A week of lunchtime and evening events mark the St Andrews Christian Union’s missions week. Called “Story Week”, the programme of events will run from 10th – 14th February. I met with current CU President Annie McQuoid and Vice-President Peter Forde to find out more.
Both were quick to explain the format of these events. The lunchtime 1-2 pm slots consist of a free lunch (“Perfect for a lunch break!” Miss McQuoid pointed out – “And the sandwiches are actually good!”), whilst Richard Cunnigham, director of Christian Union since 2004, gives talks on questions ranging from Doesn’t Religion Cause More Harm Than Good?, to How Can a Thinking Person Base Their Life on Faith?
Evening sessions, which Miss McQuoid expects to be slightly less well attended, are, according to Mr Forde, a much more “personal” affair, featuring performances from renowned American jazz singer Ruth Floyd, who, I was told, is bringing her own live band with her to St Andrews.
Each night’s talk has something different. A particular highlight, especially for those students involved in studying International Relations, takes place on Thursday 13th February, when Major General Tim Cross, chief advisor to Tony Blair and heavily involved in the invasion of Iraq, talks about how his Christian faith has influenced his career. The night before listeners will be treated to the gripping story of Garry Brotherston, a former convict arrested for street fighting who found peace through religion while incarcerated.
Both were unanimous, however, in urging students to look at all the speakers and decide for themselves which appeal most to them. They both felt that there really was “something for everyone.”
Not that students are limited to attending just one event. Sessions – all held in the marquee on Library Lawn – are not ticketed and completely free, and Mr Forde stressed that the CU were keen that these talks engagedthose either interested in Christianity,ignorant of Christianity, or adverse to Christianity all the same.
Miss McQuoid summed it up best by saying that the week was essential-ly “a culmination of everything else [the CU] does throughout the year to engage with other students and also to serve them and give something to the community here.” That community feel is emphasised by the presence of CU members at talks throughout the week, who Mr Forde says are happy to engage in conversation and debate.
Ultimately, many universities around the UK have a missions week. Branded as such because of the primary goal of the UCCF: The Christian Unions as one of mission in universities and colleges, St Andrews Christian Union are keen to promote the week as “Story Week”. They feel the word ‘story’ promotes a sense of conversation, rather than the more aggressive ‘mission’. Starting conversations about faith is, after all, the primary goal of missions week. Miss McQuoid stressed in particular the CU’s desire that it be seen not as a society for Christians, but rather one that allowed students to engage with the religion.
Miss McQuoid’s final message was to entreat students to come along regardless of whether they knew somebody in the CU – if only for the free lunchtime sandwiches!
More detailed information on talks can be found at the University of St Andrews CU Facebook page.