Canterbury Mission 2017

by The Revd Michael Green  |  23rd Mar 2017

The Universities

Christ Church is in central Canterbury and was once an Anglican teacher training college,
while Kent is up the hill with modern buildings and a European emphasis. This was their first joint
university mission. Kent had done some small missions previously, but not Christ Church. It was all very new to them. So this was a big challenge.Well supported by local churches, they worked harmoniously together, and found that the outcome far exceeded their wildest hopes.

The Approach

Michel Ots ( my co-leader) and I had both approached the week with low expectations.
He had been ‘incommunicado’ on a sabbatical in New Zealand for some months until mid January, and so much of the planning was tentative until his return- when some of it changed. Correspondence was erratic. There was only one week of term left for most of Christ Church, which made follow-up problematic. Moreover we had to change venues for both lunch and evening meetings – never ideal. Creativity in evening meetings (film strip, drama, music, etc) was not encouraged beforehand, but we ran a magazine program anyway and it was ecstatically received by the punters.[Lesson : extended expository preaching is not the only – or best – way to run a university mission!]. So we arrived with some concerns.
The week itself banished those hesitations. The student groups in both universities were not large but their commitment was incredible and often innovative. There was a complete sense of ownership by the CU, large prayer meetings with numbers sustained week long, unflagging enthusiasm, extensive flyering, badgering their friends to come, boldly shouting out about the events in lectures – it was all beyond praise. They had some outstanding CU leaders. The Kent lunchbars were held in a small tent that the students had to erect themselves, with 35 chairs (doubled as the week progressed) and initially accompanied by plenty of mud! Christ Church used the chapel, apart from exile one day to a grimy pub. The evenings were held in a gaunt hall, wonderfully transformed by student skill and hard work into a fine venue. A daily evening meal ( and short talk) was laid on for overseas students and the visiting team, and this drew various groups of Muslims, Spaniards, Eritrean immigrants - even Berbers from Algeria. The
gospel made considerable advance among them, with several professions of faith. These groups were quite compact, the leadership good and the work will continue in a weekly Globe Café.
The visiting team was not large. Michael Ots had his regular trio of associates, I was accompanied by four ordinands from Wycliffe who were enormously appreciated, and we had one from Friends International, one from Liverpool and one from Portugal where their first Events Week is about to take place in Lisbon.

Sadly visas were denied to two from Belarus. The team blended wonderfully into the student body. The effect was remarkable, and will be lasting. Unity, growth in confidence and understanding among Christians, enquirers drawing nearer to commitment, and about 15 or so professing conversion, almost all with close friends in attendance to help them. Most of all, confidence in the gospel and joy among (exhausted) Christians grew exponentially among us as the week went on, and augurs well for the future.

Divine sovereignty

One youngish townswoman, entirely innocent of Christianity, carrying her morning
coffee on the way to the upstairs of ‘Pret a Manger’ where we had daily prayer and planning meetings,was transfixed and reduced to tears by awareness of the presence of God as we worshipped ( the first morning we had sung!). One of our Wycliffe team went to her, met up later in the day, brought her to the evening meal and meeting, where she loved the talk, welcomed Christ into her life, and prayed aloud with gratitude. She was radiant next day, and even joined our final team meeting the following day! She will not forget her conversion, and will be well cared for. Praise to the sovereign God!