By Miriam Brittenden
Durham Intercollegiate-Christian Union hosted its annual week of events between the 15th-19th February. Entitled ‘Story’, the week was referred to as “biggest mission week in recent years” by the Northern Echo.
The majority of events took place in a marquee opposite the science site, featuring an onsite café, and saw over 4000 students attend during the course of the week.
The week was comprised of lunchtime and evening events featuring guest speakers and ‘Global story’ events aimed at International students.
The lunch events were concerned about asking ‘big questions’ of the Christian story, with the guest speaker presenting a Christian response particular issue, and the opportunity for questions and answers.
Topics throughout the week included exclusive truth, suffering and the reliability of the Bible.
The evening events, named ‘Story Evenings’, focused upon the stories of People’s lives that had been impacted by the Christian Faith.
These events included interviews with guest speakers including former Ulster Volunteer Force member Billy McCurrie, Major General-Tim Cross, who had helped to plan the Iraq invasion and, a former Hindu Priest Rahil Patel. All of the speakers spoke about the role that their Christian faith had played in their life.
President of Durham CU (DICCU) Tom Clarke told Palatinate: “The aim of Story was to give people a place to explore some of the big questions of life, and hear of stories changed by faith in Jesus.”
DICCU Events Week Chair, Sam Udy added: “Story was about opening up conversations about life and Christian faith and engaging Durham students with the question ‘What’s Your Story?’. Everyone has a story – regardless of who you are or what you believe.”
Udy was aware of the fact that in the past CU events weeks had been criticised for being too ‘pushy’ in their promotion techniques.
“We wanted to change that this year and make things more personal, engaging students as people with opinions and stories rather than just numbers at events or an opportunity to fulfil our flyer quota.”
Udy also felt that the response to the week had been positive. In particular, he said the response to the story café was” astounding” with many people reportedly staying for up to two hours after the lunch events to engage in further discussion.
“No event can please everyone, and I’m certain that not everyone who came to our events will have agreed with everything that was said.”
Lots of people will still have questions about Jesus and faith, but we hope that Story allowed people to explore Christianity for themselves.”
Emily Stronach, a Second Year English Student at Van Mildert who attended a lunchtime event during the week, told Palatinate: “I was unsure what to expect with the Story events organised by the CU.
“I was so impressed by the professional layout, the lovely food, and mostly how interesting and engaging the talks were. The speaker I saw offered some extremely insightful and thought provoking views on Christianity, and he handled some rather challenging questions extremely well. I would happily go to a similar event next year!”
A concern raised by some students via social media platforms was the lack of female interviewees at the evening events.
Udy explained: “we had one female interviewee pull out and three leads fall through last minute.”
We asked over 30 people, approximately half of which were women, and struggled to fill the slots as everyone was busy. This was very sad, and obviously not what we wanted, but the way it worked out”.
Clarke also told Palatinate: “As a Christian Union, we hope that people enjoyed the week and felt like it was a place where they could be open and honest about their thoughts and questions, regardless of their faith or background.”
Photograph: Harriet Cheema-Grubb