote Uncover Mark study next week.
By God’s mercy, in the past few weeks we were able to host all our Regional Forums. These inspired and equipped over 1,000 new CU leaders, who will now be thoroughly supported by our staff through remote small groups, prayer and Bible studies as well as conference planning sessions for freshers’ weeks and so on.
Virtual Word Alive
Due to Covid-19 measures, the Pontins site that hosts Word Alive closed its doors on Wednesday. Do please pray that the site hire fee will be speedily repaid to us so we can give that money back to guests, including over 1,000 students. The UCCF staff team will be helping to host a virtual Word Alive during the week (4-9 April) during which we will curate some of the best material and combine it with new virtual content. This will include a substantial Leadership Network programme for students in Politics, Law, Science, Art, Music and Theology. Do please join us – watch this space!
Our staff (while physically isolated) are working full-time in teams and many are at this time holding virtual team days to make sure they are in position to make the most of these incredibly exciting opportunities to nurture CU leaders, facilitate virtual CU meetings (they have already begun) and make sure that Christian students in isolation are well supported and nourished in the gospel.
Our number one priority has to be to maintain a constant attitude of vulnerability and petitioning of our Heavenly Father to have mercy on us and the 170+ affected nations of the world in which our sister IFES movements are ministering faithfully. During these worrying and uncertain months ahead, I am so grateful for your prayerful and generous support and partnership.
I have in the past week re-read CS Lewis’ Learning in Wartime – a sermon preached during the early stages of WWII to Oxford University students. If you substitute ‘coronavirus’ for ‘war’ this paper could hardly be more relevant. Not only does it remind us of the importance of ordinary life, study and culture during an emerging crisis, but also wakes us up to the eternal realities of Heaven and Hell. As Lewis warns us of the dangers of excitement, frustration and fear he says:
‘War threatens us with death and pain. No man -- and specially no Christian who remembers Gethsemane -- need try to attain a stoic indifference about these things: but we can guard against the illusions of the imagination….
‘War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.’
Grab a mug of coffee and give yourself 15 minutes to read the whole sermon here.